Satellite Communications

Satellite Communications has become the standard for organisations with a low density regional or global reach requirement. Companies involved in mining, exploration and construction in remote areas not serviced with cellular or fixed line networks use satellite communications for voice and data communications at site. 

The technology has three major groups of products, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the wrong range can be an expensive and frustrating exercise! 

Technology Comparison Chart 

Technology

Description

Advantages

Disadvantages

VSAT

Uses 1.2m + dish.

Regional coverage, (by continent).

Simpler network requirements
than Iridium and IMMARSAT,
bringing more service providers into
the market.

Private and semi-private networks.

Primarily a data service with VOlP
services overlaid to provide voice comms.

Ideally suited for remote project
offices where multiple users expect
similar ITC services to the city.

High Bandwidth
(up to 2Mb)

Best price for large
bandwidth users.

Through VOlP based
service providers,
provides cost
effective
telephony services.

Hard to make semi portable,
(requires skilled people to
relocate system or
expensive self
steering technology).

Becomes expensive
for intercontinental use.

Hardware is expensive,
(entry level costs 15K+).

Requires skilled personnel
to deploy.

IMMARSAT BGAN

Small directional antenna.

Provides voice and data services, (Hi and
standard quality voice & data to 496Kbps).

Also does 160 character text, (similar to SMS).

Shared system, (similar to a phone and ADSL).

Ideally suited for small groups, (1-5 people),
where voice and data connectivity is
important but not required on a
constant basis.

Easy to deploy by users.

Good products in the
market to provide voice
and data services.

Low cost terminals,
(entry level is 3K+).

Voice and data at the
same time.

Entry level products
are small enough to
fit in a laptop bag!

Not real well suited for
truly mobile use.
The antenna
is directional.

 

Iridium

Ideally suited for voice.

Cheap hardware and services.

Truly mobile, (most locomotives in Australia
use Iridium).

Ideally suited for single user use where data is
rarely or not required.

Most terminals also have GSM capability.

Easy to deploy.

Can be used whilst mobile.

Lowest capital outlay.

Not good for data.

More expensive than BGAN.

 

 

 

 

Case Study: Remote Location Project Office 

 

VSAT

Requirements

  • 2-6 people on site.
  • No 3G services.
  • No or poor fixed line, fax and high speed data.
  • Require phones, fax and high speed data.
  • Has an IT network on site.
  • Company WAN connectivity

Solution

VSAT is the best choice for this application and consists of a fixed-location system (at the project office itself), generally with a 1.2m or 1.8m dish installed and a modem placed inside the office, normally collocated with the server. We use a VoIP service gateway to connect up to eight standard telephones or a PABX to the network.

Future Systems can provide voice and data connectivity via their iDirect network to the Australasian region and South Pacific. For coverage into South East Asia and beyond, Future Systems can arrange services through other partner companies.

We can drop in a data service with a direct connection to the internet with speeds between 256 Kb and 2 Mb anywhere in the Australasian region. We can then provide VoIP services via either our VoIP service provider, or integrated with a company-wide VoIP network. We can also arrange a direct-managed IP service between your company's IT network and our earth station in Adelaide to bring the remote office completely into the company WAN.

The iDirect service is very similar to the level of service from a standard ADSL circuit in Australia. This also brings with it some compromise as it is a shared service, such that bandwidth can be compromised in high traffic situations. It is possible to gain exclusive use of a service but this comes at a cost premium.

Entry-level systems in the Australasian region using VSAT start at around 15K AUD installed, (depending on location), and low bandwidth, non VoIP 24 month plans start at less than $500/month, with high bandwidth, 8 VoIP line services below $4K/month, including 40Gb up/download and most phone calls.

   

 

 

Case Study: Exploration Team office / accommodation 

 

Requirements

  • 1-6 people on site
  • Voice and data
  • Internet access
  • Emails up to 1Mb
  • Site is occasionally redeployed
  • Location could be anywhere on the globe

IMMARSAT

Solution

IMMARSAT® BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) is an obvious choice for this application.  The BGAN is a mobile satellite service that offers high-speed data up to 492 kbps and voice telephony. BGAN enables users to access e-mail, corporate networks and the Internet, transfer files and make telephone calls. The Inmarsat® BGAN services are based on geostationary satellites situated above the equator. Each satellite covers a certain area (footprint).

Typical hardware for this technology includes a small directional antenna (often integrated with the transceiver), which is easily deployable by the semi-skilled operator. Higher-tier versions of this hardware allow for a more sophisticated IT solution (such as inbuilt routers ), with a self-tracking antenna more suited to the permanent installation.

Unlike VSAT, most BGAN terminals are already built with a standard telephone interface so you can plug in your favourite telephone (fixed or wireless), handset or small PABX. Many terminals also include Bluetooth or wired handsets.

Entry-level BGAN systems start at around $AU 4,000 and services typically start at $US 40 per month plus call costs. For higher volume use (up to 30Gb/month) there are now very good plans starting at around $1600/month that are bridging the gap between what BGAN was used for and where one might consider VSAT. VSAT is still your solution for high bandwidth applications (up to 2Mb throughput) but BGAN the right option for applications that would use ADSL in the city.  

 Packet
   

 

Case Study: Lone user in a remote location

 

Requirements

  • Single operator
  • Doesn’t require data
  • Requires high mobility
  • Often in an area serviced by GSM

 

 Solution

Iridium is the preferred solution in this instance.  It can be used whilst mobile and it is truly portable, coming in handheld and vehicle mounted form factors. Iridium is not good for data. It has very low speed data capability (2.4Kbps – which was the normal modem speed for internet in the mid 90s), and the call costs are about 50% higher than BGAN.

Most Iridium phones are also GSM capable such that when in a GSM covered area, they fall back to GSM, dramatically reducing call costs but having the one phone number.  Costs for terminals start at just below $2,000 for a handheld satellite phone, and reach $5,000 for a Pelican-case style transceiver. 

There are also off-the-shelf “SatRadio” systems that integrate a UHF radio with a Sat Phone.

To put this in perspective, to reach the point where VSAT becomes the preferred option, you would need to be downloading in excess of 100Mb and on the phone for 200 minutes per month, consistently over a period of 24 months.

 RapidSat
 Iriduim