By Kevin McCarthy, VP of Market Development at Newtec
The satellite industry is enjoying a period of unprecedented growth and innovation. With the advent of High Throughput Satellites (HTS), re-usable rockets and electronically steerable flat-panel antennas, the promise of ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity is closer than ever. Ironically, the key to a great VSAT user experience may actually be on the ground.
“Ground Segment” Is Dead
The term “ground segment” was conceived as the logical compliment to “space segment”, at a time when VSAT modems simply modulated and demodulated point-to-point satellite signals. As just another passive device in the RF chain, VSAT modems were often inconsequential afterthoughts for operators and service providers alike.
In today’s complex and competitive VSAT environment, the terms “ground segment” and “modem” are quickly being replaced by “multiservice VSAT platforms” and “IP modems”.
Just like the iPhone and Android revolutionized the mobile phone industry, next-generation platforms will fundamentally change the way VSAT services are delivered.
A Step in the Right Direction
First-generation VSAT platforms brought important innovations like beam switching, Quality of Service (QoS), uplink power control, and dynamic bandwidth allocation. Unfortunately, since most of those features operated independently, with primitive logic, the combined results were unpredictable and difficult to manage at scale. Early IP modems were also vastly underpowered, frustrating high-end users and often limiting bandwidth sales.
Next-generation VSAT platforms will be required to support a wide range of verticals and applications, with unprecedented scale. Powerful spot beams will demand more advanced transmission standards, while also creating new challenges for mobility. Beam switching logic must become multi-dimensional, allowing network operators to continually manage factors like load balance, regulatory restrictions, cost and weather.
Dynamic bandwidth allocation schemes will need to be more efficient and scalable in order to sustain the next wave of growth. Modem hardware must become more powerful and future-proof, supporting higher data rates and extending upgrade cycles. Satellite networks should also be more transparent, integrating more seamlessly with terrestrial networks.
In the near future, VSAT platforms will also need to extend their reach into space, integrating directly with satellite payloads to optimize service delivery.
No Longer a Niche
As the industry consolidates and matures, satellite is finally going mainstream. With Silicon Valley now in the game, there is no turning back. New technologies are expanding the addressable markets, and networks are becoming larger and more complex. The value chain is under pressure and business models are evolving. Economies of scale are becoming the key to survival. What was once just an afterthought is now at the center of everything.