From the promise of Ka-band and O3b, to the real challenge of fibre, Martin JV Hughes, Services Manager, Hermes Datacommunications ME, writes that the satellite industry needs to position itself as a value proposition tailored to clients’ needs.
The Ka-band questions
Will network leads look on it as a simple way to provide a point solution or will they want to avoid the management overhead of additional systems to configure, monitor and maintain?
As a buyer turned supplier or customer turned vendor (as the case may be), 2012 has been a year of rapid information assimilation, sometimes akin to sipping from a fire hose. There is such a breadth and depth of technologies in the satellite realm that it can be hard to know where to start.
As a customer, I was lucky enough to have reasonably clear requirements, underpinned by a corporate strategy and with an existing infrastructure-supported relationship to build on. This narrowed my possible options for remote site VSAT services to a handful of vendors and often came down to the one or two who would respond to my RFQs.
I’m now amazed at the number of technological options that are available to customers, should they be clear enough to articulate their needs.
The promise of Ka-band
Ka-band – it’s been on everyone’s lips over the past 12 months and the first end-user units are hitting the ground now, bringing opportunities for wide-scale deployment to customers who would have never considered satellite as an affordable option for connectivity. It’s cheaper and smaller than other band systems, but what can a customer use it for?
The SCPC questions
Are enterprise customers looking to build out their networks in this way? How centralised is their datacentre strategy and what applications do they need at site? How sophisticated are their efforts to virtualise and web-enable their key systems?
Are they looking to make available a welfare system for their employees’ downtime that sidesteps the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and corporate filtering requirements? Will network leads look on it as a simple way to provide a point solution belt and braces redundancy for an important remote site or will they want to avoid the management overhead of additional systems to configure, monitor and maintain?
Is SCPC for everyone?
SCPC is considered the clean solution for connecting corporate networks together, allowing full control of QoS and minimum possible VSAT latency. But, are enterprise customers looking to build out their networks in this way? How centralized is their data-centre strategy and what applications do they need at site? How sophisticated are their efforts to virtualise and web-enable their key systems? Or will everyone move to cheap internet at remote sites and trust the underlying routing of the internet to take the strain and reroute as needed, at the expense of guaranteed and predictable service levels?
Are clients prepared to outsource WAN?
WAN services outsourcing is viewed as a step up the value chain for the supplier and a reduction in risk and management overheads for the buyer. Are customers willing to give up the day-to-day management of WAN and all associated services and can suppliers step into the breach to provide the services and support that such an endeavour requires? Having a local pair of hands is essential to underpin the 24/7/365 expectations of service delivery to customers.
The WAN questions
Are customers willing to give up the day-to-day management of WAN and all associated services and can suppliers step into the breach to provide the services and support that such an endeavour requires?
Service Level Agreement is popularly regarded as the beloved of Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) practitioners everywhere. Have both sides made sure that their SLA is correct and complete? I know of one SLA where the corporate core router could have been down for 48 hours during a working week, affecting more than 10,000 people, but which would not have breached the target conditions. Good SLAs make for happy customers and suppliers.
Need for one-touch deploy systems
Rapid Deployment Systems are critical as the land-based oil patch becomes more mobile and more dispersed. Customers want their teams in the field to be oil guys, not communications guys. So the rise of the rig-in-a-box and one-touch-deploy systems seems set to continue apace.
Letting your teams get on with doing the jobs that earn you money rather than those that don’t will always be an attractive factor in a system.
03b networks: Wait and see
03b networks – the premise seems irresistible – high bandwidth and low latency. The premise has been interesting enough to get Google on board as an investor, all without getting a bird off the launch pad yet. We would need to file it under the “wait and see” section. This is indicative of the fact that whilst satellites may continue to be seen as a maturing technology market, with incremental technology improvements, there is still the potential for game-changing initiatives that could significantly alter the competitive landscape.
The challenge of fibre with last mile microwave
Fibre with last mile microwave is an option increasingly available for the more remote sites, but still lacking the reliability and redundancy options that combine to provide a truly available service. Local power and infrastructure challenges in some areas are undermining the benefits of the service but they are improving all the time and the satellite market needs to position itself as a value proposition in response.
Getting the foot in the door
And there may be the eternal rub – how do we as vendors firstly get in the door to show customers what is available to them and, more importantly, how it can provide either reduced costs or better value? Sometimes, they don’t know themselves, so how can we preach the mantras of risk-reduction and improved service to them, if they are only concerned with Capex and Opex numbers?
The benefits of all of the above can only be demonstrated in conjunction with solving customers’ issues. Technology does not exist in a vacuum and cannot add value in and of itself. So the real trend of the year, as it should be every year, is understanding what a customer is looking for and how best to supply it.