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A down-to-earth look at satellite broadband.

If your organization is implementing a teleworking (aka telecommuting, remote worker or distance working) model as a means of reducing overhead, or if you require a method of directly connecting remotely-located employees, equipping these people with broadband Internet connectivity can be a challenge. Decide whether satellite broadband is an immediate and suitable technology solution for your organization.

Types of Satellite Broadband

Satellite broadband uses a satellite to connect customers to the Internet. The connection may be a one-way or two-way connection.

One-way satellite, which is the older of the two technologies, allows you to download information from the Internet at high speed via satellite, but the satellite connection is not used to send or upload the data. With a one-way satellite service, a telephone line or an ISDN (Integrated Services Digital Network) connection is used to upload the data.

Two-way satellite broadband uses a satellite link to both send and receive data. Typical downstream speeds are 400 to 500 Kbps, while upstream speeds on two-way services are typically 40 Kbps.

Why Choose Satellite Broadband?

Satellite broadband is especially useful because it is accessible by teleworkers, traveling sales representatives, or remote office staff who don't have access to traditional high-speed services like cable or DSL. If you want access to broadband satellite, you can get it anywhere in the United States. Satellite broadband solutions also excel in terms of file distribution, e-learning, and voice and audio streaming.

Action Plan

Here are some things to consider before bringing satellite broadband to your workforce:

1. Determine your immediate needs. Holding off implementation with hope for future cost reductions and performance improvements may be an option for your organization. Before you implement something that your organization really doesn't need, ask yourself the following questions:

* How advanced are your teleworking initiatives and does satellite access need to be implemented immediately?

* Do you have a large number of users in your organization that live or work in areas where they would have no access to broadband other than by satellite? If your users are located in one of the 9.5 million homes or small offices in the U.S. and Canada that will not get access to any other type of broadband service for years, satellite could be the only choice (source: Network World Fusion, February 2004.)

* Are your users accustomed to having broadband access, or could they make do with dial-up?

* Would your users be doing the type of work where they would seriously benefit from having a broadband connection?

2. Look at the types of available services. Satellite services involve equipment and installation costs that can make them relatively expensive in some situations. The reason that many companies have not adopted satellite broadband is because of the cost of user premises equipment and installation, plus the need for a telephone line or ISDN connection for upstream transmissions in one-way satellite service. But today, you can get two-way satellite service, or lower-cost one-way satellite service. Consider the following approximate price guidelines per user:

* Two-way satellite Internet services cost a fair bit more up front and do not generally support phone services. Users would need a separate service for telephony.

** Hardware (satellite dish, modems) -- $400

** Professional installation (federally mandated) -- $200-$350

** Monthly service fees -- $60-$80/month (source: Lonestar Broadband)

* Since the market is moving toward two-way satellite, the older one-way service has dropped in price. However, one-way service requires users to maintain a phone or ISDN connection to request information from the Internet. This additional cost needs to be considered. Also, as with dial-up services, you cannot use the phone and the Internet simultaneously.

** Hardware and professional installation (dish, modem) -- $150

** Monthly service fees (for 25 hours of service) -- $30-$40/month

** Additional ISP fees (dial-up) -- $20/month (source: Lonestar Broadband)

3. Confirm VPN compatibility. Since the onset of satellite broadband, there has been controversy surrounding its compatibility with Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Some claim the technologies are totally incompatible, and others claim that VPNs simply knock the online connection down to dial-up speeds, which defeats the purpose of satellite broadband. You'll want to confirm compatibility with your VPN in discussions with potential service providers. For example, one vendor, Hughes Network Systems (, has taken the following approaches to this problem:

* To eliminate the need for a remote-access VPN, Hughes began to provide its accounts with dedicated bandwidth over a private network connection, but customers kept pushing to use VPNs.

* Hughes then developed TurboVPN for its DirecWay service, which uses an IPsec VPN in conjunction with acceleration techniques, including spooling. The TurboVPN is currently in beta testing and is expected to be finalized in the near future.

4. Keep your eyes on the standards. Since an industry standard open interface is essential to compatibility and the future of satellite broadband, ensure that your organization is ready to adapt because the industry has yet to agree on one. Here are the standards in the running:

* Hughes Network Systems, with endorsement from the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) (, is rallying for the adoption of the IPoS (Internet Protocol over Satellite) standard, and has lined up support for IPoS from several technology companies, including Intel, Hewlett-Packard, and Microsoft. No other vendors are officially on board.

* WildBlue ( is taking a different direction. The company is adopting an existing standard, Data-Over-Cable Service Interface Specifications (DOCSIS), which is commonly used for cable modems. This, according to WildBlue, lets the company lower costs on its equipment, although customers will still have to buy an expensive satellite dish to use the service.

* Created through the DVB-Forum, another standard, DVB-RCS (DVB's standard for Return Channel via Satellite), is also in the running.

Bottom Line

Satellite broadband can be an effective solution for organizations that wish to provide teleworkers with a reliable broadband connection. Decide whether to implement it now, later, or never. Waiting for the smoke to clear on a few issues might be your best bet.

Want to Know More?

From Network World Fusion:

* "Teleworkers drive broadband market."

* "Satellite broadband improves for teleworkers."

* "Worth a look if you're linking remote workers."

* "Satellite broadband update."

Other Sources:

* "Hughes pushes for satellite broadband standard," from InfoWorld.

* "Satellite Broadband Is a Key Resource for Distributed Workforce Challenges," from Executive Technology.

* "Satellite seeks broadband re-entry," from CNET

* "Satellite Broadband Primer," from Lone-star Broadband.

Used with permission from Info Tech Research Group
COPYRIGHT 2004 Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Gadgets & Gizmos
Publication:Catalyst (Dublin, Ohio)
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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