SP: Newtec is a highly relevant satcom technology player with products that span all major satellite core areas: from broadcast TV to IP trunking and HTS (High Throughput Satellites). At a high level, please provide an overview of Newtec´s core product segments, markets addressed, and key differentiators.
Van Herck: Since its creation at the heart of Europe in Belgium in 1985, Newtec has always had one mission; shaping the future of satellite communications. Thanks to Newtec’s DVB-S and DVB-S2 TV broadcast modulation technology and products, over 3 billion people can watch every day TV images that are being transmitted from all over the world. Broadcasters and satellite operators from around the world rely on Newtec’s modulators and demodlators to contribute and distribute TV signals, be it for DTH bouquets or distribution to terrestrial TV transmit towers. The quality, reliability and extensive capabilities of our products are the reference in the satellite broadcast world. Over the years, Newtec has extended its product portfolio of satcom products. Today Newtec’s modems are also the reference when it comes to high speed IP trunking networks. Last but not least, Newtec has successfully added consumer and professional VSAT systems to its product portfolio. In essence we serve today the broadcasters, satellite operators, telecom service providers, ISPs, government and defense players.
Next to quality and reliability, our customers rely upon Newtec for two other main reasons; they know they get the most innovative satcom technology and they know we are dedicated to help them being successful achieving their objectives. In contrast to some other main VSAT technology vendors, we have chosen not to start operating our own network services but stick to our core: helping our customers to grow, not start competing with them.
“Closed” vs “Open” High Throughput Satellite (HTS) Platforms
SP: There has been a lot of talk in the industry about the differences between “closed” or vertically-integrated HTS platforms and “open” HTS platforms. What are your views in terms of pros and cons for each strategy and how you envision the industry will tend to evolve. Will we eventually see one model prevailing over the other, depending on the region? Can you please provide concrete examples of each?
Van Herck: The closed systems like HughesNet and Viasat’s Exede, were needed to kick start the HTS market. Until the purchase of Viasat-1 was announced, no major satellite operator was willing to put money on the table to take this bet. Since the operational launch of those closed HTS network systems in North America, we see now that all major and many regional satellite operators are announcing the launch of such HTS satellites in one way or another. Their plan is clearly not to operate closed system but to go back to the ‘traditional VSAT value chain’ by selling capacity, typically in Mhz. The first example is the UK based satellite operator Avanti who is providing today its customers access to its Ka spotbeams on Hylas 1 and Hylas 2 on a Mhz basis. Next to providing Mhz capacity Avanti is also providing ‘housing services’ so that their customers can put their own equipment in Avanti’s gateways. A good example of this case is Bentley Walker who operates Newtec Sat3Play VSAT technology on Hylas 2 over Libya.
HTS Roles for Traditional VSAT Operators
SP: At VSAT 2013 in Amsterdam, you recently gave a well-received presentation (pasted in this post) about the changes that High Throughput Satellites (HTS) are bringing to the business of traditional satellite service providers. Can you please highlight the main challenges and opportunities that you envision HTS will bring to the traditional service providers and how you expect them to benefit from these?
Van Herck: Up to now, the VSAT service providers were not really invited to the HTS party. In some cases, eg the closed Tooway service of Eutelsat, the best option (I call it “option 1” in my presentation) they had was to resell the predefined service packages of the HTS network operator. The good thing about this is that the VSAT service provider needs nearly no initial capital expenditure to start his offering; so it is a good way to ‘test’ the market’. The problem typically comes a few months later; when the VSAT service providers starts to generate success, he sees competition coming up from small companies that also resell the same packages from the same HTS network operator, typically at lower margins and prices. This induces rapidly a fierce price war and as there is no technical possibility to differentiate the service offering, all resellers loose margin and profitability.
In order to be able to protect their business growth and profitability, they will rapidly evolve to a more advanced business model in which they can fully differentiate their services from competing service providers. The “option 3” that I describe in the presentation, is for sure ‘the’ option that will enable the VSAT service providers to take full advantage of the future HTS satellite capabilities. This “option 3” is in fact the situation in which VSAT service providers are able to lease Mhz capacity on one or more HTS beams, while using their selected VSAT hub and terminal equipment. This in fact brings us back to the ‘traditional VSAT value chain’ where VSAT service providers were used to lease space segment and package that with their technology of choice.
More and more satellite operators are preparing themselves to start offering Mhz on their future HTS satellites. Think for instance next to Avanti of Intelsat’s EPIC satellites, Amos, Newsat (Australia based), Hispasat, and many others. Interestingly, Eutelsat who operates a closed system over Europe with Tooway on KA-Sat, is now announcing to offer Mhz capacity on their future Ka HTS satellites over Latin America and Africa.
Adaptation of Technology Companies
SP: How do you envision technology companies like Newtec will tend to adapt to this new HTS environment? Will we see increasing divergence between technology vendors focusing on open vs closed networks or specific market segments?
Van Herck: The technology companies that have transformed themselves to start operating their own closed systems, have ‘de facto’ evolved into service providers. Their core focus is not to serve anymore VSAT service providers around the world, but their core focus is now on making their investments into their own networks and satellite a success. In many regions they have now become competitors to their previous customers.
Such a competitive evolution, automatically pushes the VSAT service providers to look for other credible and reliable technology partners. In that respect, companies like Newtec can take advantage of such a market shift assuming that they offer of course the right product portfolio. Over the last years, Newtec has invested heavily in its product and system HTS engineering developments in order to be able to serve those VSAT service providers. The result is now that more and more VSAT service providers are shifting to Newtec VSAT technology in order to deploy their VSAT services, be it on traditional Ku-band or Ka HTS satellites.
SP: Please provide examples where Newtec´s Sat3Play systems are currently deployed. Can you share the number of hubs deployed and number of end sites served by these?
Van Herck: Five years after the successful launch of SES’ Astra2Connect service over Europe with Newtec’s first Sat3Play hub, we have now become the largest ‘independent’ satellite consumer broadband technology vendor in the world. In those five years we have shipped close to 150.000 Ku and Ka terminals and tens of hubs to satellite operators like SES, Eutelsat, Gazprom Space Systems, Avanti , HellasSat and Nigcomsat. Other broadcasters and service providers like ASBU (Arab States Broadcasting Union), SBC (Saudi Broadcast Company),TDA (Télédifusion d’Algérie), X2nSAT, Bentley Walker, Quantis, K-NET, Liquid Telecom, Skyvine, RuSat use this same Newtec hub technology to provide consumer or professional VSAT services.
SP: Newtec has played a leading role towards the standardization of DVB-S2 extensions (Note: Newtec´s DVB-S2 calculator is downloadable from Satcom Post). With higher order modulation and sharp roll-of filters truly pushing the limits of satellite spectral efficiency, in what areas will you now lead Newtec ´s R&D activities?
Van Herck: Our mission is to shape the future of satellite communications and we stick to this mission. Next to developing this new DVB-S2 extensions industry standard in which we increase transmission speeds and efficiencies, we have also been very active in developing the new RF Carrier ID DVB standard. This will help our industry to further increase its relevancy by reducing the service disruptions due to carrier interference.
Expect us to continue working at pushing the technology boundaries in order to crank more TV channels into the same 36mhz transponders and in order to further increase the capabilities of our VSAT technologies on traditional and HTS satellites. We believe in a bright future for Newtec and for our satcom industry as a whole.
 HNS and Viasat have shipped more terminals but mainly for their own network usage
Watch a video recording of Serge´s presentation
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