by Garrett Hill, CEO, X2nSat, Inc.
In Part 1 of this two-part post, I shared tales of my recent travels, stopping short of detailing my experiences at the tangible destinations on my itinerary – the two major conferences I attended: IBC and VSAT.
Since my return stateside (OK, so maybe I picked up a little Downton-Abbey speak while I was in London), I’ve had a chance to fully digest both the pub fare I encountered as well as what I’d seen at these international events.
There wasn’t a lot specifically related to satellite communications at the IBC event in Amsterdam, but there were tangential viands for me to devour … some really cool, ancillary stuff such as the incredible display by Amazon Web Services (AWS), where I learned about their secure and on-demand storage, archive, computing, transcoding, streaming, and application services for media companies. It’s important for my industry to see the new gadgets and technology coming our way, and to see who the new players are coming in to the communications market. So while technologies such as AWS aren’t what we sell, it’s a technology category we use to conduct our business. Cloud services allow people to do things that create a demand for the services and solutions X2nSat provides. In fact, this relates to a nonprofit X2nSat is teaming up with – Global Offsite Care – to provide remote physician consultations via telemedicine to poor and rural areas in the developing world such as Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, India and the Philippines.
While at IBC, I did also see some exciting new designs in spacecraft and, of course, met up with my friends from Newtec (I believe that’s our favorite Newtec marketing person handing us that glowing beer in the photo).
Onward! The driving force behind my whirlwind trip – the VSAT 2014 Conference in London – was stimulating and insightful. For those not familiar with it, VSAT is the premier event for senior satellite industry executives and decision-makers to come together and focus on key issues, as well as discuss the latest industry developments and identify opportunities across the globe.
It was held at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel. Digressing to play tour guide momentarily, I highly recommend a Chinese/Thai hotel restaurant near the Millennium; wish I’d found it before my last night. It was the culinary highlight of my trip, although I can’t recall the name of it. Apparently, I’m no Anthony Bourdain.
However, I do know quite a bit about satcom. As part of VSAT, I was invited to speak on a panel titled: “M2M and remote connectivity: leading the evolution of VSAT services and applications.” One of the acronyms most bandied about during this panel was HTS.
In the satellite world, HTS means “High Throughput Satellite” and it’s supposedly the next big thing. Here’s a brief backgrounder on HTS in this Newtec industry blog post excerpt: “High Throughput Satellites offer many times the throughput of the classic FSS satellites for the same amount of allocated orbital spectrum. The increase in capacity HTS offer is a result of high-level frequency re-use and spot beam technology enabling multiple narrowly focused beams. By contrast traditional satellite technology utilizes a broad single beam or a few beams. The big advantage of High Throughput Satellites is the cost. While Ku band FSS bandwidth can cost well over $100 million per gigabit per second in space, HTS like ViaSat-1 can supply a gigabit of throughput in space for less than $3 million.”
And the good ol’ Wikipedia definition: “High throughput satellites (HTS) is a classification for communications satellites that provide at least twice, though usually by a factor of 20 or more, the total throughput of a classic FSS satellite for the same amount of allocated orbital spectrum thus significantly reducing cost-per-bit.”
Are HTSes a new breed of high-performance broadband satellites? Well, it depends on your perspective. To me, it’s not really the next generation; it’s just substantially improved. By calling it HTS, they’re trying to brand a capability. High Throughput is just a fancy name. In 10 years, as the technology evolves, it will have to be called Super HTS, and then Very Super HTS, and in 30 years, Ultra-Super HTS. I’m being a bit cheeky (see? Downton Abbey got to me over there), but the nomenclature is very similar to “RF” (radio frequency) evolving into HF, VHF, UHF, etc.
There is some mystery regarding HTS and its impact on the VSAT industry and SCADA applications. The concept of HTS is known. What is not known is the economics. But that’s a subject for another day, another blog.
As I sped across the European countryside on a Eurostar high-speed train at 300 km/hour – conveniently outfitted with satellite antennae for Internet access, very much like what we provide for maritime customers – I thought about what I’d learned from others during my adventure.
I thought about the fact that there’s a lot of collaboration even amongst competitors in this exciting industry. I met brilliant people from almost every continent, all focused on talking and thinking about long-range issues, not just what’s happening now. All in all, it was an inspiring journey.
Oh, and I can’t forget my friend Albert! Our X2nSat mascot, traveling under the hashtag name of #SpaceMonkey, had a blast visiting Big Ben in London. He might have snuck a few sips of brew while we were on a historical walking pub tour, as well (which turned out to actually be about history and not just a drinking excursion; imagine my dismay!).
If you’re curious, you can learn more about our dear Sir Albert by searching #SpaceMonkey online or by visiting our website. And if, unlike myself, you are a fan of #DowntonAbbey, mark your calendars: Season 5 premieres on Sunday, January 4, 2015.
Glad to be stateside again.