As we begin looking ahead to 2015, I cannot help but first look back at the major progress that has been made on the High Throughput Satellite (HTS) front during 2014. These past 12 months have been particularly enlightening for me, as I’ve had the opportunity to engage in some thorough and thought-provoking dialogue with the industry about both the challenges and opportunities associated with HTS.
First things first: HTS satellites have launched. This year we moved closer to the reality of several HTS programs focused on the enterprise market. The launch of Inmarsat’s first Global Xpress satellite was a great step forward . As we look forward to 2015, the anticipation is that satellite launches will quicken, led by major programs like Intelsat EPIC.
Certainly the launch of these HTS programs presents a major milestone. They signal a new era for the industry. However, we must continue to focus on preparing enterprise markets for the impact that comes with HTS; most notably how we design networks, offer services and manage operations.
These very subjects were the topic of much discussion on the blog this past year. I posed some thoughts, encouraged the industry to respond—and heard back with some great insight. And before we look ahead to what 2015 will hold for HTS, let’s quickly recap what we’ve discovered over this past year.
Battle of the Bands
Much has been said about the Ku vs Ka band, and the impact that frequency will have on the ecosystem. First there was the Ka revolution, dedicated to delivering data services. This was followed by the “battle of the bands” which saw the VSAT community debating if it really was a Ka play, or if the same architecture could be delivered with Ku.
As I stated in my post back in May, knowing the answer depends on a few factors, but new entrants without access to Ku spectrum will more than likely look to Ka. Incumbent satellite operators with vested interest in Ku will likely stick with spectrum they already have.
I took the question to the community, asking which band you thought was better suited for HTS. A majority response (72%) said Ka is the better option. In my opinion, I wouldn’t say one is any better than the other. I point to satellite operators who consistently say that it’s not only a matter of frequency, but also is dependent on the planned bandwidth allocated to the multi-spot beams, bandwidth efficiency tradeoffs, frequency reuse scheme and the architecture that determine the high throughput.
Coming Down from Space
Beyond the question of which band is better, we also dove into the topic of which business model suits satellite operators best when it comes to HTS.
The reality is that satellite operators’ business models are changing due to the multi-spot beam architecture of HTS. Satellite operators are focusing not just on space, but also on ground infrastructure. With this new focus service providers will be able to cost effectively access HTS via a managed service model.
I predicted that satellite operators will change their business models to sell Mbps rather than MHz. This is due to the fact that satellite operators will no longer be able to depend on service providers to build their own infrastructure. The business case is more difficult with HTS, as there are more beams.
This means that satellite operators will be compelled to move down from a space focus business and start building ground infrastructure. This involves installing chassis, line cards (modulators /demodulators), and selling Mbps with managed services, not MHz and co-lo. But with that said, satellite operators must also consider the impact of these decisions.
Taking the HTS Discussion to London
All of the HTS talk now leads me back to London and the 2014 GVF event scheduled for December 2-3. Last year I participated on an engineering panel, during which we touched on a range of interesting topics; most notably around the advantages of an open or closed approach.
This year’s event is billed as ‘High Throughput Satellites: The Game-Changer in Action Roundtable Series’ which promises to provide some very engaging and energetic discussions around satellite-based broadband solutions.
I am proud to be participating on a panel discussion during day one of the event on the topic of engineering the HTS solution. Among the topics that we will touch on include the planning, design, deployment and management of HTS terminals, antenna technology quality and installation, and even hybrid technology solutions.
I will be certain to blog about these discussion post event, and will continue to keep you updated on all the happenings around HTS in the year ahead. As we close out 2014 I am encouraged by the progress that has been made, but we are still in the early phase with much education still taking place.
Looking ahead to 2015, we see satellite playing an even greater role as demand is increasing. And the timing is perfect, given all the additional bandwidth that will be coming down from space. You cannot help but be excited of all the great things that could be in store going forward.
This article first appeared on iDirect´s Satellite Connection blog.
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