The Sky's the Limit: Part 2

Stephen Yagielowicz

Isn’t there a reasonable, "2-way" satellite option for folks like me without a 'CNN-sized' budget? In the first part of this series, I had investigated Hughes "DIRECWAY" satellite service, and was unfortunately unsatisfied due to the system’s slow upload speed, high latency, and excessive potential packet loss. Coming close but not quite to finding a ’perfect solution’ to my needs, I kept searching: Here‘s what else I found…

The poor video streaming (uploading, not downloading) and NetMeeting limitations leave me looking for a better option to the consumer level Hughes’ DIRECWAY system, and while I just might "settle" for this amazing system since it is a superior option to dial-up, the hope of finding a more suitable system lingers. Perhaps it was time to get serious with my search; and knowing that Hughes has been a long-term major player in the aerospace business, I thought that they would be the logical choice to continue investigating:

Moving Up to Business Class
While the DIRECWAY system offers small business options with static IP addresses and higher bandwidth availability through Earthlink, the fundamental issue of upload speed remained, and so a far more advanced ‘small business’ system was needed – and given the inexpensive pricing of the "home model," was probably available within my budget. It was then that I was teased by a glimpse into the future:

Hughes’ SPACEWAY is their next-generation satellite system, possessing unique capabilities that enable groundbreaking applications, and that will unlock a wealth of value-added DIRECWAY based services.

According to the Hughes Web site: "Operating in globally assigned Ka-band spectrum, SPACEWAY employs high-performance, on-board digital processing, packet switching and spot-beam technology to offer single-hop connectivity, regardless of location. Its mesh architecture allows customers to communicate directly via satellite, without connecting through a central retransmission service or hub. Bandwidth-on-demand means customers will only pay for the bandwidth their applications require, whether it's for low data rate transactions, or multi-megabit, video-intensive, media-rich content delivery.

With SPACEWAY, large businesses, telecommuters, small office/home office (SOHO) users and eventually consumers will have access to two-way, broadband applications, including telemedicine, desktop video conferencing and interactive distance learning operating at faster speeds and delivered more cost-effectively than by conventional terrestrial systems, such as frame relay. It will seamlessly integrate with existing land-based local and wide-area networks and be fully compatible with a wide range of communications industry standards. Imagine continent-wide coverage combined with mesh network capabilities... Now imagine download speeds as high as 50 Mbps and upload rates as fast as 16 Mbps — on demand and as required. With SPACEWAY, it will soon be possible."

'A Router in the Sky'
Wow! This ‘Jetsons’ level technology is really arousing me, and it doesn’t end there: Offering true ‘any-to-any’ connectivity, "SPACEWAY is the first satellite system to route traffic dynamically on the satellite, allowing for full-mesh connectivity: any site can communicate with any other site, or with many other sites. With SPACEWAY, there is no need to retransmit through a central hub facility, yielding lower latency and faster response times."

This is an exciting concept, as previously, most satellite systems simply transferred data between the NOCs (Network Operation Centers) that were used for routing, but this process will apparently be speeded up and improved upon in these next generation systems that will also provide users flexible bandwidth on demand, meaning that you will pay only for what you use. Am I destined to be stuck in the woods, dreaming about the high data rates that I’ll someday enjoy?

According to Hughes "…terrestrial bandwidth is purchased in ‘chunks’ — forcing customers to pay for enough capacity to accommodate their highest bandwidth applications, all the time, even though it may only be used intermittently. SPACEWAY provides the enormous advantage of only paying for bandwidth only when it is needed, enabling the occasional use of high-bandwidth applications, such as videoconferencing or large file transfers, without the need to commit to excessive over-capacity and long-term contracts. This not only reduces costs; it allows companies to allocate resources more efficiently."

This sounds like just the thing to accommodate my weekly Web casts, and is the kind of connectivity that I’m (as are many others, no doubt) talking about! Unfortunately, we’ll be ‘talking about it’ for about two more years, since it won’t be available until 2004... That’s all fine, but what about today? Am I destined to be stuck in the woods, dreaming about the high data rates that I’ll someday enjoy?

Coming Back Down to Earth
While the Hughes SPACEWAY system seems like the ‘someday’ solution to my needs, it does little to help me today; and so my search for an available, and affordable, remote-location broadband connection remains active, and is currently focused on 1USA Wireless Web which offers a 2-way system with a 512k downlink and a minimum 128k uplink guaranteed for $120 month with a $3500 fee for the 30" dish and related equipment. This is far more expensive than the DIRECWAY system, but boasts twice the upload speed.

Still, what I really need is something that will give me a sustained 128k upload, that is ‘burstable’ enough to accommodate a 300k video stream for a few hours, and that won’t ‘break the bank.’ Realizing that such a system might be available in a couple of years doesn’t help me today, so the hunt continues… ~ Stephen