SP: For those SatcomPost readers not yet familiar with Datum Systems, please provide a high-level description of Datum, markets addressed, main products and key differentiators.
Koblinski: Datum Systems is located in the heart of Silicon Valley and has been manufacturing the industry’s highest performing and most reliable satellite modem for about 20 years. We focus all our engineering resources solely on SCPC modems, so modems are all we do. Historically, Datum had created its success primarily as an OEM modem house. There have been up to 10 companies who private labeled our modems over the years; some well known names at that. For the last few years, however, Datum Systems has been fundamentally changing and is building its own brand up in the market through more straight distribution channels.
Our markets have primarily centered on low to medium speed point-to-point type networks, be it Enterprise, Energy, Telco or Mobile Backhaul. Our market niche has mostly been with small to medium integrators who serve these markets, but we also do government and defense business as well. For customers looking for great value, we have always been there for them, providing that reliable and most spectral efficient modem at a lower price point than our main competitors. You get much more for your dollar with Datum.
M7 Modem Series
SP: Datum recently launched a new SCPC modem family called “M7 Series”. Can you please elaborate on this (modules, features, topologies, etc) and –if possible- give us a “sneak peek” of new features that Datum might be planning to release / showcase at Satellite 2014?
Koblinski: Yes, Datum has spent the last few years developing an entirely new and remarkable modem platform we call the M7 Series, really from the ground up. The M7 Series allows a single modem platform to support a wide range of modem types. Because of the modularity of the design, we can construct a Modulator, a Demodulator, Single or Dual, or a complete Modem within the same half rack wide chassis. The basic design goal was to be able to break all the barriers and limits of current single card modem designs and separate functionality onto individual easy to install boards. The M7 half-rack wide model makes it easy to put two modems or Dual demods within a single rack space.
The new M7 offers not only higher performance and reliability of legacy models, but supports a great deal more options, features and all the bells and whistles that users demand in modern equipment. One of these is our newly designed Web Browser Interface, which even provides views of the modems receive carrier via a spectrum analyzer mode and also provides a receive carrier constellation view.
The M7 Series supports data rates from 1.2 kbps up to about 60 Mbps, the industry’s most flexible LDPC FEC, and as a standard in every M7 Series model, our “Sharp Carrier” option. This is our advanced Filter Roll-off technology, which is part of our SMART Technologies options that allows users to select transmit and receive filter-roll-offs all the way down to 5%. As part of our SMART Technologies offering, we plan to release our Smart Carrier cancelling addition to the M7 Series at the Satellite 2014 show in DC, March 11 through the 13th.
On the data interface side, we offer 5 different plug-in interface module types, from our standard Serial interface, HSSI, Dual G.703 with Drop & Insert or one of our two high packet per second throughput Ethernet based IP interfaces. We offer a true line speed 5 port switched based Ethernet interface or our high PPS processor based Advanced IP interface, which supports drop-in third party IP optimization software.
Being that the M7 is so modular at the modem hardware level, we also set lofty goals that the M7 Series would also be highly modular at the system level. We really wanted to allow users to have a highly flexible and future-proof platform that would allow the same modem platform to go from an SCPC point-to-point link, to a point-to-multipoint or to even mesh network, with easy and simple menu changes. In the case of future proof, and since the modem card sets can be so easily replaced or substituted, new modem card designs can be integrated into the existing base platform. As Datum continues to extend its capabilities into the future, the existing platform can accommodate these options, and even allow us to pursue new markets. All this while keeping development costs in check and allowing Datum to continue to offer customers new and affordable products.
High Throughput Satellites (HTS)
SP: What are your views about High Throughput Satellites (HTS) and how this new paradigm in satellite network architectures will affect the business of technology vendors like Datum? Given the lower HTS OPEX (relative to traditional FSS), what are the challenges and opportunities anticipated for HTS?
Koblinski: The HTS transition is a shot in the arm for the satellite industry: higher speed at lower transport cost can only mean good things to come for the satellite industry as a whole. At Datum we strongly believe that open HTS platforms such as Intelsat EpicNG, which allow service providers to transition to HTS without a major infrastructure overhaul, will expand the addressable market for SCPC based solutions. It’s true that, as with any paradigm shift, HTS brings both challenges and opportunities. For Technology vendors like Datum, focused on advanced SCPC technology, HTS can enable SCPC networks in scenarios that were hard to justify when using traditional FSS capacity. A good example is 3G and 4G cellular backhaul: HTS can enable tens of Mbps of dedicated capacity for backhaul at a price point that better matches operators’ traffic and service revenue (arpu) conditions.
SP: Satellite service providers are good at identifying the CAPEX and OPEX “crossing points” when choosing to use either SCPC or TDMA systems over traditional FSS capacity. Considerations such as number of end points, average VSAT data rate and traffic profiles are considered. How will HTS affect such crossing points?
Koblinski: The basic math will stay the same, service providers will continue doing all sorts of calculations to identify those CAPEX-for-OPEX crossing points and tradeoffs, but HTS will allow link data rates to go substantially up and at lower cost. We view this as a great opportunity for SCPC based solutions delivered by traditional satellite service providers. Advanced SCPC modems currently offer performance so close to the maximum possible performance limits that additional efficiencies inevitably need to come from either application-level optimization (e.g. compression, backhaul optimization, etc.) or from lower price points on the satellite spectrum itself, which is what HTS platforms put on the table.
SP: Do you believe that HTS platforms such as O3b designed to provide a satellite alternative to fiber could reinvigorate the “niche” business of SCPC?
Koblinski: We do, but essentially any HTS platform can augment the SCPC play, not just O3b. O3b is a very interesting platform as the combination of high speed, low latency and low OPEX can take satellite services closer to fiber-like behavior, both in terms of link speed and economics. Thus, O3b is a natural fit for advanced SCPC based solutions and Datum is well equipped to provide effective point-to-point and point-to-multipoint solutions for IP trunking, backhaul and satcom military applications. Datum modems can work transparently over any HTS platform and in the case of O3b, being a MEO satellite constellation, we only need to implement our technical solution in the existing M7 platform to deal with satellite handoffs. We believe we would be a very good fit and are open to working with O3b and their users in order to provide real cost-effective solutions.
Bandwidth Saving Technologies
SP: With LDPC coding, sharp roll-off filters and carrier canceling technologies together approaching the limits of spectral efficiency, where do you believe technology vendors like Datum will focus next to squeeze even more bits per hertz?
Koblinski: You are correct; the M7 Series modems are bumping into the limits of spectral efficiency with features like our FlexLDPC, Sharp Carrier and Carrier Canceling. The later actually increases channel capacity by pushing the Shannon curve further out by 2 dB. Beyond that, some additional possibilities, like increased FEC block sizes, are limited by network traffic requirements, such as latency. Latency is always a concern with voice traffic, particularly if double hops are part of the system design, like with all point-to-multipoint networks.
Having approached the limits of spectral efficiency at the RF level, however, we envision that future compression and optimization progress could come from disciplines that are not core to satellite transport. This is the reason why we have developed multiple IP interface card platforms, with a very high processing capability, and the ability to run third-party application-level optimization software. Through these powerful IP processing capabilities, we are essentially opening up our M7 platform solution so that companies developing unique wireless/ terrestrial software solutions (such as IP compression and 2G or 3G cellular backhaul optimization) can port their software directly into our platform.
Note: David Koblinski has authored articles for Satcom Post. Click here to learn more about David and Datum Systems.
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