Whether your organization needs a satellite operator as part of a disaster recovery plan or a long-term partner that will support operations in remote areas, it’s crucial to choose the right operator.

Not all satellite technologies are the same, and not every provider delivers optimal satellite connectivity for your unique needs. So, there are many factors to consider in selecting the best vendor.

Know the basic connectivity technologies

Before connecting with a satellite provider, it’s helpful to develop a basic understanding of the two main satellite technologies, BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) and VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) .

VSAT offers selectable bandwidth to multiple Megabits and support high numbers of users. However, this performance comes at a cost, both for access and in equipment expenses.

BGAN is best for individuals and smaller teams, and those with lower bandwidth needs. Each technology has its benefits, with business need being the main deciding factor.

BGAN also is highly portable and provides seamless connectivity, whereas VSAT may require a customer to use a patchwork of carriers to get complete coverage. The form factor is another consideration. VSAT is delivered through a receiver and antenna setup that has space and construction requirements. A BGAN terminal looks like a laptop computer.

Before you start exploring plans and options, consider the pros and cons of these technologies. A startup or smaller business may not have the space for VSAT equipment, while a large business may need support for numerous users. And then some businesses must prioritize speed over all else.

Assessing bandwidth requirements

While as a general rule most businesses would prefer the fastest networking capabilities possible, budget and performance needs make the actual choice of internet speed dependent on factors such as applications and services used.

For example, voice over internet protocol (VoIP) calling has grown to prominence in business communications for its reliability, scalability and potential cost savings. Some companies rely on VoIP technology that compresses bandwidth while providing low latency, minimal packet loss and low jitter. This is an important consideration, as these issues can be present with some satellite connections.

A business-specific provider, such as X2nSat can provide stronger satellite connections, guaranteeing 99.9% uptime and maximizing bandwidth.

Slaying the latency beast

Latency is the time delay experienced when a signal has to physically travel a long distance. Depending on the location being serviced by satellite internet, latency can become a concern.

To minimize latency, use quality of service (QoS) or class of service (CoS) tools to prioritize certain mission-critical traffic. For example, an organization can deprioritize employee web traffic in favor of VoIP traffic. Discussing a satellite provider’s options for reducing latency is an important preliminary step.

Ask about the frequency range used

There are four radio frequency bands for VSAT satellite communication. Each has different optimal uses. For enterprise satellite communications, the Ku band and C band are most often used, with the others, X band and Ka band, being reserved for military applications.

The differences between Ku and C are in frequency strength. The higher frequency of Ku means smaller antenna sizes can be used. The trade-off is that networks in this band are susceptible to rain fade. C band’s lower frequency requires a larger antenna, but is better suited for poor weather performance.

What are your hardware needs?

Once you’ve settled on the type of satellite connection, it’s important to understand your hardware needs and options. For many businesses, the consideration comes down to equipment expense. With increases in the cloud and “as a service” delivery of technology solutions, more businesses are accustomed to subscription-based pricing for IT.

You should ask the potential satellite internet provider if they offer the ability to choose between purchasing or leasing hardware. There are pros and cons of each approach. Owning equipment may have business organization or tax advantages, while leasing can reduce maintenance expenses and risk of failure, as replacement is often completed more quickly.

Connectivity choice can impact the type of hardware. Whether as part of deciding between purchasing or leasing or to determine physical needs and limitations for satellite antenna size, make equipment concerns an early part of the satellite discussion.

Mobile and outdoor systems

Satellite equipment doesn’t always require a large static antenna. For example, the BGAN networks use a portable device for an antenna. There are also various portable solutions for a variety of needs. For example, Mobile command centers and nomadic and mobile terminals provide mission-critical voice and data communications in an emergency or on-the-road situations.

Mobility is a major benefit of satellite connectivity, as your business can be free to thrive in areas that aren’t serviced by traditional wired terrestrial internet.

Understanding your communications needs

Before contracting with a satellite provider, you should know if you need a satellite connection as your primary source of connectivity. Or is it for emergency or backup use only?

If you are looking to connect a remote location that is not serviced by terrestrial internet or reliable cellular data networks then ensuring the best coverage and connection is a priority. This is also true if your business cannot afford some of the problems associated with cellular data connectivity, such as a high rate of failure during natural disasters.

If your needs are for a reliable backup, then you should ask the provider to explain how their solution differs from other backup connections like cellular. Solutions that deliver resilience in the face of hurricane-strength winds and shaking events can enable optimal satellite connectivity.

The impact of power requirements

Power efficiency and performance are important considerations in any solution. But when satellite is used for backups and emergencies, reliability is crucial. Power requirements should be low demands and low failure rate. Ask your provider if they use systems to optimize power consumption.

Power is also a component of portability, which is essential for businesses that require mobility.

Industry compliance and meeting standards

Satellite communications are regulated and have various licensing requirements. If your provider loses its authority to provide connectivity, what will your backup be? How long will your business be disconnected, and how much will be your cost for this downtime? For these reasons and more, your business needs to ensure compliance.

Security in satellite communications

Many technologies raise questions about security. We are dependent on connectivity, but at the same time, connectivity exposes to increased risks. Cybercriminals work a multi-layered front, so defending against their threat is an ongoing process.

Prudent cybersecurity should defend your servers exceptionally well, but it is also important to ensure that your ISP is secure. Satellite internet is secure because the satellite signals are effectively scrambled and do not transfer through other networks.

Configuration and ease of use

A key consideration in choosing a service is whether the satellite operator offer training and support. Satellite networks have high availability and strong infrastructure. Thus, severe natural disasters could misalign an antenna, requiring fast service.

If the provider is going to handle service, make sure to clarify the procedures for ensuring minimal interruptions. If you have the resources and ability to provide repairs, how long do repairs take?

Integration with existing systems

Large enterprises, such as manufacturing companies, often have highly complex internal systems that regulate and control everything from logistics to monitoring and operating machinery remotely. Your satellite internet service should be compatible with IP-based devices, including Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) or IoT.

No matter how you automate and manage your equipment, you need connectivity to power the system. It is crucial to ensure that you can run SCADA or IoT traffic through the provider’s satellite network. Many of these applications require high uptime service level agreements, so your satellite connection should have the same guarantee.

Additional system requirements may be important considerations in tailoring satellite internet service for your business. It is important to think not only of today’s requirements but also the needs of the future.

Scalability of the solution

A service’s utility increases if it can be replicated with the same benefits. Not all services are built for scale. Satellite internet is widely available, so the solution can grow in areas where other types of connectivity are not available.

Rural areas can be served more readily, but scalability is also measured in how many users can be accommodated on a system. Satellite provides for high bandwidth connectivity, so multiple users can be managed at once.

There are many considerations when choosing a satellite internet provider. The first step is to obtain information on the available services so you know how to tailor the best solution for your needs. Then, reach out to our experts at X2nSat, who can answer all of your questions.

About the Author

As CEO and founder, Mr. Hill guides the vision and cutting-edge culture of X2nSat, one of the most veteran VSAT providers in North America. In 1996, he founded this forward-thinking satellite communications company with a mission to provide highly reliable, wireless network and communication solutions to a variety of North American industries.