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As satellite broadband continues its global expansion, Ka-band technology is on a tear. The Ka-band wave began in earnest in North America with the launch of the Hughes SPACEWAY® 3 satellite system in 2007 and spread to Europe when Avanti’s HYLAS 1 satellite was launched in late 2010. Now it’s expanding across the globe to the Middle East, Russia, and Australia. Why has Ka-band satellite become one of today’s hottest technologies?
In a word: Capacity. The seemingly insatiable demand for broadband is rapidly exhausting the available capacity of existing Ku-band satellites. Large and small enterprises increasingly depend on media-rich applications to grow their businesses and retain their competitive edge. Governments need high-bandwidth applications to deliver services to their citizens. And consumers want to watch movies, make VoIP phone calls, and browse the Web—all at the same time.
Ka-band technology is now making all this possible over satellite, breaking down the barriers posed to the uncountable millions of households and small businesses globally that lack access to terrestrial broadband service—or can’t get Ku-band services because the spectrum is saturated. The high bandwidth available in the Ka spectrum and frequency re-use capabilities across multiple beams enables the delivery of more capacity at faster speeds to smaller dishes—opening the door to upgraded services at lower costs for more users.
“The bottom line is that our customers need more capacity,” said Mike Cook, senior vice president of North America sales and marketing for Hughes. “Every day they’re using new applications that are increasingly media-rich—making Ka-band essential to the continued growth and development of satellite broadband.”
Ka-band offers huge potential in a range of market segments, including retail, hospitality, and government initiatives such as emergency communications, rural broadband, telemedicine, and distance education. In addition, capabilities such as bandwidth-on-demand, constant bit services, and dish-to-dish networking enable more advanced applications. The technology also holds considerable promise for airline, railroad, military, and other mobile applications. But by far the biggest driver today and in the foreseeable future is high-speed Internet access for consumers—the fastest growing segment—which Hughes leads with almost 600,000 HughesNet subscribers in North America.
With 10 Gbps throughput, SPACEWAY 3 is the world’s largest traffic-carrying Kaband commercial satellite system. Featuring the highest-speed satellite Internet access plans available on the market—up to 5 Mbps—SPACEWAY 3 today serves over 400,000 HughesNet consumer subscribers, exceeding 70 percent of the total subscriber base. To put it in perspective, SPACEWAY 3 is equivalent to approximately eight conventional Ku-band satellites and is the largest Ka-band network of its kind globally. It continues to bridge the digital divide in North America, which is estimated to have 10 to 15 million households unserved or underserved by terrestrial broadband technologies.
JUPITER, the next-generation, high-throughput, Ka-band satellite from Hughes will provide over 100 Gbps additional capacity to further fuel the rapidly growing HughesNet service business in North America. Scheduled for launch in the first half of 2012, JUPITER is expected to provide service for 15 years or more. To put it in context, each single JUPITER beam has more capacity than an entire conventional Ku-band satellite—making JUPITER equivalent to approximately 80 conventional Ku-band satellites—truly transformational for the industry.
Across Europe, there are an estimated 30 million households and small businesses without access to terrestrial broadband. But thanks to a partnership between Avanti Communications Group plc and Hughes, they will now get access to high-speed broadband communications by satellite, starting with the launch of service in March 2011 on Avanti’s HYLAS 1, Europe’s first dedicated, high-throughput, Ka-band broadband satellite. Avanti is also planning to launch HYLAS 2 in 2012. Hughes is supplying all the ground systems and customer terminals for both satellites, and is additionally acquiring capacity from Avanti to deliver broadband services to its customers.
In 2011, Star Satellite Communications Company PJSC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Al Yah Satellite Communications Company PrJSC (Yahsat) based in United Arab Emirates, signed a contract with Hughes to supply its high-performance Ka-band HN broadband satellite system and terminals for the ground segment. Yahsat will leverage the highthroughput capability of its Yahsat 1B satellite and the Hughes HN System to provide its YahClick broadband Internet access and other applications to large and small enterprises, governments, and consumers in the Middle East, Africa, and Southwest Asia.
Russia, too, is jumping on the Ka bandwagon and is planning to launch new Ka-band satellites later in 2011 and in subsequent years. Hughes recently signed contracts with the Russian Satellite Communications Company (RSCC) and RTCOMM, a subsidiary of Rostelecom, to supply its Ka-band HN Systems and terminals for new Russia-wide satellite broadband services.
“Recognizing the enormous potential in Kaband, we immediately applied for Ka-band spectrum in the U.S. when it was released by the Federal Communications Commission,” said Cook. “Then we took the lead in the development of Ka-band systems with our groundbreaking SPACEWAY 3 system. And with our JUPITER program, Hughes is continuing to push the limits of Ka-band technology. “The fact that all of our major development effort over the last several years has gone into the development of our major Ka-band systems means that we’re able to keep a technological lead in the global Ka-band market,” added Cook.
Today, Ka-band initiatives are also under way in Australia and Latin America. Indeed, the scope of satellite broadband is so immense, it is challenging for the industry to move quickly enough to keep up with it. But there is no stopping the momentum. And as the world’s #1 provider of satellite broadband services and solutions, Hughes intends to stay at the forefront of the Ka-band explosion.