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TS Could be Game Changer For Providing Consumer Services

By | March 29, 2010
      By Greg Berlocher

      Exactly what is a High throughput satellite?  Patrick French, who moderated the “Beyond Satellite Broadband – The Next generation of High Throughput Satellites (HTS)” panel, kicked-off the session by outlining some misconceptions about broadband satellites. “There is a lot of confusion in the market about exactly what broadband satellite is,” French, an analyst with NSR, said. “The term ‘broadband satellite’ doesn’t automatically make it Ka-band, and the satellite isn’t only aimed at the consumer market.”

      In an effort add specificity, French suggested utilizing the term high throughout satellites instead of broadband and put forth three defining characteristics:

      • The new satellite must have at least two times the throughput of a traditional FSS satellite using the same allotted amount of bandwidth.
      • The satellite can be either Ku- or Ka-band (with more options in the future) with frequency reuse and multiple spot beams
      • The cost of ground equipment should be complimentary to ground equipment used with traditional FSS satellites, with the sales price not considered a barrier.

          As an example, French pointed to Thaicom 4, which is four times larger than any other payload in orbit and supports  IPStar broadband service. Thaicom 4, which is Ku-band, is the only multiple beam satellite in the Asia-Pacific region.
          French pointed out that although O3b will operate at Ka-band, it did not meet his definition of an HTS because the ground equipment will be cost prohibitive for any applications other than backhaul or trunking.
           French expects consumer traffic to make up 60 percent to 80 percent  of the new HTS platforms currently in the works. “That leaves an enormous amount of bandwidth which can be used for other applications,” he said. “Just 15 percent of the total bandwidth could drive lots of profit. There is a tremendous amount of potential to make these satellites very successful.”
      Mike Cook, senior vice president, North America for Hughes Network Systems (HNS), agreed with French regarding anticipated consumer demand for broadband, pointing out that Hughes now has more than 500,000 subscribers in the United States alone. “Hughes has already proven out this market and our customers are demanding more capacity,” he said. “Spaceway 3 is just two year old and its gross capacity is 10 gigabits per second.
          The satellite does not exclusively carry consumer traffic, pointing out that HNS sees strong demand from enterprise clients who wish to have robust network designs, using both terrestrial and satellite links for maximum availability. He also mentioned that Spaceway 3 was popular for video traffic as it supports a constant bit rate. Cook pointed out that HNS will leverage their experience operating Spaceway 3 when their new Jupiter satellite comes on line in 2011.
          Arduino Patacchini, director multimedia for Eutelsat, said the company’s Ka-Sat spacecraft, which is under construction, will have a 10 gigabit per second capacity and will be used primarily to handled traffic for Eutelsat’s Tooway broadband service. Patacchini also mentioned potential markets for bandwidth in the enterprise and regional television markets.
           Marc Agnew, vice president and general manager, broadband systems, ViaSat, pointed out the benefits of a homogenous market, which was proven out by WildBlue and HNS. In addition to serving pentup demand in the consumer broadband space, Agnew noted the potential of secondary markets, including: enterprise, government and mobile.
          Nick Iuoras, director, systems engineering, for OmniGlobe Networks which was founded in 2004, spelled out plans for a Ka-band service upon the launch of their new satellite, Canuck-1, scheduled for late 2013. Canada’s population is roughly one-tenth the size of the United States, and the new satellite will provide capacity of 10 gigabits per second, roughly 10 percent the capacity of ViaSat-1.
           Nile Suwansiri, vice president of Thaicom, said the footprint of the company’s Thaicom 4 satellite pans 14 different countries. “A large challenge we face is the service area isn’t a uniform market. Fifty percent of the bandwidth sold is utilized by markets in Australia and New Zealand. We cover a lot of rural areas with poor purchasing power. We have to find creative ways to fill the bandwidth on the satellite.”
          Thaicom constantly is seeking applications with symmetrical traffic patterns. Cell phone traffic is a good example. “In New Zealand, there are lots of farms which don’t have 3G wireless coverage,” Suwansiri said. “To solve that problem, we have teamed with a manufacturer of femtocells — very small cellular base stations — and have merged them with satellite technology. New Zealand farmers buy the femtocell equipment and install it at their homes, allowing them to use their 3G phones. The IPStar service carries the voice traffic, connecting it with the main voice network. This is a creative solution which allows the farmers to have cell phone connectivity in rural areas and drive traffic on our satellite at the same time.”
          One of the most intriguing questions posed to the pane was whether the different satellite owners would sell space segment to a service provider utilizing a different brand of satellite equipment other than the ground equipment provided by satellite’s owner. Iuoras and Suwansiri said they would be happy to if it made sense for everyone involved. Agnew and Patacchini outlined the reasons they would decline, primarily based on loss of efficiencies which would hurt the optimal cost per bit delivered.
          Cook echoed his colleagues sentiments, but added, “If we really wanted to we could. In the context of the North American market, we are a vertically integrated carrier and must drive down the cost per bit as much as we can. Supporting other VSAT platforms is not in the plan and not high on our priority list.”
          The veiled message was clear: If you want space segment on Spaceway 3 or Jupiter, count on buying your ground equipment from HNS.

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