Telcos, far from abandoning satellite, are using it more and more to shape their next-generation communications strategies. Here, we take a look at how different telcos around the world are using satellite in terms of broadband, video and data services.
Ask any major telco how they are using satellite technology today, and you’re likely to get as many answers as there are telcos. This is hardly surprising considering that even defining what a telco is or does is not as clear-cut as it was less than 15 years ago.
Forced by market deregulation in several countries that allowed in competing telephony companies; cellular carriers that slowly but intently began to erode demand for fixed-line telephony; cable operators that added broadband and IP telephony to their pay-TV services; the emergence of fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) networks; and lately the phenomenon of both established and greenfield wireless operators joining the market for high-speed Internet access, telcos have had no option but to become a bit of everything.
Another Tool in the Toolbox
In the United States, Verizon runs a separate business unit to serve its corporate and government clients. Stuart Burson, program manager for the Satellite Solutions Group at Verizon Business, says there are three distinct ways in which the telco is using satellite technology, which he describes as “one more tool in our toolbox.”
“The first — and largest — application area is as a business continuity solution to our terrestrial MPLS network,” Burson explains. “By combining Verizon’s world-class MPLS network with the true, last-mile geographic diversity that satellite offers, we’re able to provide our customers with a diverse, highly available and secure, private, carrier-class satellite network solution.” Other terms that Burson uses to describe this satellite backup functionality are “geographic redundancy” and “diversity of protection.”
The second scenario where Verizon is reselling satellite capacity is to provide primary voice and data communications in remote locations where there may not be any other means of service. “If you look at transportation companies, railway companies, energy companies, often the only solution may be satellite. Many of our customers are multinational corporations that have operations in Africa or Latin America, and with the solutions that Verizon brings to the table we’re able to give them a portfolio of services that allows them to connect all of their sites back to their primary MPLS network,” Burson says.
The third way in which Verizon Business is exploiting satellite is by offering its U.S. customer base the chance to set up a mobile, temporary office anywhere in the country within 24 to 36 hours. To do that, the company has a ready fleet of trucks and trailers fully equipped with Ku uplink and downlink gear. Many of these vehicles were dispatched to provide emergency response communications during 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Irene.
Referring specifically to the latter two natural disasters, Burson says, “Often in events of this nature, the backhaul infrastructure for even the wireless networks was not available due to the flooding. So satellite provided major primary communications (voice and data) for first responders and victims to make their phone calls.”
Initially conceived, and for nearly two decades used exclusively, for emergency response communications, it was only last August that Verizon opened up this mobile satellite fleet to new business applications. For example, to multicast a live tradeshow presentation to a global audience, or a live field video feed to multiple offices for training purposes.