Wireless Backhauling Via Satellite Broadband and WiMax
Satellite broadband and WiMax are converging to put their complementary features into a more profitable use. WiMax operators and satellite broadband providers should team up to ensure their long-term market survival through more efficient mobile backhaul.
The exponential rise in Internet traffic is good for satellite broadband providers as it gives them a chance to dominate the marginalized segments of the market, particularly those in remote regions where landline and mobile telecommunication are substandard or not even possible. But bandwidth scarcity does not necessarily mean stiffer competition among satellite carriers and terrestrial Internet operators. WiMax operators and satellite broadband providers can partner with one another to ensure their long-term market survival.
WiMax (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) is one of the youngest wireless broadband technologies. Based on IEE 802.16, what was first intended as a last-mile
solution for broadband channels became a popular standard that competes directly with traditional ISPs but offers alternative mobile backhaul solution for satellite broadband providers. This adaptive Internet technology works well in point-to-point networks and wireless environment, making it an ideal backhaul for Wi-Fi and GSM communications.
Traditional carriers see WiMax as a big threat. Its competitors include the mobile phone, cable and DSL industries. WiMax is too young compared with these sectors. In 2007, the industry lost its bid to win the C-band spectrum, which put the sector at a more vulnerable position. With no single global frequency, WiMax providers face more wireless transmissions issues and financial burden. With orders of magnitude fewer than UMTS technology, WiMax carriers find it hard to operate on the same economies of scale as DSL and cable ISPs.
The Prospects of Satellite Broadband-WiMax Backhaul
Satellite broadband and WiMax are converging to put their complementary features into a more profitable use. Although WiMax is known to have C-band interference issues, hybrid satellite-WiMax backhaul has been proven to be an effective wireless transmission medium for both organizational and consumer markets. The merger of Norsat International Inc. with Bluemoon 4G Ltd, an Irish WiMax provider, has helped Norsat widened its terrestrial market rapidly. The reliability and speed of WiMax also moved Globalstar to integrate it to its ancillary terrestrial services.
Perhaps, one of the most successful mergers of satellite broadband and WiMax is that of Schlumberger and ERF. Satellite carrier Schlumberger was able to increase its wireless Internet speed and service coverage for oil companies in North America.
Adopting WiMax into its wireless solutions greatly reduced the latency caused by weather disturbances to which satellite broadband is very vulnerable. Before the deal, the satellite carrier could only operate an average satellite circuit capacity of 128 kilobits per second, but after using WiMax, its capacity increased to 1.5 megabits per second. As a result, the oil rigging operations of its clientele improved due to faster and timely transmission of real-time data.
The introduction of LTE last year opened up more rooms for competition. Satellite broadband companies and WiMax providers will see more consolidation in the industry, but synergistic partnership rather than vertical merger can be more mutually beneficial for both sectors.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Harold Beckham is a market researcher specializing in satellite broadband markets with focus on the Middle East, African, North American and European regions. His recent works involved project planning for Asian, Australian and Afghan satellite networks.