Why operators need to invest in the resiliency of VSAT
VSAT networks open up a whole world of opportunities for delivering effective connectivity to the most remote locations. However, VSAT networks are not without their challenges, interference and installation issues being at the forefront. Jose Torres, Sales Director at Integrasys, outlines how those challenges can be met in order to maintain cost-effective VSAT networks across the globe.
Despite talk of a satellite industry in decline, concrete statistics point to much a healthier reality. A report from Dataxis found that between the second quarter of 2016 and the second quarter of 2017, the Direct-to-Home (DTH) satellite broadcasting market actually grew by seven million subscribers from 238 million to 245 million (compared with cable, which experienced a fall of almost the same amount). In the satellite broadband sector, revenue grew by three percent in 2016, with faster growth anticipated according to SIA’s 2017 State of the Satellite Industry Report, as newly launched satellites offer more capacity. Of course, that’s not to say that the satellite sector does not face any threats, with the growing popularity of OTT just one area of serious concern for many.
If there’s one thing that has really turned the industry around, however, it’s VSAT and HTS. VSATs are a valuable resource for the satellite sector and one which has offered the ability to enable a whole host of services and applications which would otherwise be unfeasible; whether that’s commson-the-move within the maritime or military industry or connecting rural communities. The problem is, it currently costs most operators more to operate and maintain a VSAT than it does to buy one. Not only has this led some to neglect the best practises for maintaining VSATs (leading to harmful interference), it also threatens the viability of vital VSAT networks. However, there are ways for operators to increase the profitability of VSATs and ensure the satellite sector can continue to take advantage of the opportunities they present
Vital services The portable nature of VSATs allows them to provide connectivity to the world’s most hard-to-reach and environmentally hostile environments. This is also means that services reliant on VSATs are often absolutely vital. Within both the military and maritime sector, VSAT networks are keeping people connected to family back home, but also preserving lives. At the same time, these relatively cheap networks also serve some of the most rural communities on the globe, making education and healthcare a reality, but also bringing people into the digital age and in some cases, out of poverty. In the Amazon region, Integrasys’ own partner ViaDireta has installed over 1,600 VSATs, providing the community with access to e-learning and the ability to communicate with a teacher broadcasting from Rio de Janeiro. The demand for connectivity everywhere is playing into the hands of the industry, as it strives to meet this demand by deploying cheap and effective VSAT networks. But the relative cheapness of VSATs themselves means that service providers are under increasing pressure to deliver these services at a low cost, which often means limiting expenditure on costly maintenance. The problem is, this policy can actually result in a bigger cost for operators in the long term, as well as doing nothing to preserve the all-important reputation of VSAT services.
Recouping the costs
The challenge of maintaining a VSAT begins at installation. Installers spend an average of 12 hours of labour on just one installation and the same amount of time just travelling to and from what is usually a remote site with very little transport infrastructure. It may be costly (but expertly-trained) satellite engineers doing this, or it can be (and usually is) left to less specialist IT staff. Inevitably, this can result in less than accurate installations, and the need to redeploy diagnostic engineers to a site to fix a multitude of problems. Consider the cost of engineers having to return to a teleport using another 12 hours of travel time. Even the remote nature of VSAT sites mean that harsh climates can have an effect on the accuracy of a teleport, often requiring the need to recalibrate networks onsite.
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