Software Plays Growing Role in Ground Systems

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WASHINGTON — A number of companies are using software enhancements to boost the performance of satellite ground systems.

Germantown, Md.-based Hughes Network Systems (HNS), for example, recently introduced several software improvements. Canada’s C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. and Bedminster, N.J.-based Loral Skynet also are upgrading their software.

One HNS product, the PEPv3.5, helps segregate traffic based on priorities, said John Kenyon, an HNS senior vice president. The company also has a propriety Web-acceleration technology, called TurboPage, which uses advanced caching techniques and algorithms, he said .

The latest HNS terminal, the DW7700, offers internal computing speed that is five times faster than the existing DW6000 Direcway satellite broadband service’s terminal.

The terminal’s software takes advantage of the internal computing speed to provide improved performance of fundamental Internet Protocol (IP) routing functions, such as Network Address Translation, Port Address Translation, Dynamic Host Control Protocol, Domain Network Server cach ing and Diffserv Code Point, which are notorious spectrum hogs, Kenyon said. In addition, Adaptive Inroute Selection allows the ground network to provide optimum performance for remotes by choosing the route speed and coding, he added.

HNS sold its India-based Hughes Software Systems business in June 2004 as part of an effort to focus on satellite television services. However, HNS is maintaining a strategic relationship with the buyer of its software business, Flextronics, Kenyon said.

Flextronics bought the entire 55 percent stake that HNS owned in Hughes Software Systems, which provided software products and services to telecommunications infrastructure companies.

As part of that transaction, HNS established a long-term relationship with Flextronics for software services. HNS now will outsource for the services it needs from its former operation, Kenyon said.

Leslie Klein, president and chief executive officer of C-COM Satellite Systems Inc., an Ottawa, Canada-based developer of technology for satellite broadband equipment, said his company’s software group develops and enhances the company’s iNetVu platform to make it compatible with all the leading modem manufacturers .

iNetVu is a robotic platform, designed by C-COM, that consists of a standard two-way satellite dish and has electronics both to receive and to transmit signals. A single click of a computer mouse allows the platform, which is connected to a laptop computer, to be deployed automatically and to lock onto the appropriate satellite in less than three minutes. The result is to deliver two-way, high-speed Internet and TV simultaneously over the same satellite dish.

“The deployed platform looks much like a regular TV antenna used by DirecTV or Echostar, except it has the capability to also transmit, thus allowing for two-way Internet connectivity via satellite,” Klein said.

The iNetVu Mobile, when equipped with a satellite modem from Direcway, Starband or others, is capable of delivering high-speed Internet into the vehicle much the same way DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable modems enable a user to receive residential Internet services, he explained.

C-COM works with other engineering groups that are responsible for the robotic design of the platform, Klein said.

Jon Kirchner, Loral Skynet’s vice president of marketing, said software and software upgrades are being delivered over the air to remote user terminals as a “very convenient and effective” means of managing and evolving a satellite-based IP network

Mike Korotinsky, executive director of Loral Skynet’s Network Services Sales Support, said Very Small Aperture Terminal trends have led to a number upgrades. A migration to Internet Protocol-enabled platforms has occurred along with the convergence of voice, video and data onto a common platform that is gaining global acceptance in the corporate communications, remote surveillance and content delivery markets, he added.

“As new developments enhance the delivery quality, reduce bandwidth requirements and maintain security, the migration of these applications from legacy platforms to IP-enabled platforms will accelerate,” Korotinsky said. “Skynet’s global and regional customers require IP WAN (Internet protocol wide area network) extensions to their existing networks into locations where a terrestrial network may be unable to meet demanding application requirements.”

Reasons why a terrestrial network solution would be inadequate include expense, congestion and unreliability, Korotinsky said. In addition, many customers simultaneously run various types of applications on their network, each with different IP characteristics.

To meet these requirements, the Skynet SkyReach product offers an IP transport platform to deploy in cities and remote areas. The product also can be optimized to prioritize IP traffic from multiple, simultaneous applications to boost the quality of service, lower bandwidth costs and improved application performance, he added.

Software upgrades are being delivered over the air and the ability to perform such over-the-air configuration changes to remotes allows a Very Small Aperture Terminal operator to react quickly to changing customer requirements, such as bandwidth, application loading, and prioritization of traffic, Korotinsky said. Real-time and historical in-depth network monitoring tools assist in rapid troubleshooting and problem resolution, he added.