SP: Please provide an overview of the Hughes high throughput satellite (HTS) network in North America: Technology, number of Ka-band HTS sites deployed, gateways, coverage and satellite system capacity (Gbps).
Rehbehn: There are currently two Hughes-designed HTS satellites, both are Ka-band and operated by EchoStar: SPACEWAY® 3 and EchoStar XVII, with JUPITER™ high-throughput technology. Launched in 2008, SPACEWAY 3 is the world’s first commercial satellite system with onboard switching and routing, enabling single hop, mesh communications without requiring a ground-based NOC. EchoStar XVII, with well over 100 Gbps capacity, was launched in August 2012, and is the cornerstone of our HughesNet® Gen 4 high-speed Internet service across North America. There are over 20 JUPITER gateway locations that connect satellite and Internet traffic, now supporting over 900,000 HughesNet consumer subscribers—the world’s largest broadband satellite service— as well as a large number of enterprise and government clients.
The same JUPITER ground system operating in North America is now available to operators globally, including gateways, remote terminals and advanced network management, and is configurable for multi-band operation (Ka, Ku and C) on either conventional or HTS satellites. Since late last year, the JUPITER System is delivering broadband services in Latin America for Media Networks Latin America (MNLA), a subsidiary of Telefonica. Powered by a Hughes-designed SoC (System on a chip) enabling very high throughput for applications, and numerous technology advancements—such as an enhanced air interface and wideband carriers for lower bandwidth cost—JUPITER is the ideal, future-proof platform for operators to gain the many performance/cost advantages on today’s conventional satellites and be positioned for future migration to next generation HTS satellites.
SP: How many VSATs and hubs are deployed worldwide using Hughes technology? Can you share how many VSATs are used for consumer broadband and how many for enterprise-class services?
Rehbehn: Since inventing the VSAT and implementing the first commercial satellite network at Wal-Mart in 1985, Hughes has shipped VSAT systems to customers in over 100 countries, with the latest official count for broadband satellite terminals shipped at over 4 million. While we do not publish the count for hubs, the 2014 COMSYS report shows that there are 274 hubs in operation today by 116 different operators (this does not include our HughesNet services). Further, these 274 hubs support a total of 532,797 terminals, for an average of close to 2,000 per hub, validating the scalability of Hughes systems to support the full range of small/medium/large networks.
SP: EchoStar XIX or JUPITER 2, to be launched in 2016, will have more than 150 Gbps of throughput, over 50 percent more than EchoStar’s current EchoStar 17/Jupiter 1. JUPITER 2 is expected to cover all of the United States and much of Canada and Mexico. Can you share additional information about coverage and spot beams outside the US?
Rehbehn: Built by Space Systems Loral and planned for launch in mid-2016, EchoStar XIX is designed with a next-generation architecture employing more than 120 spot beams, with coverage across the U.S., a large part of Canada and areas in Central America.
Earlier this year we signed a comprehensive supply agreement with Xplornet, Canada’s largest rural broadband provider, for satellite capacity on Echostar XIX, gateways, consumer terminals and operational/support services in a program valued at over $200 million.
SP: As you know, the satellite industry is debating about the pros and cons of integrated HTS platforms (such as Hughes) versus platforms labeled as “open”, which are meant to provide HTS capacity agnostically to the existing pool of FSS service providers desiring to migrate to HTS. What are your views about the pros and cons of each model?
Rehbehn: Whether a particular satellite is operated as “closed” or “open” is entirely a business decision to be made by each satellite operator and Hughes supplies the necessary system configuration and support software accordingly. For example, a “closed” system, whereby the satellite operator sells ‘Mbps’ to resellers/distributors , means assuming complete responsibility, including operating the ground system, establishing service plans, and supporting activation/billing/support by establishing and maintaining the entire OSS/BSS (operational support system and business support system) infrastructure. On the other hand, “open” systems, whereby the satellite operator sells capacity or ‘MHz’ to authorized providers, significantly lowers the operational burden on a satellite operator and in turn the revenue potential.
SP: Knowing that the US is a specific success story of full vertical integration for satellite broadband services, do you believe that the US model is fully transferable elsewhere? What kind of adaptations, if any, do you envision to the model if applied in other markets where Hughes is present as a service provider, such as India or Brazil?
Rehbehn: High-speed Internet access is clearly the most successful HTS service—now with over 900,000 HughesNet subscribers in the U.S. and Canada (Q214)—and including the competition, a total broadband satellite subscriber count exceeding 1.5million. Most are consumers, though there are numerous home and small/medium offices, and even government field offices, with plans to suit every budget and speeds up to 15 Mbps, higher than many terrestrial offerings.
Outside North America the residential wave is poised to happen as more affordable bandwidth from HTS satellites is introduced, evidenced by developments in Latin America, the Middle East and Russia. In Brazil we recently announced using the Ka-band capacity of the Eutelsat 65W satellite to establish a large scale consumer service that will be operational in 2016.
SP: EchoStar acquired Hughes in 2011. Beside the synergies of combining the respective satellite fleets and networks for video and data transport, how do you think that this acquisition, together with the wireless spectrum acquired by Echostar, will impact the business of DTH and consumer telecom/broadband?
Rehbehn: As the market has shown, delivery of combined video and data services is clearly attractive to consumers everywhere—wherever and however they want it, whether using fixed or mobile devices. EchoStar and Hughes together fully expects to continue our leadership in this exciting and rapidly evolving global business for converged video and data products and services.
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