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IPSTAR: the World’s first High Throughput Satellite Celebrates 15 Years of Excellence

Written on 11 August 2020


On 11 August 2005, IPSTAR roared into orbit and the satellite industry was not the same again. The launch of the IPSTAR broadband satellite, to this day 15 years ago exactly, marked the introduction of broadband satellite services in Asia Pacific.

With IPSTAR, Thaicom was the first operator in the world to develop and launch a High Throughput Satellite (HTS). In the years to come IPSTAR would connect hundreds of thousands of users in underserved and unserved areas across Asia Pacific to broadband internet. IPSTAR has been the region’s leading broadband satellite platform, underlining Thaicom’s innovative and pioneering role in the satellite industry. IPSTAR was built by US-based Space Systems Loral, the satellite manufacturer who developed and designed the satellite’s core technologies.

At the time of launch, IPSTAR was the heaviest commercial GEO satellite ever orbited with a launch mass of nearly 6,500 kg. It was also the first satellite to achieve a maximum 45 Gbps of bandwidth capacity.


Enter Broadband Satellite

Designed for high-speed, two-way broadband communication over an IP platform, IPSTAR was designed to provide coverage over most of Asia Pacific via multiple, narrowly focused spot beams. The IPSTAR system 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 and serving the growing demand for high-speed broadband internet access and data.


Technological Revolution

IPSTAR was designed from the ground up as a new generation of satellite that can serve both internet backbone connection to fiber optic cables for ISPs and as a last-mile broadband internet service to consumers. The IPSTAR system’s switching and routing capabilities are located in the gateway and network control centers on the ground, allowing to upgrade all electronics and software from earth with cost effectiveness in mind.

IPSTAR low cost user terminals and increased bandwidth could successfully compete more effectively with terrestrial broadband solutions such as Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL), Cable Modem and Fixed Wireless, while retaining the key satellite advantages of large coverage, and fast and flexible service deployment. Vast footprint coverage and in on-the-ground infrastructure in different countries of the region were advantages for the IPSTAR satellite system.

Traditional satellite technology utilizes a broad single beam to cover entire continents and regions. With narrowly focused spot beams and frequency reuse, IPSTAR is capable of maximizing the available frequency for transmission. With its 45 Gbps, it has 20 times more bandwidth capacity compared to traditional Ku-band satellites. High power levels in combination with high-gain antennas and high levels of frequency reuse via multiple spot beam antennas enable IPSTAR to providing data and internet services to rural areas for the first time on a nationwide scale.


Empowering Asia Pacific

Before the launch of IPSTAR, high-speed access to data or information services was virtually non-existent in the rural and remote areas of the region. For the past 15 years, IPSTAR has had a successful track record of providing the region’s telecom industry, businesses, homes and government administrations with cost-effective satellite broadband connectivity and services. Whether empowering school children through access to online learning materials in Thailand, expanding cellular networks in Japan, or providing reliable broadband connectivity at sea in Australia, since its launch IPSTAR has helped remove distance barriers in Asia Pacific like no other satellite platform.

IPSTAR’s footprint stretches across Australia and New Zealand, China, India, Japan and South-East Asia. At its peak, more than 200,000 user terminals were deployed in the region to provide people living and operating in rural and remote areas with high speed internet access. IPSTAR was designed to serve 10 million subscribers in 18 countries of the region.


High Throughput Satellite Legacy Continued

The satellite market has changed dramatically since the launch of IPSTAR and the emergence of High Throughput Satellites (HTS)—but despite much smaller satellites being launched into low earth and medium earth orbits nowadays, GEO stationary HTS are here to stay and the increased demand for data and anywhere, anytime connectivity show no sign of slowing down anytime soon, signaling a very bright future for HTS.

Moving forward, HTS enabled services including cellular backhaul, maritime, and mobility, as well as services for the government and oil & gas markets are providing interesting opportunities for HTS. Looking at these opportunities it is clear that even after 15 years, HTS continues to be relevant. Even more efficient and technologically advanced HTS will continue the legacy of IPSTAR.

The next generation of satellite services will enable new business cases and higher service levels. In the near future, the emergence of the Internet of Things along with bandwidth hungry data applications will support the emergence of new HTS systems or Very-High Throughput Satellites (VHTS).

VHTS will have a tremendous impact through providing comprehensive coverage at lower costs along with compelling end-to-end solutions to satisfy the increasing demand for data acting as the driving force. Future HTS systems will continue to impact people living in Asia Pacific, ultimately helping to improve their lives and helping to meet the bandwidth demands of data applications alongside the low earth orbit (LEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellite constellations being launched.