There are a number of options available for Business Class Satellite Internet connectivity in the U.S. today. New offerings seem to launch every week in 2005 and it is becoming a bit confusing for the business owner who can't obtain traditional high speed internet or can't afford the expense of running a T1 line to a location off the beaten path. I've outlined below several options for business with the positive aspects as well as negative where applicable. Each company and heavy individual user has different needs, so no one platform is a "one size fits all". I will outline them and you decide:
1. iDirect Platform:
This is a proven Enterprise platform which provides a wide range of dependable speeds for most any business, government or heavy use individual. Download speeds from 64 kbps to over 2000 kbps and Upload speeds from 64 kbps to over 1000 kbps are available. The platform supports "shared bandwidth" or guaranteed "QOS" bandwidth at much higher pricing. In the U.S. a 1.2 meter dish is standard.
Equipment Cost: Equipment ? A 2 watt system will cost about $2,700 installed. A 4 watt system is about $4,300 installed.
Monthly Service: A minimum circuit is about $250. A typical setup of 1000/256 kbps is $499 per month for a shared bandwidth-no FAP setup. For about $350 per month you can get 2000/500 kbps service with a 3 GB throughput allowance per month. There is a cost of $.09 per MB thereafter. The "shared bandwidth" package is far more predictable with the iDirect platform than with DirecWay or Starband setup's. You can expect to see the advertised speeds 85 % of the time or better.
2. Surfbeam Platform:
This product is in the process of being introduced in America. Surfbeam uses the same platform basically that a cable or DSL provider would use, except it is satellite internet. It is much less expensive than "Enterprise" grade systems. There is only one provider ready to launch this platform in the U.S. and they should begin shipping equipment by April 1, 2005. In most cases a 1.2 meter dish will be utilized with a 2-3 watt transmitter. Download speeds of 1500 kbps and uploads in excess of 500 kbps are the advertised speeds; however, this hasn't been verified in the field as of this article date.
Equipment Cost: Ranging from $1,295 - $1,995 including installation.
Monthly Service: Ranging from $95 - $400.
3. Starband 484 Platform U.S. :
This is the "beefed up" version of Starband service designed to attract small businesses and heavy individual users. This is DVB (digital video broadcast) technology which is converted to IP ? the conversion process is the problem. It adds to overall latency and even with higher upload speeds than their consumer products (they advertise "up to" 256 kbps in Turbo Max mode- unclear what that really is), they don't support VNP traffic or VOIP connections. Download speeds are listed as up to 20 times faster than dialup?whatever that means. Dish size is 24"x36" and transmitter strength not given.
Equipment Cost: $900 + shipping + installation (price not given)
Monthly Service: $160
4. DirecWay Business Plus Service (U.S. only):
This is the DirecWay "beefed up" version of service. The only meaningful difference between this platform and the Starband setup above is DirecWay has more experience "massaging" the DVB conversion to IP and possibly more advanced acceleration techniques. They will support some types of VPN and VOIP, but it requires expensive equipment ($2,000+) to be placed at the satellite location and at Headquarters for a VPN circuit- often to the chagrin of the IT department at HQ. Inadequate upload speeds for heavy VPN "chatty" programs still plague this platform.
You can expect download speeds ranging from 800 kbps to 1500 kbps or more. Upload speeds range from 29 kbps to 90 kbps. This system uses a .98 meter dish and 1 watt transmitter.
Equipment Cost: $900 + $375 installation (shipping included)
Monthly Service: $129+
5. Ka Band Satellite Internet:
When this technology becomes available the summer of 2005, it could literally shake the foundation of the satellite internet world ? or not! It is a technology that has been many years and over 1.5 Billion dollars in the making. There will be 30 spot beams aimed at the U.S. and 5 used by uplink centers with the initial satellite (Telesat's Anik F2) which will be operated by Wildblue Communications, a Denver, Co. based company.
It is being targeted to small business operators and consumers in rural areas through a network of rural electric operators (NRTC) initially and through two national distributors as the year progresses. If it works as advertised it will permit telecommuters to successfully VPN into home office much like they would with a cable or DSL connection ? except at somewhat slower speeds (due to about 500ms of latency). Still, it has a lot of promise for the small businessman. They will not offer an Enterprise solution for some time- if ever.
With a satellite dish about the size of a trashcan lid (.67 meters) and a two watt transmitter, users will be able to download at speeds up to 1500 kbps and upload at speeds ranging from 128 kbps to 256 kbps.
Equipment Cost: $300-$500 Installation: $ ??
Monthly Service: Three plans with varying download speeds
$49 ? 500 kbps download speeds
$69 ? 1000 kbps
$79 ? 1500 kbps
It is unclear whether the upload speeds shown above will apply to all service levels.
At this time, I am recommending that small and medium businesses needing connectivity right away, go with the more proven iDirect platform. You can learn more about it and other offerings at www.vsatus.com or email email@example.com .
About the Author:
Randy Scott is the founder of VSAT U.S., a Colorado based sales and consulting firm which provides VSAT satellite internet platforms to business and heavy individual users throughout the America's and most of the world. Randy has over 10 years experience in the high technology field, both in bi-directional satellite internet and industrial computer hardware as a business owner and Sr. Sales Engineer. You can reach Randy by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or toll free@ 1-866-978-4613.