In order to provide quality broadband via satellite, you need a few things. First, you need a superior Teleport facility, complete with earth stations and satellite hubs, a state of the art data center and network operations center, as well as the professional engineers and operators that make it all work.
Next, you need to deploy high-end equipment to the end user – professionally installed. Finally, you need a satellite in space to relay messages between the two.
You can’t just use any satellite. No, you need special satellites that orbit in a special place, precisely 22,236 miles directly above the equator. And they must travel 1.91 miles per second, giving them an orbital period of 1436 minutes (23.934461223 hours – one sidereal day). This very special part of space is called the Clarke Orbit or Clarke Belt (named, incidentally, for Arthur C. Clarke, the great scientific mind who postulated the usefulness of this part of space in 1945, long before writing 2001: A Space Odyssey). By positioning a satellite in this manner, it will appear, from the point of view of an observer on Earth, to not be moving at all – fixed in the heavens. This “fixed” position is referred to as geostationary orbit. Very useful as a communications tool, it allows a satellite dish to be fixed — mounted to point at a precise spot — rather than having to move to track a satellite moving (relatively) through the sky.
In addition to their precise altitude and speed, these satellites can’t be positioned too closely together. We wouldn’t want them inadvertently bumping into each other. The International Telecommunications Union (the really smart folks who make decisions about such things), have determined that geostationary satellites must be separated from each other by two degrees. So, with 360 degrees in a circle, there are only 180 “parking spots” for these geostationary satellites.
Some of these parking spots are less desirable than others, based on the part of the Earth that is visible from their location in space. For example, certain orbital positions have a clear view of the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Good for watching the weather, but not too good for delivering broadband service to North America – these parking spots are at the far end of the lot. If you want coverage over North America, you need satellites in better parking spots – “Employee of the Month” parking spots. And there’s darn few of them. Moreover, not all of that satellite capacity is available to us as a Tier I operator. Some are owned by or leased to the government for super-secret government things. Some carry our television programs and our cell phone calls.
The upshot is, satellite capacity is a very limited commodity. And thanks to Adam Smith’s invisible hand, that makes it a very expensive commodity.
So what’s an operator like Skycasters to do?
If you want to allocate X capacity to Y subscribers, there are only so many ways to slice it. If you put more subscribers into a given amount of capacity, each subscriber will receive less service. Cram enough subscribers into a given amount of capacity, and other problems begin building on themselves – almost like a feedback loop. Packets collide, contention at the hub increases, latency increases, jitter increases. None of these things are good from the end user perspective, but those are the consequences if you want to run a network as an all-you-can-eat buffet for $59/month. Hold the starch and MSG, thanks.
Philosophically, we believe that our subscribers should get what they pay for. The reality of satellite availability means that our subscribers must also pay for what they get. It’s fair for everyone, making sure that all our subscribers get as much of the scarce commodity of satellite access that they need to run their businesses.
The realities of satellite access costs do not fit well with a “one size fits all” approach. We offer many different options for slicing the network – from our high performance Platinum service plans to our pay as you go Business Continuity service plans. Each service plan that we offer is in direct response to customer needs, allowing our sales engineers to work with you to select a plan that is tailored to meet your needs. We will continue this effort to provide greater value to our customers, by offering plans and programs that more closely match with our customers’ needs – making sure that you don’t pay for performance you don’t need – while never compromising our ability to deliver what you do need.
We wish it cost less to deliver our services – we really do. Satellite capacity and teleport operations account for nearly 75% of our cost to serve. We put the money in the product, to make sure that we live up to the promise that we made to our end users.
Part of President Obama’s campaign was a promise to make more satellite capacity available to the telecommunications industry, and we sincerely hope that he is able to fulfill this promise – although we understand that this may take some time. When more capacity becomes available, prices will drop. When we can lower costs, we will.
Until then, we won’t compromise our network or our promises.
At Skycasters, it’s Rule #1. We won’t oversubscribe our network. Period.
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