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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions - What would you like to know about VSAT systems?
- What about new technology like LEOs,
flat panel antennas, etc.?
- Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite systems
coupled with flat panel, configurable, electronically steerable, phased
array antennas (FP-CESPAAs) represent a step change for the VSAT
business. We believe the combination of GEO/LEO architecture with
an affordable and efficient FP-CESPAA is going to transform the VSAT
market from 2020 onwards. These are exciting times, quite honestly
the VSAT market is currently in a tornado with so many coming
technological, business structure and market changes, falling bandwidth
pricing and greater competition from rapidly expanding fibre and
cellular services. However, the skies in the distance look
extremely bright and once the tornado is past us VSAT technology will
have a solution that will be able to beat terrestrial infrastructure
with a uniform, ubiquitous, reliable, easily deployable, low latency
service anywhere in the world. This might reveal to you just why
we used the picture we did in the 14th Edition graphic!
- 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
- 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 "widebeam" FSS Ku/C-band satellite has around
5 Gbps of capacity versus the custom designed ViaSat-2 and Jupiter-2
spacecraft from ViaSat and Hughes which can support over 150 Gbps each.
This means that vastly improved satellite broadband services can be
delivered rivalling much of the world's terrestrial broadband
infrastructure. The only significant downside has been that the
initial architecture meant that capacity has been 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, this issue
has been largely taken on board and now more companies are incorporating
flexibility of one sort or another into their spacecraft. 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, Global IP,Arabsat 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 and now with additional coverage over Latin
America. These initiatives have already significantly added almost
2 Tbps of capacity globally over the past few years - almost 20
times that currently available in C and Ku-band - and the capability of
transforming the consumer internet market. Now ViaSat is building
three of its 1 Tbps ViaSat-3 satellites with global coverage and beam
configurability the market has the possibility of even more potential. 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 SCPC 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 ten years ago the industry typically provided
links ranging between 64 kbps and 2 Mbps with specialised and expensive
SCPC and DAMA systems used for higher rates. Today, it is not
unusual to talk about rates of 100 Mbps or more on a standard VSAT
although now we have to consider things like simultaneous transmission
and reception rates, packet processing, IP sessions, acceleration,
encryption and optimisation - all of which may limit the actual
throughput capabilities of the terminal. Additionally, different
types of access schemes are being added to standard star VSAT systems
including dynamic SCPC and fixed assigned dedicated TDM carriers.
- 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
- What kind of companies and
organisations use VSAT
- 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, airlines, business jets, various
government departments and agencies, embassies, emergency response,
military and defence as well as subsidised broadband projects for
schools, hospitals and villages plus, of course, internet access for
individual consumers ....... 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.