As the mobile VSAT services market consolidates and matures, new technologies are expanding the addressable markets and networks are becoming larger and more complex. The value chain is under pressure and business models are evolving and economies of scale are becoming the key to survival. While profit margins are still higher in mobility, success in this area does not come without challenges.
The satellite industry is enjoying a period of unprecedented growth and innovation. With the advent of High Throughput Satellites (HTS), re-usable rockets and electronically steerable flat-panel antennas, the promise of ubiquitous, high-speed connectivity is closer than ever. HTS will provide significantly more capacity at lower costs, dramatically improving the user experience. Since mobile VSAT terminals use steerable antennas, network operators can quickly roll out HTS capacity by simply repointing the antennas remotely. As a result, HTS adoption for mobility will probably be much faster than for fixed sites.
Mobile VSAT is already mainstream in several verticals, including cruise ships, oil and gas, super yachts, military, and commercial shipping. Nevertheless, HTS will improve the quality of existing services and expand the addressable markets, which have historically been constrained by cost and antenna size. Powerful HTS spot beams and affordable flat panel antennas will make mobile VSAT services viable for smaller vessels, airplanes and even cars.
Down to Earth
Back down on the ground, even more change is happening. In today’s complex and competitive VSAT environment, the terms “ground segment” and “modem” are quickly being replaced by “multiservice VSAT platforms” and “IP modems”.
First-generation VSAT platforms brought important innovations like beam switching, Quality of Service (QoS), uplink power control, and dynamic bandwidth allocation. Unfortunately, since most of those features operated independently, with primitive logic, the combined results were unpredictable and difficult to manage at scale. Early IP modems were also vastly underpowered, frustrating high-end users and often limiting bandwidth sales.
Today, just like the iPhone and Android revolutionized the mobile phone industry, next-generation platforms will fundamentally change the way VSAT services are delivered. Next-generation VSAT platforms will be required to support a wide range of verticals and applications, with unprecedented scale. Powerful spot beams will demand more advanced transmission standards, while also creating new challenges for mobility. Beam switching logic must become multidimensional, allowing network operators to continually manage factors like load balance, regulatory restrictions, cost and weather.
Newtec is extremely active in the mobile VSAT space and we have already made great strides towards addressing these requirements:
- Our Newtec Dialog® 1.3 release will include an advanced beam switching engine called the Dialog Mobility Manager (DMM). The DMM will be a centralized process that will orchestrate all aspects of beam switching.
- A rich set of APIs will provide unprecedented control over beam switching logic, facilitating network load balance, least cost routing and regulatory compliance.
- In addition, our recently announced MDM5000 Satellite Modem, DVB-S2X modem, will have dual-demodulators, and support for three return technologies, providing industry-leading flexibility, scalability and efficiency.
The Next Steps
Despite the significant progress in recent years, the mobile VSAT market still has some growing pains to endure, with scale being the next big challenge. Networks are getting larger and bandwidth demand is growing exponentially. Dynamic bandwidth allocation and beam switching schemes will need to be more efficient and scalable in order to sustain the next wave of growth. Modem hardware must become more powerful and future-proof, supporting higher data rates and extending upgrade cycles. Satellite networks should also be more transparent, integrating more seamlessly with terrestrial networks.
In the near future, VSAT platforms will also need to extend their reach into space, integrating directly with satellite payloads to optimize service delivery.
With Silicon Valley now in the game, there is no turning back. The entire satellite industry is under pressure to innovate and become more competitive.
Efficiency, scalability and flexibility are the keys to a sustainable business model, so selecting the right VSAT platform is arguably the most important decision a service provider can make.
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This article was published first in the May/June 2016 issue of Satellite Evolution Asia titled "Marking the most of mobility".
Get an overview about this and other key articles published recently on our dedicated "Newtec in Press" page.