Essential Satcom: Interview with Newtec CEO [UNCUT]

Thursday 13 August 2015
Essential Satcom: Interview with Newtec CEO [UNCUT]


Newtec's CEO Serge Van Herck was interviewed by SatellitePRO's editor Clayton Aldo Vallabhan to talk about "Essential Satcom" in their July/August issue. Our team has joined this interview to provide to you the uncut version.

Enjoy the read and share your opinion in the comment field at the end of the article.

1. How Does Satellite Communcation Work in Rural Areas?

Serge Van HerckSerge Van Herck: Well, Clayton, despite the increasing roll-out of broadband terrestrial services, like DSL and fiber, a significant amount of households worldwide remain without high-speed broadband access. Bridging this digital divide is high on the agenda of national and regional governments because broadband penetration has a boosting impact on a country’s economy. The service cannot be limited to cities.

This requirement translates into 100% service obligations for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) covering the whole territory of a country or region. Running these services in an economically viable way is a major challenge. Consequently, satellite is often the only option when providing connectivity in rural areas.

2. What services are available to end users?

Serge Van HerckSerge Van Herck: Newtec provides affordable two-way satellite broadband platforms which are designed for service providers wanting to offer broadband access in large geographical areas, independent of the number of households per square kilometer.

The key factors for ensuring success when launching broadband services are a low customer-acquisition cost and CAPEX aligned with network growth. Our Newtec Dialog® system helps with this challenge by enabling our customers to access different types of markets and applications. The flexibility of the system helps them to access different types of markets, be it consumer broadband, mobility, or machine-to-machine. In other words, they can use the same hub infrastructure – Newtec Dialog – to access different vertical markets.

3. How are these services distributed?

Serge Van HerckSerge Van Herck: After the broadcast (DTH) market, the VSAT market is one of the key revenue drivers in the satellite industry. So, although the initial band-pipe satellites were mainly designed for the broadcast market, the last 25 to 30 years has seen VSAT consuming a substantial part of the overall satellite capacity, initially in C-band. Thanks to the performance improvement VSAT technology brings, a tremendous VSAT market growth has also been realized using Ku-band capacity. However, C-band and Ku-band do not come cheap and, as spectrum licenses became scarce, it became clear that alternative solutions in other more available, lower-cost capacity needed to be found; hence the entry of Ka-band into the market. Lower cost on the satellite payload, higher on-board satellite capacity and the ability to re-use frequency provided enough reasons to see the growing VSAT market make use of Ka-band.

The Consumer Broadband Access market, in particular, saw huge growth, mainly in the United States of America, where there was a need to deliver affordable and fast Internet connectivity to regions under-served by any reasonable terrestrial services. In Europe, SES-Astra started its Astra2Connect service in Ku-band in 2007 and later migrated to Ka-band once capacity was available within SES. Meanwhile, Eutelsat launched Europe’s first High Throughput Satellite (HTS), Ka-Sat. With more HTS due to be launched in the coming years and a huge amount of capacity becoming available at reasonable prices, there will undoubtedly be an increasing number of satellite-based consumer broadband opportunities worldwide.

4. What sort of speeds can one expect for data? Are the prices of the service affordable by the general population?

Serge Van HerckSerge Van Herck: Although the USA and Western Europe has the largest installed base of satellite-based consumer broadband, one of the main revenue drivers in the VSAT industry remains the enterprise market. In Europe alone, there will still be 250,000 SMEs which will have no access to broadband connectivity by 2020, while more than 3.3 million SMEs will only have limited broadband connectivity, no faster than 1-2 Mbps. At the same time, content is growing, making speed more essential than ever.

This market is interesting because just like enterprise customers are versatile and different, so too are their service requirements. For them, what matters is choosing a technology that is as versatile as their customers. When it comes to making this choice, there is a wide range of technologies available but caution is needed as one technology might only fit a small section of an enterprise’s customers, making it incapable of adapting to the changing service requirements of customers in the mid- and long-term. Making the right choice and investing in a technology which will result in a return on investment over a substantially long period, without becoming obsolete before being amortized, is a tough choice to make and at Newtec we are committed to relieving this burden by ensuring all our technology meets these requirements.

5. How is it being used in Healthcare? Security services?  

Serge Van HerckSerge Van Herck: As you know, Clayton, in the civil, government and defense marketplace, where many applications are mission-critical, reliability, cost-effectiveness and bandwidth-efficiency are key.

From first aid to restoration services, for example, critical information needs to be sent towards the outside world in order to support quick emergency response. After a cable break (sea cable or terrestrial), communications can be restored over a high-speed satellite link.

Newtec supports different applications and network configurations in this market. The understanding of our customers’ applications in combination with our satellite communication products leads to reliable, cost-effective and bandwidth-efficient solutions. The more we understand of the application level, the better we can start gearing our technology into a direction that brings profitability and lowers costs for our customer. We do the same thing for all vertical markets – whether it is oil and gas, maritime, government, broadcast or consumer broadband.

6. How is satellite comms crucial for disaster recovery zones?

Serge Van HerckSerge Van Herck: When a disaster strikes, a timely reaction and intervention is of upmost importance in order to save lives, bring stability to the region and restore the affected key infrastructure elements. Satellite communication is the only reliable method to exchange critical logistic, medical and situational awareness information with mission headquarters after a manmade or natural disaster. In such events, telecom landlines and terrestrial wireless systems are often destroyed, or overloaded by people sourcing help, information or trying to contact relatives.

7. What are the sort of satellite services that can be provided during disaster recovery?

Serge Van HerckSerge Van Herck: Newtec’s satellite communication technology supports the emergency response and humanitarian missions by providing a platform that can be deployed from the early stages after a disaster to the restoration of the affected area. Reliable satellite links can be set up at all times in a flexible, scalable and efficient way.

8. How has the satcom industry developed over the last 5 years?

Serge Van HerckSerge Van Herck: Over the last five years, the Satcom industry has seen a massive transition, with the need for more satellite capacity, the launch of new services and the continued drive to reduce OPEX all contributing to this. In this fast-moving satellite world, new technologies (HTS, HEVC, UHDTV) emerge, data rates increase at an accelerated pace and end-users expect to get connectivity anywhere anytime.

Higher speeds, more efficient satellite communication technology and wider transponders are required to support the exchange of large and increasing volumes in data, video and voice over satellite.

9. What are some recent trends you are seeing? What will the future look like?

Serge Van HerckSerge Van Herck: When talking about trends, two major technologies are making a difference in our industry. The first one is the introduction of the new DVB-S2X standard. DVB-S2X is definitely going to further improve our industry by giving higher efficiency and higher speeds.

The other one is a Newtec technology called Mx-DMA™ which is a new return technology which won as part of our Newtec Dialog multiservice platform, the WTA award for most innovative technology earlier this year. This Mx-DMA technology combines the best features of SCPC and MF-TDMA, eliminating the need to choose between maximum return efficiencies and flexibility. Furthermore, double throughput can be achieved at increased levels of service availability. I am confident this is going to shape the future of our industry.

We are also continuing to see the rise of HTS, with the technology no longer confined to certain areas of the planet or to consumer broadband. HTS coverage has emerged in all regions and is now targeting applications from consumer/enterprise broadband, cellular backhaul, mobility and government. Even markets like the oil and gas industry, which requires high capacity but also highly reliable services, are adopting the benefits of HTS: lower bandwidth costs combined with high capacity but smaller terminals.

Gone, therefore, are the days where a satellite platform will be used for one purpose – HTS is truly multiservice. This is another aspect which providers and customers alike have to take into account when deciding which approach to take when using service from a HTS.

Finally, as delivering content becomes increasingly complex, we are seeing more and more companies in the Satcom market purchasing managed services from satellite service providers or satellite operators.

Full Article in SatelliteProRead the original "Essentail Satcom" interview with other experts from the industry as published in SatelliePro's July/August issue here.