Sunday, May 15, 2011

May Satellite Internet be Considered as Broadband Service?

A week ago we saw Australia's NBN selecting "Optus and Ipstar as interim satellite service providers in regional Australia as part of the National Broadband Network (NBN) rollout. The contracts with Optus and IPStar are worth $200 million and $100 million, respectively" (here).

The cons and pros of using 2-way satellite service as an access method for internet are well-known - the coverage advantages vs. the inherent delay and limited capacity.
A new document by Stephen Cobb (picture) analyzes these arguments, and reaches a conclusion that "Satellite Internet is not broadband". The document was prepared for RuMBA (Rural Mobile & Broadband Alliance), and therefore focuses on rural US.
See "Cobb’s Satellite Internet Whitepaper Published by Rural Mobile & Broadband Alliance" - here  and the document itself - "Satellite Internet Connection for Rural Broadband: Is it a viable alternative to wired and wireless connectivity for America’s rural communities?" - here.

Cobb lists 4 service gaps "disqualify satellite Internet connection from being classified as broadband": Latency, bandwidth, Price/Performance and Service Reliability (determined by weather and atmospheric conditions).

While Mr. Cobb experienced himself the good and bad in satellite service: "I’ve had a lot of experience using satellite Internet over the last 5 years. Until recently it was the only way to connect to the Internet from the cabin in Upstate New York where I live and work IF you wanted speeds above those of an old-fashioned dialup modem". Nevertheless, I must object to some of his arguments.

Bandwidth is indeed limited (therefore increasing price/performance - so 2 of the gaps are actually one) but modern traffic management systems can optimize the service, limiting the problem only to the latency issues (inherent). Assuming that bringing fixed service to remote locations will take time and huge investments, satellite remains as the only viable option.  Mr. Cobb does not suggest an alternative. 

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