Sunday, 20 August 2017

Bigger not necessarily better for satellite operators

By Nick Wood , Total Telecom, in Singapore
Wednesday 19 June 13

Industry players urge service providers to mitigate risk by launching multi-mission satellites.

The satellite industry had a clear message for service providers at CommunicAsia on Tuesday: don't bet the farm on high-capacity satellites. "The lowest cost per bit is when you've sold all the capacity on the satellite, so bigger is not necessarily better unless you can sell all that capacity…

The satellite industry had a clear message for service providers at CommunicAsia on Tuesday: don't bet the farm on high-capacity satellites.

"The lowest cost per bit is when you've sold all the capacity on the satellite, so bigger is not necessarily better unless you can sell all that capacity," said Dave Rehbehn, senior marketing director at satellite services provider Hughes, during a panel discussion.

With the spread of fixed and mobile broadband networks, and the growth of cable and IPTV services, satellite capacity has become a harder sell.

"Satellite operators have been used to selling most of the capacity pre-launch," explained Erez Antebi, CEO of Gilat Satellite Networks. "Now they have to launch first, then sell capacity."

He urged satellite operators not to rely on any single technology, but instead opt for multi-mission payloads that can support different services like voice, TV and data, therefore ensuring they can still offer something relevant in the event that demands change.

Recently, satellite operators have been looking to the higher transmission speeds enabled by the Ka band to inject new life into the industry and offer an alternative to terrestrial Internet services.

In reality though, the strongest demand for satellite broadband is still likely to come from end users who are beyond the reach of fixed or mobile networks. These users often cannot afford broadband services, particularly broadband services delivered from orbit.

However, "we're seeing a lot of government projects, especially around education, that could be a key driver [for satellite broadband]," said Rehbehn. "Also, 3G backhaul could be another."

For Anthony Colucci, vice president of marketing and sales for satellite operator SSL, satellite is still a more cost effective technology than fibre for delivering economical broadband access to remote areas.

"Satellite costs between $5,000 and $10,000 per subscriber, but you're reaching people for whom it would be infinitely more expensive to reach with fibre," he claimed.

Looking ahead, Colucci predicted that satellite's share of broadband traffic will decrease during the years to come; however, "the volume of bits carried by satellite will go up".

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