Satellite Broadband Services

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1 Satellite Broadband Services Report to the UK Space Leadership Council by the Satellite Broadband Steering Group June 2011 Summary Satellite broadband services are likely to be part of the infrastructure mix delivering functional and higher speed broadband to homes and businesses in the UK given the aim is to provide universal coverage. It is in the interests of industry and Government to help ensure satellite services are as cost effective as possible and meet consumers reasonable needs on service provision and support. The decision maker is the individual consumer and their interests will be met if satellite is allowed to compete with other infrastructure technologies on a level playing field. This includes providing the consumer with information on all of the infrastructure options likely to available to them and neutrality on the provision of public sector support where this is necessary. The overseas markets for satellite broadband services will be far higher in value than the UK market and the opportunity for UK operators to supply services in these markets provides the opportunity for economic growth. Further, as demand for higher data rate services and capacity increases this is likely to drive operator investment in new satellites that can meet next generation needs. Investment of between 1 billion and 1.5 billion in new satellites and satellite technology will be needed to deliver fast broadband services 1 in Europe and has the potential at least to be rolled out faster and more economically than fibre in large parts of the continent that cannot access broadband 2. This will also provide a further growth opportunity for the UK if these satellite payloads are manufactured in the UK. 1 Fast broadband services are defined here as headline speeds exceeding 20 Mbps. 2 Britain s Superfast Broadband Future sets out that less than 60% of EU or OECD homes currently access broadband. 1

2 Satellite Broadband Satellite broadband has been in use in the UK since it was pioneered in the early 1990s when most consumers were using 56kbps dial up Internet access. Early consumer products were one-way (using the fixed line for the return path) but twoway satellite Internet products soon followed. Such systems use Ku-band satellites and the service offered is often perceived as slow and expensive. However, a new generation of satellites utilising Ka-band spectrum and geographic spot beams that can deliver broadband between 20 and 30 times more efficiently than legacy Kuband satellites have recently entered service. 3 These new broadband satellites using the Ka-band radio spectrum can offer higher data rate services for lower cost compared to those possible from existing Ku-band satellite services. This provides the first of several technology advances needed to better address the broadband marketplace. UK and overseas satellite operators are showing confidence in the Ka-band technology. The launch of Avanti Communications Hylas-1 satellite on the 26 November 2010, Europe s first Ka-band satellite, manufactured by UK industry, is one of two ordered by the company that is now providing broadband services in the UK (as well as overseas). Eutelsat launched their KaSat satellite on the 26 December which is offering capacity in the UK market. This follows developments in the US where ViaSat has secured around 500,000 Ka-band users and has also ordered new satellite capacity. Affordable satellite broadband for the general public is therefore a new and developing market. The success or otherwise of satellite broadband in the UK will be determined by the acceptance of this new technology in the market and the take up of satellite broadband capacity. A feature of this market is the value chain which comprises satellite operators selling wholesale capacity to intermediary satellite internet service providers, who set user charges and service levels (in effect, contention rates). The ISPs in turn sell to consumers through specialist satellite service providers (in essence dealers and installers that have local knowledge) who are responsible for installing the service and customer support. The UK therefore benefits from competition in the market for satellite broadband services provided by at least two competitors at the wholesale and consumer market levels. It is for this satellite sector value chain to provide a competitive offering in terms of installation costs, monthly service charges, speed and fair usage policies. The satellite broadband offer The user experience of satellite broadband will not be identical to that delivered over the fixed fibre network because satellites have a fixed transmission capacity and higher latency. 3 Satellite Broadband Steering Group s analysis. 2

3 However, there is a case for both technologies depending on the complexity and affordability of connecting homes and businesses at the edges of the fixed network. The characteristics of satellite broadband services have to be balanced against their ubiquity and consistency of service regardless of geographic location, and the simplicity and speed of deployment which requires only user terminal equipment. In addition to homes and businesses where satellite is likely to be the only economic technology for broadband, satellite is able to deploy broadband services much earlier to users not able to get broadband until the advance of fibre networks into their communities, which in some instances could take several years. Satellite is, therefore, a potential tactical option to deliver some level of service early and this is an additional market to the enduring need to connect remote homes and businesses that cannot otherwise be reached economically. If fixed networks are subsequently made available, satellite bandwidth can be allocated to other consumers and only the costs of the home installation will be written off. The SBSG estimates that satellite operators will have the capacity to deliver up to 150,000 functional 4 broadband connections in the UK by mid-2011 using satellites that have been recently launched, increasing to 225,000 connections by 2012 and 300,000 connections by the end of 2014 as further satellites on order are added to the network. These satellites are expected to offer headline broadband speeds of up to 10Mbit/s with service level agreements ('SLAs'). The SLAs will set out service performance, reliability and servicing standards. The management of satellite capacity is complex but consumers will have an entry-level fair usage cap of around 4 Gbytes per month. Installation costs are expected to be between 400 and 600 before operator subsidy and monthly costs are expected to be between 20 and 25. Higher capacities will be available at higher cost, with a doubling of the fair usage capacity for a user approximately doubling the monthly cost. Longer term consumer contracts with operators may reduce installation or monthly cost. Satellite broadband performance is an area where there are differing views within the SBSG regarding the available bandwidth per customer and the impact of latency on higher data rate and delay sensitive applications such as VoIP, Skype, voice and high-intensity interactive gaming. There is evidence that supports both the views that these are drawbacks for satellite services or are not material problems for most real world user applications. For example, voice communications, which are highly context sensitive, may be suitable for social and emergency uses. More demanding applications such as multi-participant business telephone or video links need to be proved. Around 20% of all satellite traffic globally is used for cellular voice and data backhaul to mobile network masts 5, which suggests that latency in these applications does not deter a major use of satellite for these purposes. Input from US satellite broadband provider Wildblue (owned by ViaSat Inc) suggests that satellite broadband services of 1.5Mbit/s provisioned at a contention ratio of 50:1 provide an acceptable consumer experience, and the forthcoming generation of 4 Functional means the ability to deliver headline speeds up to 10Mbit/s downstream, but limited in terms of sustained throughput rate. 5 Source: EADS Astrium. 3

4 the Wildblue service (following the launch of ViaSat-1 this year) is likely to increase headline consumer bandwidths to 8Mbit/s and as high as 12Mbit/s. The satellite industry is up for the challenge to further prove the acceptability of satellite performance to consumers in the marketplace. Any systematic evaluation of satellite broadband services will need to be based on the new satellite broadband infrastructure now just entering service in Europe. Demand for Ka-band capacity in the UK Avanti customers on existing satellite broadband schemes will be the first to benefit from improvements in service quality offered by these new satellites at no additional costs to themselves. Eutelsat and other satellite operators are expected to adopt similar service improvement policies. There are still some 2 million homes and businesses in the UK that cannot access a good level of broadband 6. In order to meet the Coalition Government s objective of providing virtually all homes and businesses in the UK with functional broadband, BDUK estimate that between 100,000 and 200,000 of these homes and businesses will be served by satellite as there is no sensible economic alternative 7. Beyond this, satellite will compete with other technologies in areas where it is uneconomic to deploy a high-speed fixed network infrastructure, as set out by BDUK in its recent document Broadband Delivery UK Theoretical Exercise Conclusions and Lessons Learned. Fast Internet Broadband from Satellite Higher speed connections and greater throughput to a much larger number of UK customers are readily possible beyond 2015 if the satellite industry invests in new satellite capacity. The industry s ability to make these investments will require sustained revenue streams from the assets to be launched by In anticipation of increases in required broadband speeds, the space industry is developing innovative mechanisms to increase the throughput of satellites. The most important aspect of this is likely to be delivering video content for entertainment. The emerging technology that has greatest potential is to deliver broadcast video and broadband content separately using a mix of local caching and smart EPG technology, but delivered seamlessly to consumers through one dish and modem. Avanti is already planning to demonstrate the basic technology using support from the Technology Strategy Board. In parallel, some consumer electronics manufacturers and broadcasters in Europe have created and standardised Hybrid Broadcast and Broadband TV ( HBB TV ). HbbTV supports a browser-based TV user interface that provides seamless access to broadcast and web-based content and 6 Britain s Superfast Broadband Future, December Based on the BDUK estimate that between 0.5% and 1% of the 27 million homes and businesses in the UK will be served by satellite. Numbers in the paper account for the fact that the likely take-up rate is expected to be around 70% and are rounded. 4

5 services. HbbTV services may be deployed in some European countries in Satellite could play a significant role in delivering HbbTV services 8. Substantial new investment of the order of between 1 billion and 1.5 billion will be required by operators and manufacturers to deliver a staged build of satellites that can deliver fast, high capacity, services with headline downstream speeds between 20 Mbps and 24 Mbps 9. Satellite operators are already planning this deployment and this could result in some elements of fast broadband being delivered to remote regions faster than the fixed infrastructure and potentially at lower cost. The picture on the necessary investment and satellite orders to do this will become clear over the next 12 months. Such a satellite network will not be developed for the UK alone and the majority of capacity will be directed at export markets. Substantive technology improvements envisaged are a ten-fold increase in bandwidth through greater numbers of smaller spot beams that enable greater frequency re-use, but at no further cost to consumers. However, such technology could deliver capacity to provide some of the capabilities of fast broadband to up to 6 million customers that could enable satellite to compete for higher market share in the UK and overseas markets. 10 Export Markets Overseas markets might be an important generator of revenues and profits for UK operators given the export market for satellite broadband is far larger than the domestic market. Many fast-growing regions have less well developed existing fixed networks than the UK or Europe. A competitive offering and UK market acceptance of satellite broadband will provide an important springboard into overseas markets but success in the volume of overseas sales is likely to be independent of the exact number of UK connections sold. The global market for satellite broadband services is estimated to be worth between 1.5 billion and 15 billion by There are regulatory and access to capital issues that are potentially raised by satellite broadband services to UK and export markets. The highly international nature of satellite operations makes the fairness and smooth running of international agreements on allocating geostationary orbital slots and contiguous radio spectrum particularly important. UK satellite operators are producing plans of 8 HbbTV is different to delivering broadband and broadcast services through one dish. The latter would require each signal to be transmitted by the same satellite or by satellites that are close together in orbit. This is already the case with the Eutelsat KaSat which is located next to the Eutelsat Hotbird TV broadcast service. Avanti s HYLAS satellite has both a Ka-broadband and Ku-band broadcast capability. 9 Satellite Broadband Steering Group s analysis. 10 Satellitte Broadband Steering Group s analysis & Analysys Mason data. 11 This is a scale estimate only. Based on the assumption that around 25% of the World s households and businesses in 2030 will be able to access internet services, creating a demand for around 1 billion connections. If million connections (1-10%) require satellite services at 150 per annum then this market could be worth at highest scale 15 billion per annum. No account is taken of poorer existing geographical coverage of broadband infrastructure in many markets which could lead to higher satellite penetration rates, ability to pay, nor developments in mobile broadband connections. Political commitments in developed countries such as the USA and Australia for universal broadband access suggests this may be sensible for a first estimate, and will be updated as further market studies become available from ESA and other sources. 5

6 future slot and spectrum needs that will set out the economic benefits to the UK of such allocations. These are being taken forward by other work streams that are part of the Innovation and Growth Strategy Implementation. Recommendations There are clear needs to improve market awareness of satellite broadband services; improve the perception of existing users that new generation services are an improvement on existing, Ku-Band, services; and set a significant pace to market take-up. The SBSG therefore recommends that the satellite industry should: energetically market satellite broadband services in target markets in the UK with competitive offerings for service performance, costs, fair usage caps and customer support; continue with current plans to move existing satellite customers from older to new satellite services as a priority as new capacity becomes available; manage the complex issues around capacity sharing and through the delivery value chain to avoid over-subscribing services as happened with the rapid take up of services in the US; work closely with Broadband Delivery UK and local communities to promote early and cost-effective introduction of satellite services through clearly articulating the satellite broadband offer and engage fully in BDUK s local procurement exercises; and define further high-capacity satellite solutions with manufacturers and continue to develop innovative technologies, including the provision of seamless broadband and broadcast systems. We welcome Government and Broadband Delivery UK s announced commitments to: o deliver a minimum of 2 Mbit/s broadband to virtually every home and business in the UK by 2015; and o be technology neutral in the way that it procures broadband infrastructure in the UK. We therefore request the following support in relation to the upcoming broadband procurements: o assist in communicating to stakeholders (including local authorities, consumers and local procurement decision makers) the capabilities and benefits of satellite broadband and how it fits in the mix of potential technical solutions for the most challenging locations; o ensure that service level agreements ( SLAs ) for services for users in the most challenging locations do not set operating performance at a level that excludes satellites services; 6

7 o leave open the option for satellite broadband services as broadly as possible. There are prospects for satellite in both the subsidised delivery to not spots and to early adopters in the open market that will want early access to better broadband speeds; o consider a central procurement of satellite and other long-reach broadband services (e.g. BET) for those remote UK homes and businesses that can be identified as almost certainly requiring a such a connection to get broadband. This will enable operators to access economies of scale in customer equipment and installation that might be lost if procurement is fragmented 12. This will also provide the opportunity for procuring bodies to deliver connections early to known problem areas. The recent launch of next generation satellite broadband services provides local decision makers with an option to deliver broadband early to the most remote homes and businesses that are unlikely to be connected to terrestrial networks. This is based on the fact that satellite broadband is ubiquitous and available now. Satellite operators believe that early adoption of satellite broadband will incentivise investment in further capacity. Further Work In addition to the points and recommendations made above, the SBSG suggests that further work which is required to fully meet the original Terms of Reference set for the group: scope the potential for carbon emissions savings from having broadcast and broadband services delivered from space infrastructure and set out how this helps the ICT sector deliver growth and reduced emissions given strong growth in data use and transmission; set out specific overseas target markets for broadband together with the potential for growth and revenues in region; and conclude existing studies on (i) the US experience of delivering satellite broadband and users perception of service and (ii) analysis of the likely applications (other than video) that will drive high-speed symmetric services. 12 We envisage that such long reach services could be procured as a call down contract in blocks of several thousand at a time. 7

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