VSAT Information

There is a great deal of information related to VSATs on this site which can make it a little confusing.  To simplify matters, this page offers a little more detailed navigation.

The VSAT Report is based on primary research by COMSYS involving site visits and interviews with companies from Australia to Argentina and from Pakistan to Peru.  This makes the information which we provide second to none.  In addition, we are constantly working in the VSAT industry and are involved in procurement advice, acquisition evaluation, prospect valuation, forecasts, opportunity identification, diversification and statistical analysis.  All this helps us provide unique, high quality advice and information.

First, have a look at the FAQ, just to get started.


VSAT Information

is extremely active in all areas of the VSAT business, not only are we a Founder Member of the Global VSAT Forum, we were the prime initiator of its formation. To find out more about VSATs, the industry and our role in it, click the icon. There is information on the Global VSAT Forum as well as downloads to articles we have written on the VSAT business for various publications over the past few years.

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Frequently Asked Questions - What would you like to know about VSAT systems?

What do you mean by a VSAT?
VSAT stands for Very Small Aperture Terminal - its a catchy acronym and as such its been adopted by all and sundry for every type of satellite product from small components of a system to complete systems. Because the term really hinges around the small size of the antenna it has been used to describe both one-way and interactive systems. Specifically, we in the industry, isolate television broadcast receivers because counting these as well would simply distort the numbers in the marketplace, but data, audio and, to some extent, voice systems are included. Generally, these systems operate in the Ku-band, C-band and, most recently, Ka-band frequencies. As a rule of thumb C-band (which suffers less from rain attenuation, but requires larger antennas) is used in Asia, Africa and Latin America whilst Ku-band (which can use smaller antennas, but suffers from rain fade in a monsoon-like downpour) is used in Europe and North America. Typically, interactive Ku and Ka-band antenna sizes range from 75 centimetres to 1.8 metres and C-band from 1.8 metres to 2.4 metres. One way systems can use antennas as small as 45 centimetres.
There is lots of talk about Ka-band satellites and services - what's the big deal?
As a general rule of thumb, the lower the frequency the easier it is to use.   However, the higher up the frequency range you go, the more bandwidth you have access to, the tighter you can focus a beam and therefore the more the allocated frequency can be re-used in a cellular-style design.  This allows the possibility of dramatically increasing the amount of bandwidth supported by a satellite - a typical FSS Ku/C-band satellite has around 5 Gbps of capacity versus the custom designed ViaSat-1 and Jupiter-1 spacecraft from ViaSat and Hughes which can support over 100 Gbps.  This means that vastly improved satellite broadband services can be delivered rivalling much of the world's terrestrial broadband infrastructure.  The only significant downside is that the cellular architecture means than capacity is fixed in small spot-beams and if there is no demand in a beam there is little or no flexibility to move it elsewhere as there is with larger beams.  However, the advantages of multi-spotbeam Ka-band spacecraft for delivering affordable, broadband internet access services are considerable and satellites from Eutelsat, Yahsat, Avanti, SES/O3b, NBN Co., RSCC, Inmarsat/Global Xpress, Hispasat and others are either in service or planned for launch over the next few years covering Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America in addition to those from Telesat, Hughes and ViaSat over North America.  These initiatives are expected to add almost 1 Tbps of capacity globally over the next five years - almost ten times that currently available in C and Ku-band - and the capability of transforming the consumer internet market.  That's the big deal.
What about one-way systems?
One-way or broadcast systems rely on a transmitting station which transmits one or more carriers to the satellite which re-broadcasts the signal over its coverage area. All receive-only VSATs under the satellite footprint can then receive the signal or the user/operator is able to define groups of VSATs from one to all on the network. Broadcast systems are used for data and audio. The most popular application for data is the transmission of financial feeds - Reuters, Telerate and KnightRidder have been good examples of companies with large data broadcasting networks - although, there are many other uses, such as software downloads, file transfers, transmission of press agency news items (with pictures) and the broadcast of paging messages for terrestrial transmission to the pagers themselves.  However, the price of interactive VSAT terminals has now fallen to levels that mean that there is little cost advantage to be gained by only deploying a receive-only terminal and a transmission
So what is an interactive VSAT?
Interactive VSAT systems come in two main network topologies - star and mesh. The former tends to be based either on a shared access scheme (TDM/TDMA), which is designed to support transactional processing applications, broadband internet access or, for intensive use, on a dedicated link (the satellite equivalent to a leased line). The latter sometimes uses an access scheme whereby links are set-up and torn-down on request to establish a direct link between two sites on a demand assigned basis. DAMA can be used in a mesh or star configuration with mesh systems initially designed to support corporate and public network telephony links.  The past ten years have seen them increasingly used to serve high data rate services, such as file downloads, at rates typically ranging between 64 kbps and 2 Mbps, although much greater rates are possible with larger antennas.
This industry is full of acronyms - what do they mean?
This gets complicated, but here is an extensive list of acronyms, terms, abbreviations and data rates for your reference. Like any other industry, it seems as though you will never be able to understand, but its not that bad and it doesn't take long to get the basics.
What about statistics?
The VSAT market has been going since the early 1980s and the launch of the first one-way VSAT system by Equatorial of California. Towards 1985 the first interactive star systems began to be seen and it wasn't until 1989 that the first mesh telephony products were really sold. COMSYS is recognised as the leader in tracking the size and trends of the market.
What does a network look like?
VSAT networks come in various shapes and sizes ranging from star data system users with one site connected to an operator's shared hub to many thousands based on a dedicated facility located at their own site. Mesh systems have traditionally been somewhat smaller in size than star systems - 5 to 30 sites used to be a good rule of thumb - but the average size of orders has risen as prices have come down and some rural telephony networks now comprise as many as several hundred or even thousands of sites. This is what they look like. By the way, this link contains some large-ish (30k) graphics.
What kind of companies use VSAT systems?
You name it really, car dealerships, gas stations, lottery systems, banks, insurance companies, drug stores, general stores, supermarkets, healthcare companies, manufacturers, couriers, hotel chains, car rental businesses, food manufacturers, heavy industries, mines, electrical utilities, oil and gas pipelines, energy production and exploration, timber companies, plantations, maritime shipping fleets, various government departments and agencies ....... any others you can think of, just add to the list.  Click here to see some examples of both major and minor networks from all over the world.