SP: Please provide an overview of the role that Hughes plays in Latin America and Mexico, in particular. How many Hughes VSATs and hubs have so far been shipped to Mexico and Latin America?
Mendez: Hughes has been a leading provider of VSAT systems in Mexico and Latin America for over 40 years. To the entire region we have shipped over 200,000 VSATs while in Mexico alone we have shipped more than 60,000 VSATs. Our VSATs are used for a wide range of applications ranging from enterprise networking to broadband internet access. Particularly satisfying to the Hughes team is our participation in a number of projects to bring telecommunications services to Mexican residents in rural and remote areas and these projects have made a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of these residents.
Beyond VSAT systems, Hughes is a key provider of systems and technology for Mexsat project where Boeing selected Hughes to provide the Ground Communications Network for Mexsat satellite based network. The system includes the core cellular network switching and related equipment and reference user terminals where we are employing our GMR1-3G air interface that will be embedded in a range of user terminals for maritime, aeronautical, and high speed vehicular applications.
Mexico is such an important market for Hughes that we established HNS de Mexico in 1993 for the purpose of providing the best possible support to our customers. The HNS de Mexico team includes highly skilled and experienced engineers who support Mexican and other LA customers on all aspects of our work in the region.
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. Coverage outside the US and Canada is new for Hughes as a satellite operator so can you please share details (capacity, etc) about the spot beams to be deployed over Mexico and (potentially) over Central American and Caribbean?
Mendez: You are right; Jupiter 2 will be launched during the first half of 2016, with more than 150Gbps throughput and with a wider service area and greater capacity than JUPITER 1. The new satellite is designed with an advanced architecture possessing more than 120 spot beams, powering expansion of HughesNet Gen4 high quality Internet services across the U.S. and major parts of Canada. We have not yet announced our plans outside the USA and Canada so the best I can tell is to stay tuned for more information.
SP: As you know, the satellite industry is debating pros and cons of integrated HTS platforms (such as Hughes in the US) versus platforms labeled as “open”, which are meant to provide HTS capacity agnostically to traditional service providers. What are your views about the pros and cons of each model in the context of the evolution of the Latin American satcom market?
Mendez: Whether to go “open” or “closed” is a business decision and Hughes sees the merits of both approaches. And this particular question is for the satellite operator and whether they will establish a baseband ground system that will enable them to provide Mbps to their customers (the so called “closed” approach) or whether they will simply lease MHz to anyone who wants to purchase the capacity (the “open” approach). Hughes believes that a mix of these approaches will be used by various satellite operators in the region and it will boil down to the business focus of these operators. Media Networks Latin America purchased the entire Ka-band capacity on Amazonas-3 and their business model led them to implement a closed system where they sell Mbps services throughout the region.
What is clear is that the demand for broadband internet services is big and growing. The economics of HTS means that satellite broadband will continue to grow in relevance. The key question for satellite operators is how best to address the needs of the market and the answer will be different depending on the operator.
SP: The Mexican Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) signed a contract with Hughes to deploy a 11,000-site broadband satellite network across the country. Can you please share details about this project?
Mendez: In 2012 the Mexican Secretariat of Communication and Transportation (SCT) selected Hughes to supply the ground system for the “Red Satelital 11K” (SCT 11K) project. This project serves to provide broadband internet connectivity in 6,730 sites that include; schools, hospitals, digital community centers and government offices as well as 4,270 rural public calling offices in regions previously unserved. This network is part of an important governmental digital inclusion initiative to improve the quality of life to 1,700,000 people in rural communities throughout Mexico. The network is operated by Telecomm a decentralized government office in charge of telecommunications in Mexico with a great deal of experience in satellite operations.
SP: What are your views on satellites interworking with terrestrial networks? Do you believe that in Latin America, residential broadband using satellite will differ from the US model? If so, how? Should we expect satellites to play a stronger role as a middle-mile (backhaul) solution, with 3G/4G cellular technology in the last mile?
Mendez: Satellite interworking with terrestrial networks is essential for the majority of applications. Satellite complements terrestrial networks; cost of fiber is based on distance and so is not justified in rural or even ex-urban areas with low density of subscribers, which is where satellite makes sense because it’s the same equipment cost virtually anywhere in the coverage footprint. In many of these places the service model will be different from the USA and will include what we call “community VSATs” where a single VSAT is serving multiple households or users. The SCT 11K network is a good example of community VSATs as is the use of VSAT to backhaul WIFI services in rural and remote areas. Another example is a project we did with Telmex where our VSAT system was used to provide telephony services to more than 40,000 subscribers in rural areas of Mexico and the key was a successful interconnection between the VSATs and the Telmex terrestrial PSTN.
And Satellite is starting to play a stronger role in cellular backhaul networks. As our technology has developed higher levels of efficiency and we are able to achieve low latency and jitter, we are able to support 2G/3G and even 4G backhaul traffic in a cost effective manner. We see these networks being deployed around the world.
SP: Mexico is going through interesting structural changes including deregulation, both in telecom and entertainment. Do you believe that these rule changes, coupled with planned HTS capacity deployment over Mexico will create new opportunities? Where will those opportunities be?
Mendez: The reforms put in place by President Pena Nieto encourage more direct foreign investments and competition, those reforms together with the country’s economic development, growing middle class and population make Mexico an attractive place to invest in services like HTS networks. The opportunities are everywhere including; the consumer market, SME, education, health, oil and gas, energy, mobility and of course at social programs to reduce the digital dive such as the Mexico Conectado program.
Share post with friends