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Frequently Asked Questions - What would you like to know about VSAT systems?

What do you mean by a VSAT?
VSAT stands for Very Small Aperture Terminal - its a catchy acronym and as such its been adopted by all and sundry for every type of satellite product from small components of a system to complete systems. Because the term really hinges around the small size of the antenna it has been used to describe both one-way and interactive systems. Specifically, we in the industry, isolate television broadcast receivers because counting these as well would simply distort the numbers in the marketplace, but data, audio and, to some extent, voice systems are included. Generally, these systems operate in the Ku-band and C-band frequencies. As a rule of thumb C-band (which suffers less from rain attenuation, but requires larger antennas) is used in Asia, Africa and Latin America whilst Ku-band (which can use smaller antennas, but suffers from rain fade in a monsoon-like downpour) is used in Europe and North America. Typically, interactive Ku-band antenna sizes range from 75 centimetres to 1.8 metres and C-band from 1.8 metres to 2.4 metres. One way systems can use antennas as small as 45 centimetres.
What about one-way systems?
One-way or broadcast systems rely on a transmitting station which transmits one or more carriers to the satellite which re-broadcasts the signal over its coverage area. All receive-only VSATs under the satellite footprint can then receive the signal or the user/operator is able to define groups of VSATs from one to all on the network. Broadcast systems are used for data and audio. The most popular application for data is the transmission of financial feeds - Reuters, Telerate and KnightRidder are good examples of companies with large data broadcasting networks - however, there are many other uses, such as software downloads, file transfers, transmission of press agency news items (with pictures) and the broadcast of paging messages for terrestrial transmission to the pagers themselves.
So what is an interactive VSAT?
Interactive VSAT systems come in two main network topologies - star and mesh. The former tends to be based either on a shared access scheme (TDM/TDMA), which is designed to support transactional processing applications, or on a dedicated link (the satellite equivalent to a leased line). The latter usually uses links which are set-up and torn-down on request to establish a direct link between two sites on a demand assigned basis. These mesh systems were initially designed to support corporate and public network telephony links, but are being increasingly used to serve high data rate services, such as file downloads, at rates of 64 kbps or greater.
This industry is full of acronyms - what do they mean?
This gets complicated, but here is an extensive list of acronyms, terms, abbreviations and data rates for your reference. Like any other industry, it seems as though you will never be able to understand, but its not that bad and it doesn't take long to get the basics.
What about statistics?
The VSAT market has been going since the early 1980s and the launch of the first one-way VSAT system by Equatorial of California. Towards 1985 the first interactive star systems began to be seen and it wasn't until 1989 that the first mesh telephony products were really sold.
What does a network look like?
VSAT networks come in various shapes and sizes ranging from star data system users with one site connected to an operator's shared hub to many thousands based on a dedicated facility located at their own site. Mesh systems have traditionally been somewhat smaller in size than star systems - 5 to 30 sites used to be a good rule of thumb - but the average size of orders has risen as prices have come down and some rural telephony networks now comprise as many as several hundred or even thousands of sites.
What kind of companies use VSAT systems?
You name it really, car dealerships, gas stations, banks, insurance companies, drug stores, general stores, supermarkets, healthcare companies, manufacturers, couriers, hotel chains, car rental businesses, food manufacturers, heavy industries, mines, electrical utilities, oil and gas pipelines, energy production and exploration, timber companies, plantations, various government departments and agencies ....... any others you can think of, just add to the list.



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