On planes, trains, ships, and automobiles, from consumer living rooms to corporate boardrooms, the advent of 30-100 Gbps connectivity via satellite will redefine broadband “access.” Indeed, more than half of the world’s satellite operators have ordered (or plan to order) high-capacity satellites, and 14 million households and 50% of enterprise terminals are predicted to be using high-capacity satellite platforms by 2020. Part of this is due to pure economics associated with the cost of such services.
For example, some broadcasters have seen the price of satellite news feed slide from more than $100,000 to less than $20,000—an 80% reduction in price. The other driving factor, however, is the desire by various market segments to access any service, any time, anywhere. From this perspective, satellite boasts some significant advantages.
Emergency responders have powerful new options to deploy after disasters. Wireless operators are broadening their footprint and tapping markets that were previously unreachable through satellite back haul. And for consumers in particular, this is all good news as well. These days, regardless of proximity to major population centers, affordable broadband connectivity is within reach of everyone.
So who will be the players? What does the new bandwidth capability mean to consumers, the mobile workforce, and the enterprise user? What will it cost? In order to gain a perspective, let’s take a cursory look at the technology itself, its potential users, and some upcoming market opportunities.
What Is High Throughput Satellite? (HTS)
High throughput satellites (HTS) is a classification for communications satellites that provide at least twice (and often 20 times or more) the nominal throughput of a classic satellite in the same amount of orbital frequency spectrum. Packing more bits into the same frequency spectrum significantly reduces the cost per bit. Leading-edge technologies such as ViaSat-1 and EchoStar XVII (also known as Jupiter-1) are capable of providing more than 100 Gbit/s of carrying capacity. Stated another way, this technology represents more than 100 times the capacity offered by a conventional Ku-band satellite. In fact, the 140 Gbit/s ViaSat-1 launched in October 2011 had more capacity than all other commercial communications satellites over North America combined.
HTS opens up a wealth of opportunity for a wide range of applications, often in locations that were previously unreachable. Consider the Internet service that you like to access while on a long flight. United Airlines is in fact discussing plans to use Ka and Ku-band satellite for in-flight connectivity. International consulting firm Euroconsult cites such connectivity as strong growth. Many other applications are already benefiting from HTS based on the ability to get wide bandwidth, anywhere. In the consumer market, HTS provides broadband access where otherwise there just isn’t any, as well as a competitive alternative to existing broadband services.