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The Future of High Throughput Satellites for Service Providers

Understanding High Throughput Satellites

High throughput satellites (HTS) are communications satellites that provide 10 or more times the total throughput of a regular fixed communications satellite for the same amount of allocated spectrum. New high throughput satellites today can provide more than 100 GBps of capacity, which is more than 100 times the capacity offered by a conventional Ku-band satellite.

throughput

This significant increase in capacity is achieved by a high level frequency re-use and spot beam technology which enables frequency re-use across multiple narrowly focused spot beams. This frequency re-use across multiple spot beams is the defining technical feature of HTS. By contrast, traditional satellite technology utilizes a broad single beam or a few beams.

Spot Beam

The big advantage of high throughput satellites over conventional satellites is cost. HTS can supply throughput at a much cheaper rate than the throughput of conventional Ku-band or C-band satellites. The global VSAT industry is transitioning to HTS because of larger supply figures and lower bandwidth costs.

Characteristics of High Throughput Satellites

HTS services are being delivered through a technology ecosystem where all the elements are being challenged in terms of scale, as the satellites are rapidly growing in terms size and capability. Therefore it is useful to analyze HTS characteristics that are increasing in scale in greater detail, and the impact it has on VSAT ground infrastructure requirements.

gateway

  1. Larger Transponder Sizes
    Before, 36 MHz or 72MHz transponders were very common on satellites, to the point that the industry used this as a standard unit to measure the growth in available capacity. However with HTS, we are seeing satellites with transponders from 100MHz up to 500MHz. This means higher gains in terms of the power being used to enable the larger amounts of spectrum.
  2. Frequency Re-use (Multiple Spot Beams)
    HTS delivers higher aggregate throughput for the same amount of allocated frequency by utilizing frequency re-use. Frequency re-use is the process of using the same spectrum across multiple beams within a network – resulting in very efficient use of the available spectrum.
  3. Beam Performance
    HTS transponder beam performance is increasing in terms of transmit power and receive sensitivity, and this leads to satellite service providers offering higher throughput levels to customers. To take advantage of these beam enhancements, the remote side needs to have higher IP throughput capabilities, and this requires higher bit rates, requiring advances in performance, better modulation and coding techniques, and support for higher symbol rates.
  4. Complex Network Operations
    HTS encourages a consolidation of infrastructure, with less flexibility available in terms of hub locations, resulting in networks with more remotes per network and a larger overall bandwidth pool to manage and this has a direct impact on the scalability of the hub infrastructure. New HTS networks will bring more complexity to the network operation center (NOC), more complex satellites, much larger networks, and remotes supporting higher throughputs with more business grade applications. There will be an increased need for real-time monitoring of network performance, especially to ensure that larger volumes of bandwidth running across the network are fully optimized.

Technical Challenges of HTS for Service Providers

Bandwidth Pool

Below are the technical challenges of High Throughput Satellites faced by Service Providers:

  1. Hub Infrastructure Scale
    HTS requires that service providers have a central network operating center (NOC). The hub equipment needs to manage an increasingly diverse and integrated network portfolio that comprises of multiple satellites, frequency bands and market applications. To be able to access the spot beams, service providers will need to be able to access the different gateways through terrestrial means, which means providers need terrestrial (fiber) links between each of these hubs. And with the larger transponder sizes of HTS, a massive scaling on the hub and line card systems is required.
  2. Gateways for the Hub
    The use of gateway beams changes where infrastructure must be located and how it will be deployed and managed. With an HTS uplink design, a provider can no longer just place hubs anywhere under a beam. Instead, the entire hub infrastructure is oftentimes concentrated in fewer gateway beams. As a consequence of the high number of spot beams, HTS have geographically spread gateways, which means local providers may no longer use their teleport infrastructure.
  3. Complexity on the Remote Side
    With much more capacity and higher throughputs per network and a more concentrated hub infrastructure at the gateway, HTS architectures will need to support a greater number of remotes per network and manage the bandwidth across those remotes and beams – thus increasing the operational complexity exponentially. Higher throughput capabilities will drive higher bit rates on the remote side as well, this means that the remote portfolio must be able to handle higher performance, higher modulation and coding techniques, as well as higher symbol rates.
  4. Bandwidth Management
    Managing HTS bandwidth across multiple spot beams, compared to a single wide-beam coverage is a challenge. It comes down to being able to maintain Service Level Agreements (SLAs) across the entire customer network by managing the network capacity on multiple spot beams as one single bandwidth pool. Maintaining the entire customer network across multiple spot beams requires managing the combined bandwidth dedicated to that service as one single bandwidth pool. In traditional wide-beam satellites, a regional network was often covered by a single beam. In a multi spot-beam environment, however, covering a similar region means managing bandwidth across multiple spot beams and networks. The network management system (NMS) now needs to scale to tens of thousands of sites and focus on ensuring that the SLAs are being met, operational costs are minimized and customer satisfaction is high.
  5. Managing the Growth
    Service Providers who are only using a few MHz on each beam would need to equip multiple spot beams with ground infrastructure versus just a single wide beam. That’s why we see more providers planning to pre-populate multiple spot beams with hubs and line cards to allow them to cost-effectively operate regional networks and to handle the growth of customers in an area. Conversely, if there are no customers in a given spot, the providers are not going to sell any capacity there, and this would offset the low cost per bit advantage of HTS

HTS Platform Choices for Service Providers

Generally, service providers have choices for the way they sell their service. Service providers can differentiate themselves by deciding on what type of platforms to build the service on, and how they will mix and match the different options they have. Reselling services or building their own service much depends on what type application their customers are using.

  1. Service providers just resell service of an existing HTS platform
    In this option, service providers can only resell the HTS services as defined by the satellite operator, and the service provider has no access to setting the service level agreements by itself. This type of business model makes sense when service providers are starting in a region and they are trying to understand the potential of the market without taking the risk of having to invest in. The problem with this business model is that competitors will also enter the territory, reselling the same type of services. This puts service providers in a difficult situation, where they can only compete on price alone.
  2. Service providers will buy Mbits on a HTS platform
    In this option, service providers have more freedom. The service provider will still use the infrastructure of the satellite operator, but the service provider can buy wholesale Mbits. Instead of selling individual profiles, service providers can now manage the speeds and overbooking, and they can add other service on top of that such as pre-paid cards or additional volumes. In this way, a service provider can differentiate itself from other service providers on that same satellite operator in that same region.
  3. Service providers fully control the HTS services they offer
    This is the best known model, where service provides select the capacity they want, the hub technology they want want, and fully package their own service. In this option, service providers can define their own service level definitions and their own choice of equipment, and sell that to their own customers. The service providers can buy MHz or Mbit capacity, and package that as their own service.

The Future of High Throughput Satellites for Service Providers

HTS is a high performance, next generation satellite platform made up of a series of satellites and delivers global high-throughput technology without sacrificing user control of service elements and hardware. It is based on open architecture and engineered for backwards compatibility, allowing service provides to provide services to customers by using existing hardware which is very cost efficient

At the same time, HTS’ increased control means service providers can build on their success by offering their end-users customized, differentiated solutions, and the can even define such service characteristics as speed, hardware and network topology. Customers can also utilize their existing equipment, meaning they need to make no new investment.

Today, legacy HTS systems are geared more towards consumer broadband applications, but in the future it will soon be online targeting enterprise mobile applications such as commercial airlines, oil and gas drilling rigs, or maritime vessels like cruise ships. HTS is actively working out a way to serve the demanding enterprise markets efficiently and profitably, and this means a very bright future for HTS service providers.

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