BLOG SERIES – Technology Updates from the World of Satellite Communications #2

From Rick Hodgkinson, President and CEO of Galaxy

The first blog in this industry and technology updates series talked about LEO’s, which many consider to be the next best thing in satellite networks.  This blog will focus on two new satellites, Medium Earth (MEO’s) and High Throughput Satellites (HTS).

Medium Earth Orbit Satellites (MEO’s)

MEO’s are in medium earth orbit that circle at the equator, higher than LEO’s but much lower than GEO’s.  SES, the world’s largest satellite operator, owns O3B, the only operational MEO constellation.  O3B targets communities beyond reach of fiber and can deliver several Gbps using a dual tracking antenna system on the remote end.  They have been around for several years and have had some success to date and clearly SES believes in the opportunity enough to invest in more capacity.  O3B is currently only available to the 45th parallel (roughly US/Canada border) because of the equatorial orbit.  However, with new satellites planned, coverage will likely be expanded northward so we can expect to have O3B as an option in the very near future.

Just like LEO’s MEO’s can reduce the cost per Mbps dramatically compared to traditional GEO satellite capacity.  There are also lower latency advantages that improve performance that will make the MEO’s a great option where available.

High Throughput Satellites (HTS)

HTS satellites are large, expensive, and in geosynchronous orbits so they do not require tracking antennas on the ground.  However, they are 23,000 miles above the equator and suffer from the traditional long latency in the 750ms range.   There aren’t many new developments with HTS except the recent launch of SES-15.  It has a good footprint for North America, but pricing and available capacity is the challenge.  The aeronautical service providers have snapped up most of the capacity and are paying high rates so how much capacity will be available for other markets is unclear at this time.  HTS is designed for small antenna networks that require a high volume of download capability (i.e. Netflix) and remains the core for the consumer class services.  These networks don’t play nice with commercial or high QoS requirements and oversubscription rates of 100:1 or higher are still required to keep the costs low enough for consumer budgets.  Service providers are being forced to offer faster plans of up to 25Mbps to meet consumer needs.  These plans require a very large pool of bandwidth to satisfy consumers increasing download habits.  Users share speed capacity and when many of these users are downloading or steaming video, everyone’s speeds are reduced to a fraction of the 25Mbps promised by the service plan.  A high throughput speed coupled with high oversubscription results in poor performance.

Watch for the third and final blog in this series soon, and send your comments to info@galaxybroadband.ca. Be sure to follow us on social media to stay up to date on all our new information!