Author Archives: Denis Sutherland

Antenna Size: Does it Matter?

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering

In the last blog, we left off discussing how satellite operators can best utilize spectrum. Now we’ll talk about antenna size.

One key question that customers of satellite service providers will ask is if Ka band allows them to use smaller terminals, or higher data rates from a reflector of the same size. This is a very attractive proposition to most satellite users, especially if size or weight is a consideration, usually for many military applications.

The reflector will be smaller because of the nature and physics of satellite communications. For an equivalent performance, Ka Band typically would require a smaller reflector due to smaller wavelengths and can be used by bands of a higher frequency. Many equipment manufacturers have been developing smaller Ka band terminals. Kymeta is one company that is pushing on with flat panel development with some exciting plans.

The next part of the diagram represents the ODU, or mainly the BUC.


I hear some people say a terminal is more than a reflector; the other antenna components are more complex like filters and that Ka filter component is newerand thus not as small as KU, where years of development may have resulted in miniaturization. Read More

Ku vs Ka: Battle of the Bands

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering 

Much has been said about the Ku v Ka band, but as we pivot to High Throughput Satellites (HTS), let’s consider how frequency will impact the ecosystem.

First we had the Ka revolution, where the VSAT industry entered a new era of satellite communications, dedicated to delivering data services. Then there was the battle of the bands where the VSAT community debated if it really was a Ka play, or could the same architecture be delivered with KU.

NSR coined the term “HTS” to encompass this model, whether with KU or Ka, but which band do you think is better suited to HTS?

Do you want to know the answer? … it depends on a few factors, but new entrants without access to Ku spectrum will more than likely look to Ka. Incumbent satellite operators with vested interest in Ku will likely use the spectrum they have. L and C will not be going away, but it’s unlikely they will be used in a HTS model, let’s consider why.

Satellite services are delivered on a range of spectrum as shown in the diagram below. I have tried to give a rough idea of the impact that the frequency band has on a variety of characteristics. So in general usually a L band based service would have lower throughput than a C Band. Ka band on the other hand has potential to offer much higher speeds. This is mainly due to the amount of spectrum available. It is always surprising to me, just how little spectrum is allocated to L Band. It requires much less spectrum than Ka, so if you look at the services provided here they are providing much less aggregate throughout at the IP layer regardless of the technology used. Read More

Power to Scale to HTS Networks

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering

In my last blog, I discussed how ground infrastructure providers like iDirect have a tricky job keeping their technology at the pace of change of developments in space.  Much has been said about the exciting changes in the VSAT industry, not least with the many High Throughput Satellites (HTS) launched or planned.

The reality is that there is no common way to build an HTS satellite. O3B is exceptionally different from the other constellations, but we have also seen many other differences in terms of numbers of beams, size of transponders, polarization, onboard process and many other factors. I talked about some of the different business models here.

One thing they have in common is that HTS brings many more beams to cover a similar geographical area. For example, a typical Ku satellite beam could cover Europe, but with an HTS Ka satellite, you may require 30 or more beams.  This multi-beam frequency reuse is obviously one of the key advantages of an HTS architecture, but I will not talk about that here. Intelsat do a very good job on the “teach in video” you can view:

Let’s consider how this change impacts the ground vendors or service providers using a TDMA platform like iDirect.  With a non-HTS Ku satellite, from a design perspective, we would assume for Europe wide coverage that a single DVB-S2 outbound would sufficiently cover the continent,  up to a limited amount of total IP traffic, and we can run some sophisticated modeling to work out numbers of terminals contention ratios, SLA, rain fade with resultant ACM impact. Easy! Read More

Constant Connections

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering

We all wanted to be connected to our friends, family, work and social networks 100% of the time. In fact, research has shown that the brain feels the lack of social connection in a similar way to physical pain, so now you can really say it’s painful when the flight attendant tells you to switch your phone off!

Recently, I battled through the floods in the UK to attend the GVF Connectivity 2014 Event.

The event was about trains, planes and ships and staying connected. After two days discussing the wonderful connectivity people have on cruise ships, in remote regions, on airliners and super yachts, I was on the train from London to Portsmouth only to discover there was no cellular service and certainly no VSAT on the train. I suppose I was lucky to have a seat! Read More

Post Event Report: Global VSAT Forum’s “High Throughput Satellites 2013: The Game-Changer in Action”

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering

GX and O3B are in orbit; Telenor will launch in 2014; and Avanti has been operational for some time. All of these High Throughput Satellite (HTS) programs have different approaches to allocate space segment and operate over different business models. Overlay that with hosted payloads, satellite operators hosting HTS and broadcast payloads, and it’s a complex new world.

The recent GVF HTS event in London provided a forum for some interesting discussion around go-to-market models for satellite operators in the HTS market. The good news is that there now seems to be consensus within the industry that HTS does not mean Ka-band frequency. It could also refer to Ku- and X-band systems, with some satellite operators said they would consider a C-band HTS offering.

Some of the more interesting discussion was around the advantages of an open or closed approach.  Although some dispute this whole concept, in reality there are 50 Shades of Grey between open and closed.

Closed models taken to the most extreme would be something like the Viasat-1 approach where a satellite operator has a complete, vertically integrated service provision, owns the satellite, and develops the ground infrastructure. At the other end of the spectrum, Intelsat’s plans for Epic are characterized by an open architecture akin to what the VSAT industry is accustomed with traditional Ku-band satellites. Others are in between, potentially allowing multiple vendors or different service providers to build networks. Read More

GVF HTS Conference: Engineering the HTS Solution

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering

I’m excited to see what’s in store for our industry as it undergoes a major transformation.

It is great to see all of the eagerness from the people within industry as new, game-changing technologies and solutions begin to emerge. I mostly see this enthusiasm when it comes to high throughput satellites (HTS) finally coming online and offering our partners more growth and opportunities.

However, I also sense a lot of apprehension. While HTS is offering a lot of promise, behind the HTS hype, many challenges are falling on the shoulders of engineers who are now tasked to develop solutions that prepares both operators and service providers for the arrival of this unpredictable technology. I hear countless questions and concerns such as:

  • How can we maximize on HTS multi-spot beam and frequency reuse architectures?
  • How has ground infrastructure evolved to support HTS designs?
  • How can we help meet customer expectations when HTS officially comes online?
  • What technology is available to effectively support HTS terminals, portable devices, smaller antennas and battle against unpredictable spectral changes such as rain fade?

Read More

Big Data and the Speed Factor

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering

Have you ever been overloaded with information, and can’t process it quick enough before more comes in? We all want to react quickly enough to events so we can start taking action before an incident progresses.  If a key customer network goes down, we want to start to find fault immediately based on the information we have, and refine as we know more.

If you had 2GB of Network stats coming from different sources and you presented a single view of the truth to a NOC or in a customer portal, it could give you or your customers some great insights but how do you turn it to something useful? …This is a big data problem.

The speed at which data is arriving is the third “V” (Velocity) that I would like to discuss in the series. One of iDirect’s customers has a 1400GB database of network statistics that is growing at 2GB a day; the speed at which this information about the network is coming in makes it difficult to process it into anything useful. This is a big data problem.

Imagine if you have high-value customers using their VSAT connection for a variety of applications. Those apps may be mixed in with an Internet service or if you have a cellular backhaul system that is using a range of different IP Addresses and Port Numbers. Read More

Variety – A Very Large Array of Data

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering

In my last blog we talked about volumes of data posing a problem, but a large variety of data from various sources can also make for a “Big Data” problem. Some say it’s a bigger problem.

A great example of this is in a radio frequency fade; this could result in an alarm as the carrier signal strength drops. This leads to the loss of contact alarms, then the site recovers and produces positive status messages, iVantage could produce 20 alarms for one remote in minutes. In reality all this activity is related, correlated, and it is one incident.  There are many types of data being produced in different structures which makes it difficult to process.  RF is analog, this is the difference, and it’s really the reason SatManage is unique. No terrestrial management system can understand or care about the large variety of alarms created in such an environment, not least could they correlate related alarms together into a single incident.

But what happens when you experience a network wide outage, maybe hundreds or thousands of remotes that could generate many alarms at the same time? How will you know remotes with high SLAs are impacted? Remember this blog I wrote: What is data Visualization? You can SEE this complexity in action!  You can visualize a large variety of different metrics. Read More

Data Volumes are Rocketing

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering

In my last Blog about Big Data, we discussed the 3 V’s: Velocity, Volume and Variety. Data Volumes have been exploding in a wide range of industries and in different applications. Let’s consider how big is “Big Data”? And does the satellite industry really have a problem?

As explained here, the wave of data allows us to make much better and informed decisions. This means we can make better planning decisions in the VSAT world, too, and it could help you make your business more profitable.

iDirect now has SatManage customers with 36 Network Management Systems (NMS’s); that equates to 72 screens to monitor if you consider iBuilder and iMontor. All these NMS’s are generating data and information that is difficult to process in the form of any insightful knowledge about what your customers are doing, and how your networks are growing.

Take a look at this example:

Our shipping company “Salty Cruises,” generates user traffic and produces data dust, additional Meta data, (for example Lat long information), distance and heading information. If you add in some RF metrics you will see even more details: Read More

What is Big Data?

Denis SutherlandBy Denis Sutherland, Sr. Manager, Sales System Engineering

You may have heard about the latest buzz in the IT world: Big Data is the latest #Trend to hit the news. Industry analyst McKinsey is saying that Data is an organization’s most important asset and some think that Data is the new “Oil,” with companies sitting on untapped riches. It seems it’s not a question of “if” you invest in Big Data, but “how far” you invest in Big Data!

But why is this relevant to Service Providers in the satellite industry?

Well, simply put, if you aren’t gaining value from your data, you have a big data problem.  I was reviewing this excellent video series, when I thought, “Hey, we have a big Data Problem in the VSAT industry –  this is exactly the same problem I described previously, analogous to SNR, where S is the interesting Data and N is the multitude of information you are not interested in.” To continue the RF analogy, SatManage is a fantastic way to improve your RX sensitivity and improve your SNR Threshold!

The issue is how do Service Providers deal with the massive amounts of data that are available to us?How can we change this noise into a valuable commodity – the insight we need to make actionable decisions? As we explained in the video on the SatManage homepage. Read More