by Douglas Graham
In the race for acceptance, digital subscriber lines, frame relay and other wireline technologies have captured the lion's share of corporate communications spending in the United States. Currently only four percent of that figure is claimed by satellite, although satellite has many advantages. While the Internet has revolutionized business and communications, it is an earthbound technology hampered by its own terrestrial limitations. Satellite is untethered, and it is mainly for this reason that satellite broadband has been making headway in the backwaters of the West and the developing world.
In North America, the Pacific Rim and Western Europe, businesses (assisted in some cases by government), are poised to cash in on the many dividends promised by satellite broadband. This is especially true in regions where access to land-based services is extremely limited. In July 2002, the British government announced plans to provide Welsh businesses with affordable satellite broadband in areas where no competing services existed. To qualify for this subsidy an enterprise had to employ between one and 49 people and demonstrate that by using the service both its competitiveness and productivity would be significantly enhanced.
"As we look into the future it is clear that the traditional strengths of satellite communications--its broadcast abilities and ubiquitous coverage--will only become more valuable as enterprises look to distribute larger files," says Bob Hedinger, executive vice president, sales, marketing and client services, Loral Skynet, a satellite solutions provider in Bedminster, NJ. "In the near future we envision that the attributes that already make satellites attractive will be refined and enhanced to become commonplace choices for enterprise."
A Confluence Of Technologies
When the broadband architecture was first erected it was almost exclusively dependent on terrestrial infrastructure, initially provided via the wire network established by telephone companies more than a century ago, and later by fiber. The advent of satellite broadband could have put a wrench in the works, but by then the land-based technologies were well entrenched and had effectively cornered the market.
Broadband has since become ubiquitous in the corporate United States and, increasingly, enterprises look to satellite to augment or complement their terrestrial services. For example, in May of this year RARE Hospitality International contracted with Spacenet Inc. to equip 200 of its restaurants with satellite broadband service. Located in McLean, VA, Spacenet is a provider of two-way, satellite-based broadband networking solutions to enterprise and government customers. The services provided by the company support a wide range of business applications, including high-speed credit application, in-store-licensed music, distance learning, content multicasting and private networking.
"We are living in the broadband era now," says Steven Salamoff, assistant vice president, Hughes Network Systems, a product and services provider for broadband by satellite communications headquartered in Germantown, MD. "Broadband allows corporations to leverage the ubiquity of IP [Internet Protocol], and for this satellite is a natural. It goes everywhere, offers consistent network performance at all locations and can be deployed very rapidly. Companies are increasingly relying on it as a complement to existing land- based networks. Satellite comes with many advantages. With it you get a high availability network, and local connection is greatly improved."
Satellite is also a distribution service, Salamoff adds. Enterprises frequently have requirements for video, software files and program distribution file updates. Satellite is often the most practical way to transmit such weighty data reliably and cost effectively. For corporations with offices widely dispersed geographically, the technology is extremely compelling.
Satellite may be the ideal broadband vehicle for private networks and Intranet used by most of this country's largest corporations. With Very Small Aperture Terminals, transmission is secure, simultaneous and instantaneous. Instructional material, news and important messages from the CEO can be fired off to sites around the world without risking the possibility that the data will not be received because of a linkage problem somewhere between the point of origin and the "last mile connection."
"Companies like BP Amoco, Citibank and large and small enterprises with national networks or multiple locations are looking closely at satellite now," Salamoff says. "These guys have thousands of sites to cover, and satellite is the only effective way to reach them all. Satellite broadband is tailor-made for a number of business applications. Among other things, it provides remote access to the corporate data center, and connectivity to back office systems that do ordering, point of credit and other vital functions. All these applications are becoming Web-based, and coming up with manageable, cost effective connectivity for them has been quite a challenge. Satellite fits the bill."
Douglas Graham is a contributing writer to Via Satellite.