Home >> January 2016 Edition >> Finding The Correct SATCOM Solution: A SpeedCast Perspective
Finding The Correct SATCOM Solution: A SpeedCast Perspective
By Cedric Mancini, Director of Engineering and Operations, SpeedCast


There is no doubt that to grow and thrive in today’s global economy, a business must be connected 24/7—and that means in any location, no matter how remote, whether on land, at sea or in the air.

Satellite networks can provide the means to link multiple distributed sites across the globe. Historically, however, limited and expensive bandwidth, latency and intermittent availability have made satellite a highly restrictive and costly choice. The good news is that such is no longer the case.

With advanced satellite technology now able to deliver fast, efficient communications between companies, customers, partners and field employees, opportunities for business growth can be created through the ability to extend that connectivity into previously unreachable areas. The task then becomes in locating the correct satellite solution to fulfill the many requirements of complex organizations, across multiple locations, all within a landscape of tightening IT budgets. This certainly does present quite a challenge to those responsible for ensuring viable SATCOM connectivity.

There are three primary areas associated with delivering efficient satellite communication services to remote locations—high bandwidth costs, supporting employee welfare applications and devices and maintaining industry specific application performance. New satellite network advances and bandwidth management tools address these challenges by allowing companies to select specific network design components to fulfill their business objectives and management tools that effectively control the delivery of their traffic.

Enhancing Industry-Specific Application Performance
Essential for businesses operating in remote locations is to have uninterrupted real-time access to operational and management data. Limited connectivity can have a seriously negative impact if access to industry-critical information is reduced. Therefore, industries which rely heavily on remote operations to be supported by tightly integrated information systems that ensure uninterrupted access demand viable communications.

In any business environment, downtime means loss of revenue. For businesses with particularly high operating costs, such as the resources and energy industries where daily costs can be in excess of $250,000, every hour of downtime is extremely costly. In these circumstances, IT must avoid network induced latency which, when added to the inherent nature of geostationary satellite latency, impacts on the ability to deliver mission critical traffic. 

Managing Employee Welfare Applications 
In a society where most of the world’s population now has access to a mobile device, businesses operating in remote locations to provide their workforces with capacity for basic voice calls and limited email access is a “must.” 

Gartner data predicts the usage of user owned mobile devices will reach 46 percent by 2016 and 63 percent by 2020 and in remote industries, where workers rely solely on ICT to remain connected with their loved ones, these numbers could be significantly higher. The dawning of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) era has brought benefits for both businesses and the remote workforce by allowing the removal of non-essential strategic applications from the corporate IT structure.

However, this also has serious implications on bandwidth availability and operational costs, with the potential for many individuals to be operating two or more wireless devices simultaneously. Recreational applications such as Skype, file sharing, social channels and messenger services are now a basic need, rather than a luxury at remote sites. Therefore, the challenge is to support these essential applications while simultaneously maintaining efficient, corporate communications. This can be achieved by using the correct network design and Quality of Service (QoS) tools—in example, application and time-based application filtering. 

To address these issues correctly IT must have clear policies coupled with software and infrastructure controls which specify:

• Which platforms and devices are supported
• How many devices may be used simultaneously
• What service level a user should expect
• What the users’ own responsibilities and risks are 
• Who qualifies
• How the allocated bandwidth is distributed e.g. authorized 
log-ins versus prepaid options

QoS will classify and prioritize network applications based on business objectives to guarantee capacity for high-priority requirements. In some instances, such as in a shift work environment, time-based application management is applied so that the bulk of available bandwidth is assigned to corporate traffic during the day and shifted to recreational traffic overnight.

High Bandwidth Costs
Bandwidth-intensive applications, cloud storage and smart devices all place increased strain on satellite bandwidth availability in industries with remote operating locations. At the same time, IT managers are under ever increasing pressure to reduce operational expenditure and improve profitability. Consequently, the search is on to find new technologies that allow them to meet the requirements of both the business and its workforce without investing in more bandwidth. 

Fortunately, the satellite industry is responding to this challenge and new tools and innovations are emerging to allow users to obtain the most from available bandwidth all the while supporting the increased traffic that is passing through today’s corporate WANs.

To be successful, IT managers must examine their network design goals and employ bandwidth management tools that make more efficient use of existing capacity. Rather than focus solely on capital expenditure, when starting a remote communications project, consideration should be given on actual return on investment (ROI), which comes from using efficient bandwidth allocation to reduce the operating costs of leased capacity. With this in mind, a number of key factors should be taken into consideration when designing a network, such as the length of the project, satellite link size, logistics, location and the availability of resources. There are a number of management tools and techniques that can be used to help meet these needs:

WAN Acceleration: Applications overcome the limitations of satellite links via compression and data deduplication techniques, as well as minimizing latency effects by speeding up transport and application protocols. In order for this to be successful, the categories of traffic that transit the WAN must be identified as well as how the various acceleration techniques can be implemented to improve the performance of different types of application.

• Application Filtering: Manages the utilization of bandwidth so that capacity requirements for application delivery are always met. QoS rules can be applied to prioritize critical traffic such as industry specific software over recreational traffic

• Caching Tools: Store video and software downloads and other Internet content on the network edge, eliminating repeated downloads across the satellite link. This data can then be subsequently delivered to the relevant end users over the
local network.

The most practical approach is to adopt a hybrid of all these solutions where content can be reduced by removing non-essential data and other inefficiencies caused by the web. For example, applications such as YouTube and web browsing can be cached to eliminate the requirement for the same piece of data to be downloaded more than once, application filtering can be applied to give higher priority to industry-specific traffic and accelerating the whole network will allow higher throughput for bandwidth intensive applications. In conclusion, there are a number of things to look out for when searching for the right satellite communications solution to overcome all issues associated with remote locations.

 • Service customization and flexibility: Avoid commercial ‘all in one box packages’. These may be attractively priced and a good choice for small or home offices but not for complex multi-site operations. Instead choose a multi-vendor, integrated solution which can be tailored, both technically and contractually, to fit specific requirements taking into account all aspects of design, implementation and control of remote communications. 

• A service provider’s assets and experience: A service provider should have a proven track record of successfully providing network services to industries operating in remote locations. They should have redundant infrastructure which supports multiple platforms and network architectures and enables high throughput applications. It is also essential for them to have bandwidth reserved across multiple satellites to optimize availability and provide cost effectiveness through their purchasing power.

• Integrated bandwidth management solutions: Avoid the impracticality of deploying multiple devices by seeking a solution that can integrate all bandwidth management capabilities into one network. The ideal solution should allow for the application of hierarchical bandwidth control and both application and end user level to provide better overall functionality and consequently efficiency of bandwidth management tools. In addition, look for a service provider who offers a single platform for all bandwidth management with a single license.

• Robust network and monitoring control tools: It is essential to have access to bandwidth monitoring and control tools which provide real time visibility and analysis of usage, equipment monitoring and fault reporting across any link or service.

To assist IT professionals with their multifaceted network challenges, SpeedCast developed SpeedStar™, an integrated bandwidth management solution, which optimizes both upload and download traffic through
a combination of IP traffic specific compression, acceleration and
caching technologies.

To increase the overall effectiveness, SpeedStar layer 7 application visibility ensures bandwidth is resource-managed for key applications. In addition, SpeedStar real time monitoring and analytics platform enables the technical support team to root cause congestion problems quickly

and initiate corrective action efficiently. The end result is a greatly improved user experience, based on a 25 percent average reduction in customer bandwidth, which SpeedCast has observed as the average bandwidth saved across all SpeedCast networks currently deploying the SpeedStar™ technology. 

Looking to the future, most of the enhancements that SpeedCast will offer will come from value added service evolution, optimal utilization of existing and new spectrum frequencies and the ability to take a customer and assist them on their communications journey no matter what level of sophistication they require.

SpeedCast is unique in the market place in that the company offers two technology platforms to meet the specific requirements of customers, traditional TDMA—a shared technology—or on dynamic SCPC, a dedicated technology.   Within the Maritime customer space, the two leading services that SpeedCast sells are its VOIP telephony service and its Remote Access and Management (RAM) service.  SpeedCast has also been a pioneer in the use of compression technologies to deliver a superior user experience while maintaining the same amount of bandwidth, thereby delivering a better ROI for its customers.  

SpeedCast is a leading global network and satellite communications service provider offering high-quality managed networks services in more than 90 countries; and a global maritime network serving customers worldwide. Headquartered in Hong Kong, with 27 international sales and support offices and 30 teleport operations, SpeedCast has a unique infrastructure to serve the requirements of customers globally.

With more than 5,000 links on land and at sea supporting mission critical applications, SpeedCast has distinguished itself with a strong operational expertise and a highly efficient support organization, which are the foundation of SpeedCast’s success. SpeedCast is publicly listed on the Australian Stock Exchange under the ticker SDA (ASX:SDA).