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Why, after ten years, High Throughput Satellites remain more relevant than ever

By Nile Suwansiri, Chief Commercial Officer at Thaicom

Due to the emergence of High Throughput Satellites (HTS), the satellite market has changed significantly. Ten years on and HTS have proved their worth, making it clear they are here to stay – but have the systems reached their full potential or is there more yet to come?

First launched ten years ago, the impact of HTS tends to be summed up by a few frequently-seen phrases; more throughput, lower cost per bit, multiple narrowly focused spot beam technology, which enables frequency re-use, increased efficiency, vast payback and a threat to conventional satellite operators.

Of course, describing them in this arguably limited way does not do justice to the game-changing innovation HTS have proved themselves to be. With the launch of the first system – Thaicom’s IPSTAR – in August 2005, a massive shift in our industry and in satellites’ capabilities was kick-started.

Designed for high-speed, two-way broadband communication over an IP platform, IPSTAR provides coverage over most of South East Asia via multiple narrowly focused spot beams. As is typical of HTS, IPSTAR is capable of maximizing the available frequency for transmission and increases bandwidth by a factor of twenty when compared to traditional Ku-band satellites, resulting in more efficient operations.

With this new technology came new capabilities, revolutionizing service providers’ respective offerings. The provision of broadband is a prime example of this. Whereas before connectivity could only be provided to urban areas, HTS have enabled previously underserved and unserved areas to receive the same sort of high-speed broadband as urban areas.

Fast-forward to 2015, and HTS have proven their staying-power with widespread use in consumer broadband applications. The opportunity for satellite operators to move into the Cellular Backhaul market, for example, has come as a result of increased use of 3G and 4G cellular technologies which require higher bandwidth backhaul channels to support traffic. When providing this kind of coverage in ex-urban and rural areas the distance between cellular base stations makes it cost-prohibitive to sue terrestrial means – opening up the prospect for satellite backhaul to be used instead. While 4G services will be limited to urban centers, where fiber is readily available, for the foreseeable future, mobile operators will continue to extend 3G services to ever more remote areas, making HTS ideally positioned to support the backhaul of 3G data services.

Even after ten years, HTS continue to represent the next generation of satellite services, providing cost-effective models and higher service levels. In the future, demand for these qualities will only increase, with service providers increasingly looking to run more than one service with the same capacity and new technologies continuing to emerge to support this and HTS.

At Thaicom, we are pleased to have made such a significant contribution to this new era of satellite communications and remain committed to supporting what looks like a very bright future for HTS – both for the next ten years, and beyond.