iDirect previewed the iDX 3.2 software at Satellite 2013 and, clearly, 3.2 will mean more than a new software release to satellite service providers. Please provide an overview of the key features, products and performance enhancements that 3.2 will incorporate and enable.
New X7 Remote
SP: Elaborate on the X7 performance and its capabilities.
Bettinger: The X7 is the first in a family of next-generation remotes that are optimized to deliver significantly faster data rates and operate with high-throughput satellites. There are several key features that make the X7 stand out.
The X7 is built on an entirely new multi-core hardware architecture, which differentiates it from the X5 and X3. With our iDX 3.2 software, the X7 can support 100Mbps of combined outbound and inbound throughput.
The X7 also features dual DVB-S2 demodulators with fully independent RF chains. This is an embedded capability that will be activated through an over-the-air software upgrade. It enables service providers to support voice and data services while receiving up to 12 shared, high-definition multicast channels from a completely separate outbound. The outbound can be on a different transponder, on a different satellite and even on a different band than the unicast traffic. The dual demodulator will also make it very easy to transition from traditional broad beam to high-throughput spot beam satellites.
The X7 also features embedded Group QoS and a VLAN-aware 8-port switch. Service providers can physically segregate multiple end user traffic groups based on VLAN tags and customize SLAs for each unique user group. And the X7 is also equipped with embedded AC/DC power supply options, enabling easy deployment based on any power type available at the end user site.
SP: What applications and sectors do you envision will benefit from using X7 remotes?
Bettinger: We see the X7 impacting any enterprise and mobility market in which end users want to run bandwidth-heavy applications. For example, in the maritime market, ship operators want more than basic voice and data applications. They want to provide crew with higher speeds to access to the Internet, and they want to deploy business applications that increase information exchange between ship and shore. Cruise ships need to support growing passenger populations and enable them to communicate like they do on shore, especially using social media. Oil and gas companies are sending larger and larger data files, and that absolutely requires higher throughput rates. And cellular backhaul providers need to meet the throughput requirements for demanding, large cell sites as they expand 3G and 4G networks in remote areas.
SP: The X7 can perhaps be viewed as the first step towards a new architectural design targeted to HTS systems emerging globally. What can we expect in terms of future performance and edge features enabled by the X7
Bettinger: As we develop new software releases, we will see further performance advancements that will improve processing power and functionality via over-the-air upgrades. These include the introduction of higher order MODCODs, support for 32 APSK on the outbound and a 16-ary modulation on the inbound. Future software releases will also better utilize the second core of the processor and push more packet handling to the FPGA. In addition, the X7 will improve mobility networks by utilizing the second demodulator for faster beam switching.
SP: Please elaborate on what Adaptive TDMA will do and savings that service providers could expect. Will adaptive TDMA be commercialized as a separate license feature?
Bettinger: Adaptive TDMA is a standard feature with iDX 3.2. It enhances return channel performance and increases network availability under rain fade and spectral degradation. An in-route group can support carriers with different symbol rates, MODCODs and spread factors, for spread spectrum in-route carriers, dynamically adjusting to changing uplink conditions based on each remote’s demand and the system’s QoS configuration.
With iDX 3.2, VSAT networks can be designed to provide more than 20dB in fade margin without compromising clear weather throughput. A typical fixed VSAT system can achieve a 20-40% throughput gain. And a typical mobile network can gain about twice as much with improvements in handling rain fade and beam contours.
Next-Gen Platform and HTS
SP: iDirect refers to the X7 as not just a new remote but a “platform” building block within the context of other developments taking place. Platforms tend to characterize themselves as “springboards” for new uses and enhancements so please discuss iDirect´s vision for next generation satellite broadband platforms.
Bettinger: iDirect is focused today on a major redesign of the core technology that powers our platform to handle higher data rates and scale much more broadly. We’ve completely re-engineered our remote product to achieve major processing gains and operate over high throughput satellites. Above that, our vision is to create a large selection of terminals that are tightly customized to distinct market requirements and are easier to install and quicker to deploy.
We’re also advancing the capabilities of our hub system. For example, we’re designing line cards so the platform can handle exponentially more bandwidth, reaching data rates in the tens of Gbs. With these improvements, satellite operators and service providers can leverage iDirect’s hub infrastructure to deploy high bandwidth networks that exceed hundreds of megabits per remote site and that can support hundreds of thousands of terminals.
And as our platform grows in scale, we’ll ensure it can deliver carrier-class service reliability – both in the field and at the hub site to provide a complete solution for network failover. And we’ll continue to invest heavily in the capabilities of our Network Management System, enabling our partners to reach new levels of network and business performance.
SP: The first HTS architectures were primarily designed around domestic consumer broadband markets and hinged on the economies of scale of a vertically-integrated architectures. However, we have recently witnessed leading satellite players seeking other uses for HTS via more distributed and open architectures that could act as catalysts for HTS in B2B markets. A recent post at Satcom Post even explored the potential emergence of a new services framework powered by virtualization. Given iDirect´s successful B2B track record, including pioneering the Virtual Network Operator (VNO) model, do you envision the emergence of new service-oriented satellite architectures?
Bettinger: High throughput satellites span a wide range of bands, beam sizes, earth orbits and technical designs. Many service providers will need to procure capacity across multiple types of HTS satellites. So in the future, they’ll increasingly manage a blended service portfolio that combines multiple frequencies and integrates traditional and high throughput capacity. And they will need to accommodate diverse business models – from sharing network infra- structure with satellite operators to re-selling a managed service.
In this scenario, we see a clear advantage for our partners. With our universal hub and line card system, they can leverage their existing infrastructure to launch and scale HTS networks, accessing bandwidth from any type of satellite over any frequency. And they can add line cards to introduce new HTS services in a measured approach to growth. Further, the iDirect platform provides our partners with the flexibility to adapt to any business model present or future.
Watch iDirect´s video about the HTS impact on traditional service providers
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