Satellite technology as a WAN platform has always carried an aura of unfamiliarity and space-age connotations that have scared away enterprise customers.
However, with the migration toward IP networking, more companies are looking at VSATs (very small aperture terminals), even where digital subscriber line or cable services are available, because of satellite technologys ubiquity, scalability and relative affordability.
The top VSAT providers, Spacenet Inc. and Hughes Network Systems, are using the research and development behind their consumer services for enterprise offerings. Satellite technology can push high-bandwidth data to many remote locations at once in a single message. The VSAT providers hope to convince enterprises that they, too, can benefit from multicast services, which are costly and inefficient in the wire-line world.
Bass Hotels & Resorts Inc., which owns and operates more than 3,000 hotels in nearly 100 countries, uses satellites for about 70 percent of its networking, said Lynn Goodendorf, vice president of global networks and IT security, in Atlanta. Goodendorf is evaluating satellite multicasting services, which may be particularly relevant for Web-enabled applications.
"If you have a page that you want up on end users screens, there may be certain objects that will be constant," Goodendorf said. "Those elements could be broadcast all at once. Basically, it reduces the amount of data that has to travel back and forth to each location."
The hotel conglomerate, which is a customer of Spacenet and Hughes, also benefits from the speedy deployment of VSATs.
DirecWay, Hughes package of broadband services unveiled this month, is designed to bridge the divide between consumer and enterprise technologies, company officials said. DirecTV terminals built for the home market can be upgraded for the enterprise.
Spacenet officials said the McLean, Va., company started implementing such efficiencies with its StarBand technology and the enterprise-class Skystar Advantage system and plans to accelerate the process.
The economics of VSATs are compelling for low-margin operations that need faster speeds than are available through dial-up connections but dont warrant a frame relay network. Spacenet plans to develop a one-size-fits-all offering of core applications, such as credit authorization.