Next-gen satellite broadband: will it roam?

11 May 2011

Last month, satellite research firm NSR released new figures proclaiming that the satellite broadband access market was not only a moneymaker but a growing one, with revenues growing almost 15% annually over the next decade, reaching $9 billion by 2020.

That’s despite the general perception of satellite being a “last resort” service, which creates the challenge of delivering a service that compares favorably to ADSL services in terms of both speed and price, says NSR Senior Analyst and report author Patrick M. French.

Next-generation High Throughput Satellites (HTS) set to enter commercial service this year, such as Eutelsat’s KA-SAT and ViaSat’s ViaSat-1, are expected to help change that, particularly in terms of lower bandwidth costs, achieved by partly by using Ka-band spot beams with more efficient frequency reuse, and partly by the sheer amount of bandwidth provided.

As more HTS birds move closer to commercial service, interested parties are starting to ask: will mobile HTS applications such as aeronautical, maritime, satellite newsgathering, disaster response and UAVs roam? More to the point: can they roam and still benefit from the lower-cost-per-bit advantages driving HTS?

The answer, says NSR, is “It depends.”

Specifically, it depends on four key issues:

  • Geographic coverage requirements
  • Capex implications
  • Proprietary ground equipment
  • Satellite operator business models for maximizing their internal ROI.

For example, cost-effective roaming between service providers using the same HTS is probably feasible, but roaming between different HTS footprints probably isn’t, at least for now.

NSR says roaming agreements will develop over time, but growth in roaming “will be constrained in the interim given the limited number of HTS that will actually be in operation in the next 12 to 24 months.”

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