Are you a satellite company or are you a networking company?
We are both. We are a networking company in that, when fully operational, we will effectively have 78 MPLS ‘routers in space’, completely covering the earth. Each one of them is connected with the four others surrounding it, resulting in a fully meshed and redundant infrastructure, very well suited for both distribution and trunking. The inter-satellite connections are done by laser which will have this 'optical network in space' operate at speeds that are one and a half times faster than a regular MPLS network connected with fiber. This comes with great advantages for a wide range of applications that are of interest to many of our customers.
However, as these routers will be on-board a satellite spacecraft, we are clearly also a satellite company. We will design, launch and fly these satellites like any other satellite company and our customers will get access to the constellation in Ka band which is of course widely used in this industry.
In combining satellite and network technology, we have brought together people from both industries to develop this solution that truly synergizes and takes benefit from both worlds.
You talk about a ‘New Satellite Architecture for Data’. What does that mean?
As we move to a more data centric world the traditional satellite architecture of 'bent pipe' is quickly starting to show its limitations. Bent pipe means that whatever is transmitted to a satellite needs to come down straight away. While this has worked well to connect our continents back in the 60s and 70s of the previous century, and still works well for DTH video applications, it does not work well for data.
Using that type of technology for data requires the use of many earth stations with antennas that are connected to terrestrial infrastructure to carry the traffic to its final destination and/or beyond the reach of the satellite. This is suboptimal to say the least and comes with a great amount of expense and operational requirements. In addition, there is the high-latency caused by the distance the satellites have to earth. While only annoying for voice and video applications, for data communication it is truly a limiting factor in reaching the desired performance or simply a showstopper for certain applications to work.
LeoSat’s ‘New Satellite Architecture’ steps away from bent-pipe. We transfer data from satellite to satellite without having to come down to earth, as is required with ‘bent pipe’. This way, we are able to carry traffic from where it originates all the way across the globe to where it needs to terminate without touching anything on the ground until it reaches its destination. As obvious as this architecture may sound from a networking perspective, it is truly unique for high speed data in the satellite industry. In addition to this, our satellites are in the polar orbit. This implies that contrary to geostationary infrastructure we are truly global and also cover e.g. the Arctic regions, unserved by traditional satellite infrastructure.
In summary: we cover the entire earth and are able to set up a connection from anywhere to everywhere, effectively in one straight line and within minutes. That’s both new and unique.
LeoSat is targeting many industries - Oil &Gas, Corporate Networking, Government etc. Why are all these very different types of industries interested in your solution?
Indeed, there is a lot of interest in our solution from many industries, not just from the three listed. The main reason for this broad interest lies in our unique capabilities and service attributes. We have a lot to offer beyond the traditional ‘does your satellite cover my region and what is the dbW and G/T ?”.
So let's go over these unique capabilities and service attributes one by one:
With these unique capabilities, which go well beyond a satellite coverage map and dbW’s, there is a lot to choose from for many companies that are looking to satisfy their data communication requirements. The oil and gas industry is typically interested in the ubiquitous nature of our solution in combination with low latency. Corporate networking is more about security and symmetry. Government applications are more about rapid deployment in combination with low latency. In fast, the list of customers interested in our services and the reasons behind it is growing. Our customers are discovering more areas for deployment of our services on a daily basis. The general feedback is that in combining satellite and networking technology, we have entered new and uncharted territory which comes with great opportunities for our customers.
So ultimately, it is all about the ability to setup Instant and Superior Infrastructure from Anywhere to Everywhere.
Why is low latency important? I thought in satellite technology high latencies have been successfully addressed and are currently a ‘non-issue’?
Low latency has always been important and has never been a non-issue. Actually, given that we are moving towards a more data centric world, it will be increasingly important! Even for the most straightforward types of data applications such as web browsing, the difference between high or low latency is very noticeable. By introducing additional technology and additional equipment, the satellite industry has certainly mitigated some of the negative effects of high latency, but it has certainly not been able to reduce it to a non-issue. For web browsing for example, a technology called ‘prefetching’ has been developed. While it has contributed positively to the quality of the user-experience, it is still nowhere near the user-experience when using low latency infrastructure such as fiber. For other applications such as voice or computer-to-computer communication, other technologies have been developed but again, they only mitigate the negative effects, they do not solve them. What the additional technology has also done however, is that it has increased the operational requirements for maintaining a ground infrastructure to facilitate the satellite network. By introducing additional hardware, we have seen an increase in costs, architectural compromises and a reduction in operational availability. Because our infrastructure is very close to the earth's surface, our latencies are only 10% of traditional satellite infrastructure and comparable with fiber. So the additional investment and operational requirements associated with building the ground infrastructure to mitigate the effects of satellites’ high latencies, have become obsolete. And what's more important, the user experience is comparable or better to that of fiber and we will carry all traffic in its native form, without the need for any type of additional infrastructure. So while saving costs, we improve the quality.
How can LeoSat be faster than fiber?
It is all down to physics: Light travels faster in free space than it does in a fiber optic cable. So once a fiber optic cable reaches a certain length, our services will start making up of the extra distance it has to travel back and forth to the spacecraft (at 1400km) and then get ahead of fiber. That critical cable length is about 5000-5500km subject to the type and age of cable, the amount of switching panels on the route, the latitude of the begin and endpoint of the connection to name a few variables.
|London to Singapore||119ms|
|Sydney to Chicago||148ms|
|Frankfurt to Sao Paolo||104ms|
Why do we need more High Throughput Satellites (HTS)? Aren't there already a lot out there and being built today?
This assumes all HTS is the same. But it's not, far from it actually! All current HTS solutions in MEO and LEO are 'bent-pipe' and fully reliant on ground-infrastructure for them to operate. This adds cost, technical complexity, organizational challenges and management issues. Above all, it takes away the opportunity to cover the entire earth in one hop, thus adding latency as it needs to touch the earth and go back up again and connect to another satellite to continue the link. In addition to that, if such HTS solution is operating in the GEO belt - also bent pipe - then you need to add 500ms to the latency on top of everything else. Data flowing through that kind of infrastructure is affected in latency, security, reach and ultimately in throughput and service availability.
Not so with LeoSat. With our infrastructure data can flow through our spatial MPLS network to its destination in one single hop. This makes for a very transparent, simple and robust infrastructure with unique attributes in low latency, security and capacity that none of the alternatives have. So not all HTS is the same, LeoSat offers a better, end-to-end service unlike any of its alternatives. These enhanced characteristics put our services into a class of their own.
LeoSat is all about High-Capacity, so are you a Trunking solution?
Not only that. We are both a Last-Mile and a Trunking solution. Our architecture allows you to go from rooftop to rooftop, so it that sense we provide both the last mile and the backbone in a one-stop-shop. With both these capabilities available as part of our service, all kinds of solutions will be available such as low latency networks for financial institutions, corporate networking solutions through datacenters, global embassy networks, cellular solutions, cloud computing and of course internet access. There is a broad range of applications that typically required multiple vendors for the last mile and the trunking, with our service capabilities they can all be single sourced with LeoSat.
What antennas will you be using?
We are strong believers in phased array technology. While our services will work really well with traditional "dish" technology, the rapid development that we are seeing in phased array technology, largely driven by aviation, will be a great enabler to make our services available to a wide audience. We are actively working with antenna manufacturers to ensure seamless interoperability with our satellites. In doing so, the phased array antenna we envision to be working with our satellites will have many features built in: the modem, the encoder and the antenna. It will effectively become one 'kit' that you put on the ground - or rooftop - power up and then be up and running within a couple of minutes. Easy and reliable.
Is LeoSat B2B or B2C?
We are B2B. More precisely: We will be a wholesaler in a Business to Business market. Our business model will be to work with distributors and value added resellers (VARs) for them to resell our services to their customers. We will be working with regional services providers that have large installed base in large geographic areas and with services companies specialized in certain markets such as Maritime, Enterprise or Government. This will allow us to keep our organization focused on building and operating the most advanced satellite system planned or available today and in doing so making our distributors and VARs successful in their respective markets.
Is there a LEO Constellation Space Race? There are a lot of new LEO projects out there. Why is LeoSat realistic?
It is not so much about who gets there first, it is about who has the best solution to address a certain market need. Whilst it is always good to have visionary people and projects which attempt to take an industry to a new level, LeoSat was specifically conceived by customers who could not get from the satellite industry what their businesses needed. We have built our business model around that and developed a unique system that will serve a need that exists today and will exist in the future.
Of a number of new low earth orbit satellite constellations that are planned, LeoSat is often discussed in the context of OneWeb. However, apart from the fact that both happen to be using a low earth orbit, there is no comparison. LeoSat and OneWeb have fundamentally different market focus and therefore systems. LeoSat’s market is business to business. We do not intend on providing services to the public at large. OneWeb wants to provide direct-to-home type Internet connectivity to the masses. Therefore, the two systems cannot be compared as they were specifically designed for their respective – and different markets. LeoSat is a global network of interconnected satellites and OneWeb has a set of individual satellites connected to the internet.
With so many satellites in space, should we not be concerned about space debris?
We use conventional satellite buses that have all the on-board capabilities allowing us to dispose of the satellites well within all the rules and regulations that have collectively and internationally agreed upon.