Nothing on earth can fill the demand for broadband access to isolated areas

As Telesat’s Anik F2 satellite is scheduled to become operational this month, the industry remains cautiously optimistic, hoping to expand service with the provision of affordable broadband Internet services to previously unserved areas.

For now, Telesat high-speed satellite internet is designed

primarily to service customers who don’t have access to broadband Internet.

“”Primarily what they (Telesat) are going to be able to do is to offer high speed internet services to previously non-served areas throughout Canada”” says Roberta Fox, President of Markham, Ont.-based Fox Group Consulting. “”It is going to be geographic locations that haven’t got the high volume of subscribers that haven’t been able to afford to put in the high speed any other way.””

Markets include forestry, fishing

While much of that market exists in the north, it could also include areas in the south that do not generate enough business revenue to justify putting in digital subscriber line (DSL) or other broadband technologies.

“”Twenty per cent or more of Canadians and 30 per cent of Americans will never have access to broadband because it is not cost-effective to plow fibre through the northern tundra or the Canadian Shield”” says Paul Bush, Telesat’s vice president of broadcast and corporate development.

“”That 20-30 per cent is a big number, a couple of million in Canada and almost 10 million in the U.S and so that is the target.””

Like faxes and cell phones in the 1980s, having a satellite dish was, until recently somewhat of a status symbol.

“”The Ka band on Anik F2 is primarily designed for consumers, consumers first and foremost, and to bring the cost down, to be able to get something between 150-160 dollars a month you need to have them,”” says Bush.

“”It used to cost $1,300 to $1,500 to get a 56 Kbps link and supposedly Telesat says they are going to be offering cost effective high speed in those areas”” says Fox. “”So my guess is to be competitive, it will probably have to be less than $100 a month.””

Typically the customer for satellite services includes resource-based companies that operated in remote regions of the country such as forestry and fishing.

Others, such as the oil sector, were required to transfer large amounts of data to and from remote areas over an extended period of time.

San Jose, Calif.-based Globalstar L.P., which provides voice and data services through 48 low earth orbiting satellites, points to the example of commercial fishing, and remote area monitoring, as factors creating new demand for satellite communications services.

“”With commercial fishing there are specific regulations now that a number of vessels have to adhere to with respect to tracking and monitoring,”” says Dean Hirasawa, director of marketing and distribution support for Globalstar Canada. “”And for those people who are using phones or using telecommunications in remote areas satellite is certainly one solution that can help them out whereas before they were unreachable.””

But for now, the satellite industry does not anticipate any major expansion beyond its traditional customer base.

More demand for video streaming

“” I have not had enterprise customers that are talking broadband quality, or broadband bandwidth via satellite; most of them have fibre optics”” says Fox. “”Unless they want it as an alternative.””

Business customers wanting to transfer data over satellite links will be one of the drivers of growth in the enterprise market for satellite services, according to Globalstar executives.

“”I think there is no question in renewed focus on data whether it is large files or small files,”” says Steve Bell, general manager for Globalstar Canada “”There is just a lot more applications that customers are looking at today on satellite because in some cases you can compete with cellular because your coverage area is much broader than typical cellular.””

Others see a growing network of applications involving satellite services.

“”For businesses, for enterprises what you are seeing is a move towards more video, you are seeing a move towards more streaming, you are seeing a move towards more ubiquitous or common system across an enterprise,”” Bush says.

Expanding high-speed Internet to remote areas will bring other benefits, Fox says.

“”The provision of high speed in remote areas can help with things like attracting doctors, attracting professionals to support those towns and regions,”” says Fox.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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