Monday, September 13, 2010

New Satellites For Internet to Challenge Cable-DSL

Internet communications bandwidth requirements continue to grow at about 50% annually. The demand for Broadband Internet by satellite has been growing so fast, that WildBlue has stopped taking orders in parts of the United States.

The demand is likely to grow at a faster rate in the near-term. HDTV signals require 4-5 times as much bandwidth for transmission as standard definition video, even with sophisticated MPEG-4 encoding. By 2010, forecasts call for 80-90% of all Internet traffic to be video transfer.

There are currently over 600,000 satellite Internet subscribers in North America, usually in the more remote areas where broadband Internet is otherwise unavailable. Both times a new Internet satellite has launched, a large increase in satellite Internet subscribers has followed, but within a few months, capacity was sold out in key geographic areas, capping subscriber growth.

Current satellite systems aren't designed for the high bandwidth applications that people demand, such as HDTV, graphics, VoIP, and peer-to-peer networking.
# "It does not have to be that way. Day to day consumer Internet interactions involving high-bandwidth activities like video and multimedia were not part of the plans when earlier satellite services were designed. We are aiming to give consumers a vastly improved experience based on the most advanced technology on the market. These new capabilities are not only technologically very feasible, they're also affordable," said Mark Dankberg, CEO ViaSat.

ViaSat has plans to address the demand. ViaSat-1 is scheduled for launch in 2011. The amount of bandwidth enabled by ViaSat-1, equipped with ViaSat's "SurfBeam" networking system, is unparalleled. Total throughput is designed to be over 100 Gigabits per second, which is more capacity than the current North American fleet of two-way Ka, C and Ku band combined. ViaSat-1 should greatly improve the quality, capability and availability of high-speed Internet satellite services for U.S. and Canadian consumers.

In 2010, Ka-Sat will launch a satellite to provide similar service in Europe.

The new satellites will also be used to provide Internet services, TV (including HDTV), mobile Internet, and defense satellite communications. By 2010, 60% of TV receivers will use a Satellite signal, up from 15% in 2002. ViaSat terminals use a networking technology that uses satellite bandwidth more efficiently, called DOCSIS (Data Over Cable Service Interface Specifications), lowering the cost of Internet service to consumers. The terminals include satellite modems and Ka band transceivers. The high throughout of ViaSat-1 makes it ideal for transmitting new video applications requiring ultra high bit rates such as HDTV, HD digital cinema, and 3D TV.

DOCSIS also includes technology that addresses rain fade, a reduction in signal strength caused by heavy rain. The ViaSat system automatically responds to rain fade with uplink power control and adaptive data coding techniques.

ViaSat-1 and Ka-Sat will offer 10 to 15 times the capacity of Ku band satellites through frequency reuse by using a technology called "spotbeams". Spotbeams are like a searchlight. Instead of sending a signal across the continent, spotbeams focus a signal on an area 50-100 miles in radius. Since the frequency is focused on a limited area, the same frequency spectrum can be reused for a different locale.

Median DSL speed in the U.S. is 768 KBPS. Median Internet speed over cable is about 4.5 MBPS. ViaSat-1 will price a basic service at 2 MBPS, raising satellite to about the 80th percentile of DSL. Premium plans would easily surpass the best DSL service, and put satellite well above the current median for cable.

Eutelsat will position Ka-Sat in the same satellite neighborhood as three existing Hotbird Ku-band satellites at 13 degrees East. By positioning Ka-Sat with these broadcast satellites they will be able to bundle broadcast and broadband services. Consumers in Europe will be able to receive TV in the Ku-band and receive and transmit broadband services in the Ka-band through a single dual-frequency antenna.

ViaSat-1 involves a collaborative effort between ViaSat, Loral, TeleSat, and Eutelsat. Eutelsat Communications is the holding company of Eutelsat S.A. With a current 24 satellites that serve European continent, as well as the Middle East, Africa, India and significant parts of Asia and the Americas, Eutelsat is one of the world's three leading satellite operators in terms of revenues. Eutelsat's satellites broadcast over 2,700 television channels, of which more than 1,000 channels broadcast from its HOT BIRD satellite which serves over 120 million cable and satellite homes in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Loral was selected to build the ViaSat-1 high capacity broadband satellite. Loral is investing in the Canadian coverage portion of the satellite in anticipation of Telesat Canada (which is 64 percent owned by Loral) utilizing the capacity for Canadian services. The satellite is planned for Telesat's 115 West longitude orbital slot and Telesat will also provide telemetry, tracking & control (TT&C) operations for the satellite.

About the Author: Brian Bradshaw is a Certified Technical Specialist (InfoComm CTS). Areas of expertise include Video, Audio, Computation, WiFi, HDTV, Satellite Systems, and Communications. He has a communications technology business that serves the Southwestern United States with offices in Plano, Texas (Dallas) and an office in Peoria, Arizona (Phoenix), managed by his brother, Keller Bradshaw.

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