As ships and airplanes move around the globe, mobile VSAT terminals often need to transition between satellite footprints. This process is known as “Beam Switching.” While the concept seems simple, today’s reality is surprisingly complex.
Ten years ago, most mobile VSAT networks were small, with a limited number of beams and terminals. Satellite footprints were generally large, often covering entire continents and ocean regions. Back then, beam switches were relatively infrequent and beam choices were limited. This led to legacy switching solutions, implemented in the terminals themselves, using simple location-based logic.
Today’s networks are exponentially larger and more complex, with thousands of terminals and hundreds of beams. The advent of High Throughput Satellites (HTS) has reduced typical beam surface areas by a factor of 50. While focusing satellite energy in a smaller region significantly improves throughput, it also increases the number of beams required to cover the same area, increasing the frequency of beam switching. To complicate matters, network operators often provision capacity on multiple satellites in the same region to maximize redundancy and control costs. The end result is that managing beam switching has become a continuously variable jigsaw puzzle, with millions of possible combinations. While this is one of the most complex challenges facing network operators today, it is also one of the biggest opportunities.
Our industry tends to focus a lot on spectral efficiency (the relative yield of bits per second per Hz). However, one of the biggest sources of inefficiency in a satellite network is actually idle, unsold bandwidth. Without a tightly managed beam switching solution, mobile VSAT networks often require between 20 and 30% excess capacity to serve as a margin of error, as terminals move around in unpredictable ways. In addition, since not all beams have the same cost and performance, there is significant room for optimization.
The Newtec Dialog® Mobility Manager was specifically designed to solve these problems in a scalable, efficient and flexible way. With the Mobility Manager, we decided to take a new approach by centralizing the process at the Network Operations Center (NOC), giving it complete control over all terminals and beams on the network. The behavior of the Mobility Manager is configured through a powerful rulesbased engine, allowing network operators to customize the logic to match their business needs and priorities. In addition to standard location-based logic, the Mobility Manager rules can also incorporate other factors such as network load, beam cost and real-time terminal performance. Furthermore, powerful scripting capabilities allow external factors such as weather, vessel itineraries and customer preferences to be considered. Think of it as “Air Traffic Control” for VSAT terminals!
With the unprecedented level of control provided by the Newtec Dialog Mobility Manager, network operators will now be able to safely reduce the excess “margin of error” on their networks, while increasing uptime and performance for their end customers. In today’s highly competitive world, most service providers cannot afford to ignore this opportunity.
Mobile terminals in the Newtec Dialog network continuously send their location info to the central NMS. With the Newtec Dialog Mobility Manager, this location information is periodically used as input for the decision-making engine. From the list of eligible beams on a certain location, the customizable decision logic will select the most optimal beam.
A mobility network typically requires multiple satellite beams to cover the target service area. Stitching together a multitude of beams typically results in using one or multiple satellites, having multiple gateways and overlapping beams.