VSAT is a short form for Very Small Aperture Terminals. There are three main components of the VSAT Technology – The Satellite, A Central Hub (With a Big Dish Antenna) and a number of smaller dish antennas kept at various remote locations that together form a Star topology using the satellite network.
Therefore, basically, all the antennas communicate with the central hub through the satellite as the medium for such communications. In case additional networks (Internet, terrestrial MPLS, etc) need to be integrated with this VSAT network, they can be done at a NOC (Network Operations Center) at the central hub.
How VSAT is beneficial to you
Access in Remote Locations
has been the traditional strength of Satellite Networks. A Satellite in the Geo Synchronous orbit can cover around 33% of the earth’s surface and provide connectivity to any region covered by it. A satellite can also focus on a particular high density region and multiple satellites can work mutually to provide global coverage. This is very useful for remote locations (rural areas, ships and coastal regions, hills, etc) where there is limited or no terrestrial connectivity
Voice and Video
A VSAT network can today carry data as well as latency sensitive applications like voice and video. That’s why the Cable TV, Internet Radio and other technologies have found applications in real life situations. Even IP based applications like audio and video streaming are possible (Eg. Digital Signage applications)
A VSAT Network can provide Internet access in addition to the point to point links. .
Once the Satellite is put in to its orbit, the deployment at the customer premises can be done if the equipment is available, with minimum training. And the deployment can be done in any region, irrespective of where it is located
Satellites support encryption of all data transmitted between two sites or multiple sites, which make the creation of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) possible. This is one reason why the VSAT networks could find more acceptance in the corporate and Government/ Defense connectivity requirements.
VSAT Networks support QoS (Quality of Service) and Layer 2 prioritization policies to be applied across the Wide Area Network link which enables real time applications to be deployed across the network.
Mobile access has been another traditional strength of a satellite network. This makes TV broadcasters (for instance) make broadcasts from anywhere – even when they are on the move. Another possible application could be mobile Internet access, while on the move.
It is possible to allocate/ restrict bandwidth based on individual applications – this could be a very useful feature for business communications, ensuring that critical business applications like ERP always have a certain dedicated bandwidth across the VSAT networks.
VSAT networks can be easily and cost effectively be scaled to accommodate multiple locations across the globe. In fact, some of the largest customers of VSAT networks have as many as 10,000 sites on a single network!
Though the initial investment might be high in terms of the cost of satellites and putting them in the orbit, the running cost is decreasing swiftly – That’s why applications like Cable TV are broadcasted directly from satellites to homes at a reasonable cost to the subscriber.
VSAT networks are standards based and support IP (Internet Protocol) and its variants through a protocol called IPoS (Internet Protocol over Satellite). Since the developments are standards based, it enables the creation of a healthy ecosystem of terminal, hub and ancillary equipment manufacturers and hence new innovations and improvements are quicker.
Satellite Networks are very dependable (having up-times in the magnitude of 99.5% and above) and have been field weathered for many years now. For instance, Mission critical applications like Bank ATM’s, Navy and Point of Sale appliances use VSAT!
Back-up to Terrestrial Networks:
VSAT networks have always found applications in this area – they make a good back up network to the terrestrial networks (Leased Lines, MPLS circuits, Broadband DSL Connectivity, Internet Leased Lines, etc) and there are certain customized plans available for backup exclusively with satellite service providers that charge for only 5% of the monthly capacity when the VSAT connection is used exclusively for backup. VSAT networks are also not affected by natural calamities like earthquakes, storms etc. Some network routers come with optional VSAT modules for terminating the VSAT links and providing auto fail-over during the failure of terrestrial network links.
Inter-operation with Terrestrial Networks:
An area where the VSAT service providers are getting stronger is the comprehensive network provision (through partnerships with terrestrial service providers) and management. Through this, they can give, MPLS networks in the metro areas and VSAT networks in the rural areas for the same company – both of them can inter-operate with each other acting as a single network!
Satellite transmissions are single hop (mostly) when compared to the multiple hops that the communications based on terrestrial networks needs to take to reach to their destination. Some factors like router performance etc, depends on multiple service providers and hence end to end QoS may not be possible with terrestrial public networks.
Bandwidth on Demand:
VSAT networks support and are better suited for Bandwidth on Demand services than their terrestrial counterparts.
Cost per connection is independent of the location/ distance:
With a VSAT network, the cost per antenna is independent on the number of antennas and also distance between the various antennas. Compare that with Leased Lines, where the cost increases with more nodes and distance between the two locations. IPLC/International MPLS and other such global communication links are very expensive on terrestrial networks.