White paper ten considerations for chosing a satellite technology platform_i_directpdf
10 Considerations for Choosing a Satellite
The satellite broadband market is a growing industry – and one with an extremely
diverse set of opportunities. A typical service provider may be helping global
enterprises extend their IP infrastructure to remote offices, partnering with
cellular operators to backhaul voice and data traffic in rural locations, creating a
communications-on the-move solution for maritime and airline operators, or delivering
core infrastructure to militaries and government organizations around the world.
The satellite network technology required to serve these customers is just as diverse. Some require
a dedicated, point-to-point SCPC (Single Carrier per Channel) link, while others need aTDMA
(Time Division Multiple Access) system capable of sharing bandwidth dynamically across multiple
locations. Different networks require specific satellite bands, topologies, security standards or
demand specialized functionality like portability, durability or mobility.
The bottom line is that satellite communications is highly characterized by diversity, and managing
that diversity is the key to success. So when you choose a satellite technology provider, you need to
think in broad terms.You need to examine a manufacturer’s overall communications platform – an
integrated system of core and specialized capabilities that provides the underlying technology
structure for a service business.The goal is to judge whether a specific platform will affordably
prepare you for the range of opportunities you wish to pursue.
The following guide outlines 10 considerations for choosing the right satellite communications
platform for your business. No matter what market you plan to enter or how large you want to
grow your operations, these considerations can make a critical difference to your immediate and
Choosing the Right Technology
1: Flexible Core Architecture
At the deepest level, a satellite communications platform
is defined by its core architecture. Some platforms are
engineered to support a primary network configuration
or a specific vertical market. By contrast, others are
designed to support virtually any market requirement.
These are known as universal systems and typically can
support any satellite band, topology or application.
Consider a universal platform, even if you plan to
focus on a specialized industry.The platform does not
need to have all its capabilities activated. Instead, core
capabilities can be turned on through over-the- air
software upgrades when required. For example,
mobility technologies are certainly not required to
serve a majority of satellite communications customers.
If a service provider wants to expand into that market,
it is more feasible and affordable to activate capabilities
through software licensing rather than by investing in
a specialized mobility platform or swapping out
The concept of a universal platform has been recently
advanced.Traditionally, service providers did not have
a single platform to support both SCPC andTDMA
networks. SCPC systems provide point-to-point links for
each site that transmits consistently high volumes of data.
TDMA networks, by contrast, can share bandwidth across
a group of sites based on changing bandwidth needs.
Given the diverse customers that service providers
support, most of them manage both system types,
essentially running two platforms inside the NOC.Today,
there is a movement on the part of technology providers
to support both SCPC andTDMA on the same platform.
These advances offer significant cost savings and
better support customers with dynamic and growing
bandwidth requirements. It’s a good idea to understand
what advances providers have made in this area.
2: Modular Design for Scalability
Launching a satellite communications network must be
a measured venture. Service providers need to match
investments in hardware infrastructure and space
segment with market opportunity. Find a platform that
minimizes your upfront capital and operating expenses,
while giving you enough core features to meet a wide
range of customer needs.
Consider a modular architecture design – specifically, a
hub chassis that can be loaded with line cards based on
customer demand.With line cards, network capabilities
are built into a more affordable and flexible hardware
device. Service providers can populate a hub one line
card at a time, meeting varying markets and applications,
instead of purchasing and managing multiple hubs.
A hub chassis and line card combination enables
a service provider to start small and grow in line
with demand.The goal is to begin earning revenue
immediately and scale when it makes financial sense. A
Flexible Core Architechture
A universal platform that supports any topology, satellite bend or
vertical market, gives service providers greater business flexibility.
Oil and Gas
fully equipped hub with a capacity contract to match is
warranted only if the business to support it already exit.
This design also enables a service provider to lease instead
of purchase network infrastructure for an even more
affordable market entry strategy. A hub owner can lease
line card space to aVirtual Network Operator (VNO).The
VNO is then given direct control of its satellite network
through a distributed network management system (NMS).
Once aVNO has established its business and has reached a
desired customer base, it can then purchase and manage
its own network infrastructure.
3: Bandwidth Efficiency
Another cost of running a satellite service is space segment
or capacity. It’s the core unit of a satellite business. And
as satellite communications becomes mainstream, more
bandwidth intensive applications and more traffic in
general crosses a network. Service providers need a way to
lease the exact amount of capacity they need and allocate
it across their total customer base as efficiently as possible,
while ensuring reliable service quality.
Let’s examine bandwidth efficiency on the outbound and
inbound channels separately as the technologies differ
for each. On the outbound channel, a key development is
the introduction of faster, next-generation DVB-S2 coding
technology, which can improve bandwidth efficiency by
upwards of 30% over legacy systems. DVB-S2 efficiency
can be expanded through a companion technology
known as Adaptive Coding Modulation (ACM).With ACM,
a satellite router can adjust to changing weather and
satellite spectrum conditions and may deliver an additional
50% efficiency improvement.
Much of the industry has now moved to DVB-S2/ACM
on the outbound channel.Yet, on the inbound channel,
platforms can have very different bandwidth efficiency
capabilities that contribute to data efficiency.
First of all, there are two main transmission modes for
inbound connectivity: SCPC andTDMA. SCPC is designed
for sites that need a high-volume, fixed, point-to-point
link.TDMA is a shared channel engineered for service
providers that want to allocate a pool of bandwidth across
multiple sites. One of the challenges of sizing an SCPC
link is that, as a fixed link, it typically needs to be over-
dimensioned based on peak bandwidth demand.This can
waste costly bandwidth.
Look for a platform that supports bothTDMA and SCPC
over the same hardware.The advantage is that a network
can run inTDMA mode when bandwidth is not at peak
levels and then switch to SCPC mode when greater
data throughput is required. In addition,TDMA can be
configured when a network is initially launched and
then be reconfigured to SCPC when a consistent traffic
threshold is met.
Another inbound technology to consider is 2D 16-State.
This is an extremely efficient coding technique that
provides maximum flexibility to satellite network
Modular Design for Scalability
With a hub chasis and line card system, service providers can build
out infrastructure in line with customer demand.
Hub System Line Cards
Oil and Gas
designs. 2D 16-State can provide a 10-20% increase
over standard turbo codes for inbound IP throughput
without sacrificing link performance. It also provides
greater flexibility in network design with a more granular
selection of block sizes and code rates.
Another key technology to understand is AdaptiveTDMA,
which delivers benefits similar to DVB-S2/ACM to the
inbound channel.Together, all of these technologies
allow service providers to design highly efficient
networks that adjust to dynamic conditions, increase
network availability and lower operating costs.
4: Advanced Quality of Service
A fundamental consideration when choosing a satellite
technology platform is Quality of Service (QoS).This is
especially important today as satellite networks support
increasing traffic loads, driven by diverse and dynamic
applications.Your ability to create highly flexible and
customized service plans will enable you to make
satellite connectivity more reliable and affordable for
Look for a platform with advanced QoS capabilities that
enable you to adjust data rates dynamically based on
the widest possible range of network scenarios.With a
basic platform, you can segment bandwidth by customer
network and end user sites to establish corresponding
Minimum, Maximum and Committed Information Rates.
By contrast, a platform with advanced QoS enables
service providers to engineer more granular plans and
pricing models by introducing factors such as application
prioritization and response to weather conditions.
It’s imperative that a satellite service provider be able
to prioritize down to the application level. Let’s say an
enterprise customer wants a service plan to support
basic voice, data and video communications. It’s likely
that if all these applications are running simultaneously,
it will result in network congestion. Service providers
need to be able to sort out with their customers which
applications should be given priority over others
and then code these criteria into the network and
incorporate them into a customized service plan.
A platform with advanced Qos technology enables service providers to create
SLAs based on individual sites, local applications and other criteria.
6 Mbps 18 Mbps
Advanced Quality of Service
2 Mbps 1 Mbps
A satellite platform that links QoS to ACM allows for
additional service level categories based on how the end
user wants to respond to a possible degradation of service
due to weather. For example, a customer can choose to
tolerate a gradual degradation in CIR based on rain fade.
Or, the service provider can continue to guarantee CIR on a
per-remote or per-application basis, even during a
Not only can advanced systems segment bandwidth by
application and weather, they can switch transmission
modes based on changing bandwidth requirements. For
example, a platform that can support bothTDMA and
SCPC on the same router enables service providers to tailor
a service plan based on time or volume conditions.
This enables service providers to offer a premium service
that will burst to a higher data throughput rate when
traffic exceeds a current SLA – for example, during
file transfer, data back-up, video, military surveillance,
telemedicine and other applications.When customer sites
grow larger, they can upsell their customers to a dedicated
SCPC return link. All this can be done instantly from the
network management system and without the need for a
costly site visit to exchange hardware.
5: Data Security
Commercial customers want the freedom to transmit
sensitive information via broadband without the fear
that this data will be intercepted or deciphered. A
satellite platform needs to provide encryption on par
with terrestrial networks while respecting service level
agreements and maintaining data throughput.
Some encryption methods are not suited to this. IPSec
(Internet Protocol Security), for example, authenticates
and encrypts packets. However, Transmission
Control Protocol (TCP) Acceleration software, critical
for realizing acceptable performance over a satellite
link, must be able to read and modify packets before
they are transmitted. IPSec encrypted packets cannot
be read, and thus cannot be accelerated, resulting
in unacceptable degradation of performance.
Look for a platform that supports the Advanced
Encryption Standard (AES). With AES, all satellite traffic
is encrypted concurrently. TCP Acceleration can be
performed, preventing any throughput issues. AES
coupled with dynamic key exchange ensures even
higher levels of security necessary to classify an
offering as a“true”private network.
6: Integration with Terrestrial Networks
Organizations want broadband access and uniform
applications for all of their corporate locations whether
they are in major cities, remote parts of the world, or on
vessels in the middle of the ocean. Ultimately, it does
not matter to these end users what type of network is
carrying their traffic as long as the experience is consistent
throughout and they have the assurance of business
continuity in the face of a primary outage.
From a service provider’s perspective, a satellite platform
must seamlessly integrate with a terrestrial network. For
TDMA Mode SCPC Switching ModeAdaptiveTDMA Mode
TDMA mode efficiently transmits
data and voice and supports
At any time, the router can temporarily
switch to SCPC modeto efficiently send
large data files that require higher,
As weather conditions change, the network adapts automatically to optimize
the transmission for speed, availability or efficiency.
Applications Bandwidth Intensive
Under clear skies,
the router can use
all carrier sizes
Under heavy rain
fade, the router will
use the smaller
starters, this means withstanding heavy data traffic,
guaranteeing bandwidth, and mirroring QoS protocols
down to the application level.
In addition, the satellite network must be deliberately
engineered to match advances in terrestrial networking.
For example, many carriers are transitioning to next
generation Multi Protocol Label Switching (MPLS)
technology.To integrate properly, a satellite platform
must support advanced routing protocols.
Some additional points to consider: In a shared network
environment, the network traffic from different sites
is separated through the creation ofVirtual Local Area
Networks (VLAN).VLAN tags classify where data is to be
sent. A satellite platform must support these identifiers
to segregate traffic in the same way an MPLS network
does, where multipleVLANs can associate with one
remote router.The tags must translate between MPLS
andVSAT, keeping not only the addressing information
intact, but also any encryption data.
The same goes for QoS designations. Customers can be
assured of end-to-end prioritization only if the satellite
platform can offer guarantees identical to those of the
terrestrial network. For traffic with varying SLAs to be
handed off from MPLS to satellite, both need to be able
to identify the QoS rules associated with each packet.
For true integration, the satellite platform’s management
system must sync with a carrier’s existing Operational
Support Systems (OSS). This will improve monitoring,
troubleshooting, billing and service establishment.
7: Mobility Capabilities
A versatile satellite platform should be able to tackle
both core enterprise applications and emerging vertical
solutions without requiring expensive hardware
upgrades or new network management systems.
One growing vertical market capability that must be
» Satellite QoS
» Data security
Satellite and MPLS terrestrial networks can
be integrated to offer customers a single,
global service plan as long as core capabilities
on the terrestrial network are mirrored
on the satellite leg.
To accomplish seamless integration, MPLS labels
must map toVLAN tags on the satellite network to
preserve data privacy. SLA specifications on the
terrestrial network must be mirrored by satellite QoS
settings. In addition, a satellite Network Manage-
ment System (NMS) must sync with a carrier’s
Operational Support Systems (OSS).
» MPLS labels map toVLAN tags
» Network-wide QoS settings
» OSS integration with NMS
Integration withTerrestrial Networks
supported on a platform is mobility.
Three industries are rapidly adopting satellite for
communication-on-the-move (COTM): maritime, military
defense and aviation. With satellite-based COTM
networks, vessels become fully equipped stand-alone
remote offices, soldiers maintain contact with central
operations, and airlines increase customer loyalty and
revenue by offering in-flight connectivity.
Meeting the needs of COTM networks requires several
specialized technologies. One of these is Automatic
Beam Switching, which enables a mobile unit to travel
from one satellite network to another without the
connection being dropped, or requiring technical
personnel to manually adjust an antenna. Another
technology is Spread Spectrum, which enables
broadband to run efficiently over a small antenna. And
finally, service providers need a global system to manage
remote IP routers as terminals move across beams,
teleports and continents.
An IP satellite platform must address all three. It should
also meet military requirements.That means satellite
equipment must be portable and compact enough to
fit in a backpack and rugged enough to withstand the
elements and rough terrain.
8: Operational Efficiency
An Operations Support System, or OSS, is what enables
a service provider to run an efficient and profitable
business. It’s the system service providers rely on to
configure customer deployments, measure network
performance, manage troubleshooting and ensure
customer satisfaction.The overarching goal is to
effectively manage a shared and expensive resource,
satellite capacity, and ensure customer agreements
are continually met.
Rio de Janeiro
Automatic Beam Switching
With Automatic Beam Switching vessels can
travel across satellite footprints, maintaining
seamless connectivity without the need for
manual intervention by crew on board.
Global Network Management
A single Global Network Management System
enables service providers to monitor and manage
each ship’s remote, ensuring a consistent
connection as it passes through separate
networks around the world.
An OSS is an increasingly important part of a satellite
platform and must be thoughtfully examined. One
of the growing requirements for an OSS today is to
integrate and manage all of the network management
technologies being utilized within a NOC.This reduces
technology complexity and lowers operating costs.
Another requirement is managing mobility applications.
Look for an OSS that can track remotes anywhere on
the planet through a single interface. It should also
provide real-time information on weather and satellite
Technicians must also be able to proactively monitor
and troubleshoot network challenges from within the
NOC.When looking at different platforms, compare their
ability to detect problems before they occur, respond
to challenges rapidly and automate common trouble
An OSS should also give service providers complete
visibility into real-time and historical data so that network
performance can be tracked and measured.This allows
them to discover ways to fine-tune the network for
9: Customer Management
An OSS can serve another purpose: to build customer
confidence in a satellite network. If customers can see
what the service provider can see regarding the health of
the system, they feel reassured that they are getting a
premium service and that their SLAs are being delivered.
Consider a customer portal, which is a customizedWeb
interface.This option provides the customer with access
to the patterns and trends that affect their network.
If performance does suffer, understanding where
and why helps with the process of SLA reconciliation.
Also, customers who know how they are consuming
bandwidth can make more informed decisions about
current and future capacity requirements.
10: Brand Recognition
A company’s brand reputation goes a long way in the
satellite industry. A well respected brand typically
signals a proven track record and an innovative culture. Is
the name recognized by service providers as well as end
users?What is the company known for? Researching this
information could help you determine a
There are other considerations as well. For instance, if the
brand is widely used by an industry or within a region,
there will be fewer interoperability issues should you
need to partner with another provider. Does a company
have competing interests? Does it provide satellite
technology as well as offer satellite service? Consider
whether you want to be selling against your technology
partner, or if you want a technology partner that will
collaborate with you to make you more competitive.
An OSS needs to feature several key capabilities, from
basic network configuration and monitoring to rich
data analytics, help desk automation, and advanced
trouble shooting and customer management tools.
Operational Efficiency and
Today, there’s a rich opportunity for broadband
service providers and terrestrial and mobile carriers
to grow their business through satellite services.
But a large part of their success comes down to
choosing the right technology platform. They need
a platform that’s highly reliable, that can position
them to serve any geography or vertical market and
that’s easy to manage. They need a technology they
can invest in smartly – entering the market affordably,
capturing revenue quickly and scaling in line with
business demand. And they require the advanced
tools to run a tight operation, flexible options to craft
a competitive adavantage and the ability to meet
increasing customer demands.
Ten Considerations for Choosing a
Satellite Technology Platform
1. Flexible Core Architecture: A platform that supports
multiple network technologies and works in any
satellite band can serve a diverse array of satellite
2. Modular Design for Scalability: Consider a hub chassis
and line card combination to ease start up costs and
grow with demand.
3. Bandwidth Efficiency: Understand your options
beyond DVB-S2 to increase bandwidth efficiency on
both the inbound and outbound channel.
4. Advanced Quality of Service: The ability to tailor
highly customized SLAs enables service providers to
create new pricing models, differentiate their service
and improve the end user experience.
5. Data Security: A satellite platform that utilizes the
Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) provides security
that mirrors a terrestrial network, while respecting SLAs
and maintaining data throughput.
6. Integration with Terrestrial Networks: Seamless
integration means a satellite platform must withstand
heavy data traffic, guarantee bandwidth levels, utilize
QoS protocols down to the application level, and stay in
step with advances in terrestrial networking.
7. Mobility Capabilities: A versatile platform should
include advanced mobility capabilities to compete
in the growing maritime, military defense and
8. Operational Efficiency: An advanced network
management solution is what enables a service
provider to run an efficient, reliable and
9. Customer Management. Giving customers visibility
to network data is critical to maintaining customer
satisfaction and understanding and resolving
10. Brand Recognition: If a satellite brand is well
respected by both service providers and end users,
the company must have a proven track record and an
13865 Sunrise Valley Drive
Herndon, VA 20171
Advancing a Connected World