Understanding the Need
Understanding the need; Internet access is not just about speed
Supplying Internet access to an end user is more involved than simply providing “a speed” that the user believes they need. Rather, it is taking the time to fully understand end-user applications, expectations, and the scope of their use. More importantly, it requires deploying technology and engineering solutions that meet the true need as evaluated, and to meet the anticipated needs based on the a client needs analysis. Are we overcomplicating this? Our experience clearly indicates otherwise. A well planned solution can save countless hours of troubleshooting and customer “grief”. It is a very good bet that the customer or end-user may not fully understand their own requirements or the requirements of the applications, software and devices they are trying to connect through the internet relying on vendor advice more than you know. This is especially critical when deploying satellite solutions. Throwing speed as a solution to performance issues can be an expensive approach and will usually not solve the underlying issue.
Where speed is required, what is the most economical way to get more speed? Some internet resellers choose to sell a consumer class platform to commercial users. This is a short sighted approach and is a disservice to their customer. Is an advertised “up to” connection speed, on a highly contended network, a good guide? Contention rates allowed on these types of services can and will be problematic, if not today, in the near future as they start to gain a larger customer base on the service. Is the link budget even capable of delivering the service plan speeds? How is this speed measured? Does the reseller really know the dierence between a consumer class and enterprise class ISP? These are just a few of the questions that must be asked.
A common mistake made by resellers
There are many very capable resellers in the satellite communications field, but there is a facet of the relationship we have with resellers that can be particularly frustrating. Instead of leveraging the expertise available to them by network engineers and specialists, resellers will often try to craft the solution l themselves. The end result in many cases is half baked, as they don’t fully understand our network capabilities, and the net result is poor performance to the end user. This can give satellite in general a bad name, often pushing customers and potential customers to seek alternatives like point to point microwave. In a best case scenario a customer will complain about their service, but usually the reseller will be the last to know after an alternative solution has been sourced. At the end of the day the customer walks.
As an industry we must address this. We need to work collectively to provide the best possible solutions. The first ingredient to any solution starts with trust in your vendor. Some resellers are too protective of opportunities and afraid to be “cut out of the loop”. This is a real world situation and not easily addressed. It starts with a clear understanding of the value that each respective party adds. If there is no real value added, the business relationship is not sustainable. More and more end-users are combing the Net and have access to a world of information. They are also a lot more informed when it comes to pricing. When a reseller truly adds value through localized service and complimentary products and services they will always be the provider of choice.
At Galaxy we have deployed, across all of our networks, a very expensive layer 7 network management technology that flters, throttles, blocks, and cleans the data at the customers’ specifications allowing us to deliver the most efficient service possible. Couple this with our SkyNet Management Unit(S MU) deployed on the LAN to work in tandem with our network management and the end result is a service that exceeds the capabilities and is more economical than simply adding a local QoS router or appliance to the network. We have seen resellers sell to their customers these appliances for many thousands of dollars that may result in short term profits and resulting in long term pain especially on the support side.
Engineer the solution correctly and leverage the expertise available to collectively deliver what the customer needs; that’s the message.
New HTS Satellites
New HTS satellite systems have been launched recently to service the consumer market for satellite internet. These are referred to as closed systems and designed specifically to maximize the offering for consumers. Jupiter 1, Viasat-1, and Viasat-2 are prime examples and re resold in Canada by Xplornet. They are NON QoS networks whereby the satellite operator offers service plans on a “best effort basis” without performance guarantees. The antennas are small, typically 74cm or less and are restricted to slower upload speeds. Since the consumer market is designed for 2 -3 computers or devices per modem, and the modem cost is a factor, they are not capable of handling a high number of sessions. In essence, it is a low cost residential system and not suitable for high volume use or commercial applications. However, some resellers have not yet discovered this.
Internet via satellite is becoming more affordable
Satellite has some very strong advantages over terrestrial options and with advances in software and satellite design, featuring high power spot beams the cost of delivering this technology is becoming more affordable. The cost per bit continues to improve coupled with a lower overall site deployment cost in terms of hardware and installation. Some self – installation units are now available and have met with a high level of success. Self deploying, or auto-deploying antenna systems have also come a long way over the past few years.
Conversely terrestrial fiber costs continue to increase due to the high cost of laying cable. Terrestrial wireless and point to point microwave links are offering more powerful radios it is still an increasingly costly technology. That said, terrestrial should be less expensive than satellite but once all factors are considered the costs may be closer than you think. Contract term lengths, licensing, civil works, structures etc., continually drive costs up and delay deployments. Satellite can be operational next day and offers a very predictable cost.
Satellite Internet access North of Sixty; why it is becoming more affordable
To support this statement it is important for the reader to know that the Northern Canada may be thousands of kilometers North of “Southern Canada” the satellite signals travel 37,000 kilometers so what’s a few more! The satellite has the power to deliver service to your doorstep provided it is pointed in your direction. That’s the rub because very few satellites are pointed north so far. Telesat’s Anik F2 has been operational for almost a decade and has provided a vital link to several service providers. Satellite operators invest $500M in building and launching a new bird, and point them at areas where they can get a reasonable return on the investment. There are simply not enough people or remote commercial opportunities like mining operations, oil and gas exploration, delivery and production, or other remote businesses operating in the North to support that type of major investment. But that’s about to change!
There may not be suffcient commercial operations or communities North of Sixty to support multiple satellites but there are plenty of commercial aircraft. Internet connectivity to the airline industry is rapidly becoming essential and with rising fuel costs more planes fly over the more direct northern routes every day. New satellites will be launched over the next few years that will offer dramatically more bandwidth and specific northern coverage than we have ever seen before. In addition, global warming and the opening of the Northwest Passage for year round shipping will see the demand for increased maritime coverage in the north. These new satellites will deliver more power than previous generations using focussed spot beams concentrating more energy in a smaller geographic area. More satellites should offer service providers lower bandwidth costs and with newer more efficient modulation technologies, even higher data rates are possible. The result will be better and more affordable internet service for the North.
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