|Asia-Pacific I 2008
|It’s a broadband world
|Pradman P. Kaul
|President and CEO
|Hughes Communications, Inc
Pradman P. Kaul is President and CEO of Hughes Communications, Inc. Mr Kaul also continues as Chairman and CEO of Hughes Network Systems, LLC. Before joining Hughes, Mr Kaul worked at COMSAT Laboratories in Clarksburg, MD. Mr Kaul holds numerous patents and has published articles and papers on a variety of technical topics concerning satellite communications. In 2004, Mr Kaul was inducted into the National Academy of Engineering. Mr Kaul has been named a ‘Distinguished Engineering Alumnus’ of the University of California, Berkeley and a ‘Distinguished Alumnus’ by George Washington University, Washington DC in 2005. He was awarded the IEEE Third Millennium medal in 2000. Mr Kaul is also on the boards of several organizations. Mr Kaul received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from George Washington University and a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Berkeley.
Satellite broadband connectivity worldwide is growing. Satellites often provide the only access businesses have to broadband in remote areas. It also provides residential broadband access in regions where no other networks exist. Distance learning and e-commerce offerings are helping close the digital divide in thousands of towns and villages in developing countries. Additionally, emergency preparedness, broadband on the move, and high availability VPN (virtual private network) services are enabling government agencies to better serve their citizens and respond to disasters.
Although hard to imagine today, it was less than 20 years ago that people conducted all their personal and business transactions over the telephone, by mail, or in person. In that pre-Internet period there was no instant messaging or on-line shopping; people went to the store and to the bank, and they called or visited friends. Paper maps were the only way to get directions. Businesses used automated processes, but they were largely disjointed collections of applications, often requiring heavy doses of manual intervention to make them work and to make sense of their outputs. Then along came the Internet, and everything changed. Even if connections were sometimes sluggish and intermittent, a new world of connectivity and collaboration emerged. Fast forward to today. The slow, clunky dial-up connections that thrilled us in the early years of the Internet phenomenon are just not good enough anymore. Broadband is now a necessity. High-speed, always-on Internet access that provides nearly effortless access to information has opened seemingly endless potential to not only buy and sell on the web, but to unlock ever more value from new applications in all market sectors, business, government and consumer alike. Exploding growth No wonder broadband is expanding globally and has become an important measure of economic growth. Although dominated by terrestrial technologies such as DSL and cable, broadband connectivity is also growing at a healthy clip by means of satellites. According to the latest report by Northern Sky Research, average broadband growth rates in 2006 exceeded 20 per cent in both the developed and the developing world. The Asia-Pacific region, including South Korea, India and Australia, are at the top of the growth rates, along with other countries such as Brazil and Russia, for example, with the latter exploding at a rate exceeding 50 per cent, and some regions even projected for 100 per cent growth this year. The growth rate in the US is also around 20 per cent, yet there remains a large, unserved market of ten to 15 million households that can’t get broadband by terrestrial means, which, not surprisingly, is the target market for satellite broadband. An important trend fuelling the growth of broadband is that all market sectors are gaining greater value from broadband applications beyond connectivity alone, which has become a commodity. New applications such as digital signage and business-based IPTV, for example, are opening up revenue opportunities for enterprises, both large and small. Distance learning and e-commerce offerings are helping close the so-called digital divide in thousands of towns and villages in developing countries. Additionally, emergency preparedness, broadband on the move, and high availability VPN (virtual private network) services are enabling government agencies to better serve their citizens and respond to disasters. Enterprise needs Just a few short years ago enterprises focused IT investments primarily on lowering costs and managing inventory better, with IT department heads and CIOs typically making all the new technology and application decisions. Today, as broadband proliferates, enterprises worldwide – driven more often by CEOs and marketing heads – are expanding beyond a focus on productivity alone to seek out new revenue and profit-generating opportunities. Targeted ‘infotainment’ at gas pumps, digital signage at store point-of-sale locations, and business IPTV – all of which require broadband delivery of multi-media messages, are just a few examples of the changing face of the enterprise market. Another key trend is that enterprises are moving away from the direct operation and maintenance of their networks by using skilled managed services companies to provide comprehensive solutions and services. This approach enables the enterprise to focus fully on its core business while outsourcing all the complexities and tasks of network management – including operation, control, installation and maintenance – to a trusted partner. The approach has become increasingly common for landline, satellite-based, or hybrid technology networks and may involve the management of complex video, audio and LAN equipment. Closing the digital divide Governments worldwide recognise broadband as an economic imperative and as an essential component of their plans to meet universal service objectives. This is particularly evident in Asia-Pacific. India, for example, is deploying Internet kiosks in thousands of villages and towns. A collaboration between government and private enterprise, these rural information and communication technology (ICT) kiosks give people access to a variety of on-line services such as Internet access, Voice over IP (VoIP) telephony and distance education, in this case utilizing an India-wide broadband satellite service. These kiosks are not just a convenient access and information tool; they also provide a true grassroots example of how broadband can become the seed for new businesses. Operated on a franchisee model and requiring only a small investment, these new kiosks enable budding entrepreneurs across the rural landscape to sell valuable services to people in the region, such as access to email, online shopping, government services, and online courses – at the same time earning a profit for their own businesses. Other examples of government-backed broadband initiatives are in Australia’s outback and Malaysia’s rural areas, where telecom providers are deploying high-bandwidth satellite terminals to deliver instant broadband to small businesses, schools and homes where other technologies simply aren’t available. In Korea, a major power provider is using satellite equipment to monitor the status of power plants, and provide VoIP and Internet access to remote substations in areas previously without effective connectivity. Certain Korean telecom providers are also extending their nationwide networks, utilizing broadband satellite equipment to provide global connectivity to customers headquartered in Korea. This brings the benefits of VPNs for intranet access, video-conferencing, and other applications to organizations with sites located both inside and outside Korea, such as government institutions, global non-profit organizations, and multinational corporations. New directions in mobile satellite technology The growth of broadband is certainly not limited to fixed applications; mobile satellite systems are meeting the challenge globally. For example, Thuraya, one of the world’s leading mobile satellite operators, uses an innovative solution to cover nearly one-third of the world’s population in Asia, Europe and Africa. A small, handheld device combines GSM cellular/satellite voice and data services with GPS location capabilities, providing seamless wireless communications via cellular with satellite coverage over multiple continents. A newly developed mobile satellite terminal was recently certified to operate on Inmarsat’s Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN). It is capable of high-speed transmit and receive rates of over 460 Kbps while on the move. An earlier version transportable terminal, employed by CNN reporters to cover live news from the field, recently won a technology award at the IBC show in Amsterdam. Other examples are US operators TerreStar Networks, ICO and MSV, who are each funding technology developments that marry satellite and cellular technologies utilizing the so-called ATC (auxiliary terrestrial component) spectrum, which promises to enable a new world of multi-media, interactive mobile satellite services. Expanding the satellite broadband market Perhaps the greatest promise for expanding the addressable market for broadband services utilizing satellite technology lies with SPACEWAY 3, the world’s first communications satellite with on-board switching and routing. Operating in the Ka-band spectrum, SPACEWAY 3 employs high-performance packet switching, active phase-array antennas and spot-beam technologies, enabling transmission rates of up to 440 Mbps on the downlink, direct site-to-site connectivity of up to 16 Mbps and a total throughput of ten Gbps, which is unprecedented in the satellite industry. SPACEWAY 3 was successfully launched by Arianespace in August and is expected to start commercial service in North America in early 2008. Changing the rules It’s truly a broadband world. Indeed, broadband technologies – whether satellite or terrestrial – are breaking down barriers and enabling people not only to access but also to generate and share multi-media information in ways unimagined just a few years ago, and to do so virtually anywhere, whether fixed or on the move. Enterprises, governments and consumers are able to collaborate and unlock the benefits of new applications on a scale that’s limited only by their imaginations. Curiously enough, this broadband explosion may actually be bringing us back full circle to virtual forms of the person-to-person communication of pre-Internet days. Only now our neighbourhood is the world.