An initiative of EPIC proportions?

February 12, 2013 | By More

There has been so much talk about Intelsat´s “EPIC” High Throughput Satellite (HTS) initiative. Discussions tend to focus on how EPIC differs from vertically-integrated HTS offerings, coverage-power tradeoffs and whether the initiative equips Intelsat with a growth story for its planned IPO. The fact that world´s largest satellite operator is finally jumping on the HTS bandwagon hints at shifts from purpose-built HTS architectures to a progressive rethinking of FSS satellite fleets globally in the decades to come. The question is how far Intelsat is ready to drive this shift.

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The move towards spot-beam coverage using Ku and C-band is a necessity for the long-term viability of satellites in those markets that do not benefit from satellites’ broadcast economics. Applications such broadband access (in its various forms, from ISP Internet trunking to enterprise broadband), cellular backhaul, video contribution and enterprise data benefit from satellites´ widebeam geographic coverage but not from its one-to-many broadcast economics. Furthermore, it is obvious that the cost of satellite connection capacity has consistently increased relative to wireless and terrestrial means, creating a widening gap unsustainable in the long term for “unicast-type” applications.

For decades, Intelsat has provided widebeam coverage agnostically to a range of customers. Despite offering managed services, Intelsat´s core business remains that of a conventional wholesale satellite operator that leases raw capacity for others to make use of. However, reading in between the lines of Intelsat´s EPIC initiative, one can speculate that Intelsat might be ready for a shift this time.

Intelsat describes EPIC as an open high-throughput platform with a combination of C-, Ku- and Ka-bands, wide beams, spot beams, and frequency reuse technology. Intelsat has not yet articulated how EPIC will drastically differ from their current business model of agnostic capacity leasing, which by operating at the transport layer is an open platform by default. EPIC could act as a leveler for FSS satellite service providers and teleport owners with vested interest in reusing existing infrastructure, but, should Intelsat stick to its traditional role of raw capacity leasing, EPIC could provide a rather evolutionary (not disruptive) path towards future B2B FSS services.

If Intelsat were to ambitiously embrace the potential of virtualization, EPIC could lead to the creation of a new services framework..

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Yet, if Intelsat were to ambitiously embrace the potential of virtualization, EPIC could lead to the creation of a new services framework that encourages and rewards infrastructure sharing and new service creation. Intelsat could use its high-throughput global network as a low-level building block towards driving higher layer services and reshaping the way satellite services are conceived and delivered. A cooperative, service-oriented architecture that incorporates modular reusable services with standardized interfaces, could support and empower service providers to craft differentiated services cost-effectively. Only then EPIC could represent a fundamentally different way to architect satellite services, as networks modeled this way could be not just ways to connect but asynchronous, flexible platforms for value service creation.

Rather than just seeking a lower cost per bit through HTS, Intelsat has a leapfrog opportunity with EPIC to lead a more profound shift in satellite B2B application provisioning through the development of a new services framework. Such new services framework supported by a cooperative, globally-hosted smart infrastructure, nurtured by an application development community could only be fostered by a globally relevant satellite player like Intelsat. For the historically capacity-centric satellite industry, that would indeed be a shift of EPIC proportions.

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Category: ANALYSIS

About the Author ()

Carlos Placido is an independent consultant with twenty years of progressive experience in the areas of telecom consulting, business development, engineering and R&D. With focus on emerging satellite markets and technology, he has conducted numerous strategic consulting projects as well as research and management activities, including global market research studies for Northern Sky Research (NSR), business development support for technology vendors and project management at Telefonica. Until 2004, Carlos led a development team at INTELSAT, where he was responsible for identifying and validating future satcom uses of emerging video and IP data technologies. Carlos is also contributor and administrator for Satcom Post, an online professional knowledge-sharing platform. He holds an engineering degree from the University of Buenos Aires and an MBA from the University of Maryland, Smith School of Business.

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