By Anthony Walker, CEO of Bentley Walker.
In areas of complex geography and poor terrestrial infrastructure, satellite-based broadband is quickly becoming the only high-speed solution. With more than 60 years of experience of delivering solutions for such communities, our team has seen the market evolve tremendously but none of these changes really compare to what is happening now, as more and more providers switch to Ka Band.
Past, Present and Future
Bentley Walker first branched out from satellite television to satellite Internet about 12 years ago. We started out by providing one-way systems, which did quite well, and soon after that we became a dealer for a company in Ireland, providing a two-way computer panel PCI broadband satellite system which had a good signal covering a lot of the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia. At that time Saudi Arabia didn’t have good Internet service so the project was incredibly successful and we imported 2,000 of these systems which enabled us to become established in satellite broadband.
Going on from there, we installed systems in the Middle East, Iraq, Africa, and, more recently, Afghanistan and South America. We did all of this using the Ku Band but in the last few years that has changed and we started deploying services in the Middle East and North Africa, including Libya, on the newer Ka Band.
Ku, Ka or C Band?
While the future of the market is difficult to predict, there is definitely a clear trend towards Ka Band with several successful satellite launches in 2012. There is definitely opportunity for growth but you have to be willing to invest and you have to be prepared to take a chance. Remaining as just a Ku Band provider was not an option for us – we would have seen our business deteriorate. This is due to there being less of a market as a result of more fiber rollouts in Africa, and more competition from Ka Band providers. However, with a good Ka Band service which has the right price on the right satellite, a company will see growth.
Pros and Cons
The drawback of Ka Band for a company like Bentley Walker is that we also have legacy networks, from which we have to migrate our customers. This is difficult because as the Ku Band networks diminish they are not making any money and, as the Ka Bands grow, they are not making any money. Even with this painful transition, where you are not making any money on either platform, the growth Ka Band is likely to bring makes it something companies have to do if they are going to be successful in the future market. The benefits of switching are encapsulated in our Freedomsat range, which includes all Ka Band products and packages. When our customers use this technology they can expect bigger quotas, higher limits and faster speeds.
Our foray in to Ka Band brought us to Newtec’s door in 2012. Our Newtec network operations centre is not yet fully populated but we have been impressed by the products used so far, with around 100 modems and dishes already installed in Libya and another few hundred yet to be deployed. We were impressed by the ease of installation compared to other systems and we are receiving excellent feedback, particularly in regards to VoIP. The
cooperation and the help, from a customer service and technical perspective, have also been very good.
The success of consumer broadband over satellite is mainly driven by the cost of the service and, here, even more than other areas, Ka Band is the clear winner. Even with the challenges involved, companies which want to continue to offer a high speed and
reliable service cannot afford to ignore the Ka Band revolution.
CEO of Bentley Walker.