Buying Smart Satellite Services – 5 key points for network architects & buyers

Buying Smart Satellite Services - 5 Key points for network architects & buyers

Written by Staff Writer

26/05/2021

By Dr Dawie de Wet, Group CEO of Q-KON and Chief Engineer for Twoobii

 

Smart Satellite Services are the new generation broadband satellite services delivering IP access over satellite communication channels. These services are developed with a focus on the business sector and don’t suffer from the old misconceptions and myths that satellite is slow, expensive and has a latency problem. This discussion provides insight that these services are not only a different technology from fibre and wireless, but that they should also be approached with a different design and buying methodology. 

 

It’s a niche service 

The very first point to make is that the satellite is a niche service. It is not a competitor technology to 5G and fibre, but rather an alternative connectivity solution for situations where its unique advantages are applicable to the challenging situations often found in Africa. 

What is important in this discussion is to realise the business implication of this position. From a revenue versus investment point of view we explain the satellite business case as “too small for the big ones and too big for the small ones”. Meaning the business case is not strong enough to be of real interest to the major Telcos in the industry ie: Telkom, Vodacom, MTN etc… and at the same time the speciality and investment level has moved satellite beyond the reach of the niche ISP’s previously building satellite networks.  While this “gap” creates the perfect market positioning for specialist providers like Q-KON with the Twoobii-on-Flex service, it does have specific implications to the designing and buying market. 

Point #1 is that for any network architect or access procurement team, they need to understand that satellite is a niche service and should be approached with a different paradigm. 

 

Marketing & Awareness 

When shopping for a niche specialist service you can’t expect the “big” market voices to drive the knowledge discussion.  In the tech-biased world of today we generally learn about new technologies through the marketing campaigns of the leading providers. We first learnt about 3G, LTE and 5G through the marketing efforts of the Telco’s, and then some of us did more research while the rest of us still only know what those marketing campaigns want us to know. 

The most important point for buyers to note is that for niche services you can’t just trust brand value as a guarantee for success. The major Telco’s might still have satellite broadband as a service in their portfolio due to some legacy developments – yet it is highly unlikely that they have kept up with development in expertise, technology and the foundations required to deliver the smart satellite service of today and the future. 

Point #2 is that “the biggest voices” are not from the specialists, they are not the providers who are fully informed on the service you need. Speak to the specialists for a niche smart satellite service.


Network Architecture  

We are discussing Smart Satellite Services. This is not vanilla out-the-box broadband satellite services. This is a subset of the satellite technology field and probably the most specialised area in the field of network connectivity. 

Smart Satellite Services offer features such as layer-2-over-satellite, advanced quality-of-service options, implementing your network IP architecture preferences, application defined billing systems, etc… These networks offer tangible business benefits when the network architecture team works closely to enable a seamless integration to the terrestrial core. 

Point #3 is that from a user perspective you need to look for service providers that can deliver on this requirement. You need to look for Service Providers who have these architecture teams, you need to be prepared to go through an architecture process to unlock the true benefits of smart satellite services, you can’t just shop from the major Telcos and you should not just shop from a product price list.

 

Supply & Delivery 

Smart Satellite Services are quick and ready. It is the option that can solve your problem tomorrow morning, or the solution you need on a Friday afternoon to restore business critical services lost to a fibre failure. Satellite services is not terrestrial infrastructure dependent, it works perfectly on your alternative generator power supply, it doesn’t have a loadshedding risk or a service failure risk due to battery theft on towers. 

To make all of this a reality you need to look for the specialist team that can move as quickly as your business needs. A Service Provider who is focussed on this field of expertise, who has adapted their corporate processes to be agile and match the delivery demands of this niche service.  These Service providers maintain stock at different depots, they have field delivery teams nation-wide and can get all the contracts and paperwork done without delaying your business. 

Point #4 is to realise that any specialist product in the hands of a generalist leads to a general outcome.  In the delivery value chain the smallest denominator is the capabilities of the service provider. Specialist service provider teams are your powerful option when it gets to the delivery of a niche service. 

 

Support 

Service failure is always due to the satellite link – or at least that is the view of all standard call centres. If the site is down, it must be the satellite link – right? Maybe more accurately is that because there is a satellite link as part of the service, and because the large majority of service calls are not satellite related, and the general understanding of satellite services in call centre teams is limited –  it’s more likely “here is a piece I don’t really know, so that must be the problem”. 

Rightly or wrongly when you shop for satellite services you need to partner with Providers that understand this. Providers that have developed the capabilities to work “upstream” into the customer value chain and fault-find on an end-to-end architecture level. These teams don’t operate on a “it’s not the satellite link so it’s not our problem” approach.

Point #5 is to realise that while Satellite is the most reliable technology and is the least likely to fail, it is also the least understood and hence the first culprit to blame for service failures by general support teams. You need a Specialist Service Provider that understands this and is ready to work with your team.

 

Conclusion

Smart Satellite Services such as Twoobii-on-Flex by Intelsat offer network architects and solution development teams real connectivity advantages to unlock tangible business benefits. The key point to note is that these specialist services are not in the domain of the large Telcos and as such you will not get the most up-to-date information marketed to you by their large-scale marketing campaigns.  Equally you will probably get a compromised outcome if you partner with a generalist Telco to deliver a specialist service.

You need to look-up the specialist providers such as the Q-KON Africa team who is a specialist “off-grid” service provider and has more than 30 years servicing this sector. These service providers have established the end-to-end network delivery capabilities needed to seamlessly deliver the benefits of specialist services – Smart Satellite Services – to you. 

 

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