Advantages of VSAT

This article explains the advantages and benefits of VSAT and tells why VSAT is a good alternative to terrestrial links.

What is VSAT?

VSAT means Very Small Aperture Terminal, and it has three main components– the satellite, a central hub with a big antenna dish, and a number of nodes made up of smaller dish antenna at various geographical locations that form a network through the satellite. All the nodes communicate with the central hub by using the satellite as the medium for communications. If an additional network such as internet connectivity needs to be integrated with the VSAT network, it can be done at a Network Operations Center located at the central hub, so the multiple nodes in different locations can also have access to the internet connection.

Advantages of VSAT Networks:

  1. Access in remote locations – this is the traditional strength of VSAT. A geosynchronous satellite which floats on a fixed spot relative to the ground can cover a third of the earth’s surface with its beam and can provide connectivity to any area covered by the satellite beam. A satellite can also focus on a particular high density region, and multiple satellites can work together to provide global coverage. This is very useful for remote locations such as rural areas, ships, deserts, coastal regions, hills, and mountains where there is limited or no terrestrial connectivity.
  2. Internet Access – A VSAT network can carry data as well as voice and video. VSAT can provide internet access in addition to point to point WAN links. Broadband internet services are possible with VSAT networks.
  3. Rapid deployment – once the satellite is in orbit, the deployment at the nodes or customer premises can be done in a few hours, or even minutes if the equipment is available, with little training. The deployment can be done in any region, as long as it is covered by the satellite beam.
  4. VPN – VSAT supports encryption of all data transmitted between two sites or multiple sites, which make Virtual Private Networks utilization possible. VPN on VSAT networks are commonly used for Corporate and Government or Defense connectivity requirements.
  5. QoS – VSAT supports Quality of Service and Layer 2 prioritization policies to be applied across the WAN link, enabling real time applications to be deployed across the network.
  6. Mobile Access – This is another traditional strength of VSAT. For example, TV broadcasters can broadcast from anywhere, even on the move. Another application for Mobile Access is having internet access while on the move.
  7. Bandwidth Allocation – With VSAT, it is possible to allocate or restrict bandwidth based on individual applications. – This is very useful for business communications, ensuring that critical business applications always have a certain dedicated bandwidth across the VSAT network.
  8. Scalability – VSAT networks can be easily and cost effectively scaled to accommodate multiple locations across the globe. VSAT can accommodate as many as hundreds or thousands of remote sites on a single network.
  9. Standards based – VSAT networks are standards based and support Internet Protocol and its variants through a protocol called Internet Protocol over Satellite (IPoS). The developments are standards based, and it enables the creation of a healthy ecosystem of terminal, hub, and supplementary equipment, resulting in new innovations where improvements come faster.
  10. Reliability – VSAT is very reliable with up-times of 99.95% and above, and have been field tested for many years now. Mission critical applications usually use VSAT due to its unmatched reliability.
  11. Back-up to Terrestrial Networks – VSAT networks act very well as back-ups to terrestrial networks such as Leased Lines, MPLS Circuits, Broadband DSL, and Internet over Fiber due to its very high reliability. VSAT networks are not as affected by natural calamities like earthquakes and storms as much as terrestrial networks. VSAT is the first choice for backup by providing auto fail-over during failure of terrestrial network links.
  12. Inter-operation with Terrestrial Networks – VSAT can seamlessly mesh with terrestrial networks. For example, Internet over Fiber can be provided in the metro areas while VSAT can be provided in the rural areas for the same company. Both VSAT and Fiber can inter-operate with each other and act as a single network.
  13. Single Hop – VSAT only has a single hop while communications based on terrestrial networks need multiple hops to reach the destination. With terrestrial networks, some factors like router performance depends on multiple service providers and may not have end to end QoS. VSAT with only a single hop can have end to end QoS.
  14. Bandwidth on Demand – VSAT supports and is better suited for Bandwidth on Demand services than terrestrial networks.
  15. Cost per connection is independent of the location or distance – With VSAT, the cost per node is independent on the number of nodes and also independent of the distance between the various nodes. The costs for terrestrial networks such as Leased Lines increase with more nodes, and also increase with longer distance between two locations.

Limitations of VSAT Technology

Like any other technology, VSAT has its limitations as well. Rain attenuation might affect the performance of VSAT under rainy conditions, and VSAT latencies are still higher than their terrestrial counterparts. Another limitation is the high initial cost needed for building and launching satellites, higher initial cost for terminal equipment compared to terrestrial networks, and higher recurring monthly costs – though through the years the costs for VSAT are getting lower and lower.

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