Intelsat CTO: High Throughput Surge Sparked EpicNG Open Architecture

[Satellite News 06-11-12] FSS operator Intelsat has spent the last two years preparing for an expected a three-year surge in high throughput traffic by developing an open architecture for new satellites.

   The Intelsat EpicNG platform utilizes C-, Ku- and Ka-bands, wide beams, spot beams and frequency reuse technology to provide a complementary overlay to the operator’s fixed satellite network, including Intelsat’s existing satellite fleet and global IntelsatONE terrestrial network.
   Intelsat CTO Thierry Guillemin spoke with Satellite News about his company’s two-year development process for the platform and how the EpicNG solution hopes to evolve not only Intelsat’s offering, but also the entire industry’s approach to network management.
Satellite News: How did the development process begin on the EpicNG architecture?
Guillemin: The development on EpicNG began two years ago, starting with an engagement with our customers in trying to understand what their needs were for high-throughput solutions. The demand for broadband is growing very fast. According to Cisco, the global high throughput traffic is expected to more than double between now and 2015. That demand is largely being driven by video for our media and network services customers. These enterprise networks, wireless services and other platforms also are being swarmed with video traffic. We felt we needed to provide a high throughput solution to these customers with high-performance and high-reliability. There was also a need for full control over these networks, which lead to the open architecture approach. It gives them the type of flexibility that they need to run a business.
Satellite News: You’ve stated that the platform will debut on the Intelsat 29e and Intelsat 33e satellites. What is the latest news on these satellites and their contracts?
Guillemin: We’ve spent the past year establishing requirements for the first satellite, Intelsat-29e, and now, we are in the process of its procurement. We expect to issue this contract during the next few weeks. The second satellite, Intelsat-33e, will likely be ordered by September 2012. Both satellites are already in our cap-ex guidance.
Satellite News: Which types of customers did you engage with while establishing this technology?
Guillemin: We engaged with wireless telecommunication companies and mobile operators on continents like Africa, where most of them are using Intelsat capacity in their infrastructure. We also worked with both domestic and international enterprise customers, including those with subsidiaries in several different countries. Specifically, these are people looking for private, highly reliable networks. We also worked with our growing base of mobility customers, in both maritime and coms-on-the-move for military use on the sea, air and land. Of course, we also worked with our media business customers, including several of the blue chip entities in that vertical. Even these customers are facing that video-driven increase in demand for throughput and conversion of media and IP applications. Finally, we worked with several government customers.
Satellite News: What are some of the common trends you noticed between these groups?
Guillemin: All of these sectors have a very low tolerance for quality of service variations. They all need redundant networks. These customers already run complex networks in which they have invested millions of dollars and it is very important for them to leverage this infrastructure. They need high-performance in terms of how many bits they can squeeze in a megahertz. We believe this is one of the areas where EpicNG will really make a difference. As our understanding of our customers’ strategy evolved, we proactively came up with a solution that is actually quite different from anything else you can find today in terms of high throughput systems.
Satellite News: How does EpicNG work as an overlay to complement your existing architecture?
Guillemin: Intelsat EpicNG satellites will work similar to our existing satellites but will have unique capabilities. The platform supports star and mesh topologies, while offering our customers better control over their network design. We designed the EpicNG to provide four to five times more capacity per satellite than our traditional fleet. The expected throughput of the satellites will be somewhere in the range of 25 Gbps to 60 Gbps. Traditional capacity, however, will still be very relevant for a wide range of applications and bandwidth requirements because of the flexibility of wide beams. The spot beams we’ll use for EpicNG will be an important part of this solution because its combination with wide beams can enhance performance over expanded coverage areas. Spot beams in C-, Ku- or Ka-band allow us to improve service for any given geography in the coverage area.

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