Arabsat and ViaSat collaborated on the development of Arabsat- 5C to add a 10-spot beam, high capacity Ka-band payload that was purchased by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). In conversation with Ric VanderMeulen, VP of Business Development, ViaSat.
“This programme requires three full gateway facilities to support the traffic load from the 10 spot beams, a core node facility to centralise the traffic, a network operation centre, and a family of end-user terminals to support fixed consumer, fixed enterprise, portable enterprise, and mobile enterprise end-users”
Why do you believe KACST approached ViaSat for the broadband project?
King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) is an independent scientific organisation reporting to the Prime Minister. KACST is both the Saudi Arabian national science agency and its national laboratories. The science agency function involves science and technology policy making, data collection, funding of external research, and services such as the patent office. It is our belief that KACST sent the request for tender to a number of potential competitors that had been involved in high-capacity Ka-band spot beam systems. We are the network and end-user terminal supplier to our own Exede internet direct-to-home and enterprise systems, as well as the network and end-user terminal provider to Eutelsat Tooway (KA-SAT), Canada’s Explornet, and NBN Co systems.
ViaSat also supported Arabsat in the redesign of its 5C satellite. Specifically, we supported the implementation of the Ka-band spot beams and how they should operate with the ground segment to optimise the network and end user terminal performance.
It is our understanding that KACST purchased the full capacity of the Arabsat 5C Ka-spot beams for the betterment of broadband high-speed access across the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). Our role is enabling KACST.
The KACST contract, valued at approximately USD 70 million, includes gateways, network operation facilities, and end user terminals to implement the services using high capacity Ka-band capacity hosted on the Arabsat-5C satellite. What is the scope and nature of the project?
This project is essentially the same as we have performed in the past. Though there are specific programme differences, these programmes are quite similar.
The biggest difference in this effort is in the scale of the programme. In the case of ViaSat-1, KA-SAT, and NBN Co, the entire satellites systems have been focused on broadband high-speed access. In this case, Arabsat 5C has a primary mission and the Ka-band broadband high-speed access consisting of 10 spot beams, is a hosted mission. Thus, the scale of the effort is less from the broadband high-speed access perspective.
Specifically, this programme requires three full gateway facilities to support the traffic load from the 10 spot beams, a core node facility to centralise the traffic, a network operation centre, and a family of end-user terminals to support fixed consumer, fixed enterprise, portable enterprise, and mobile enterprise end-users.
What are the typical challenges that you will face while executing this project?
Our challenges is in the delivery, installation, and initial operation of this vast communication capability. Thought it could be considered a small portion of the Arabsat 5C satellite, the capacity provided by the 10 Ka-band spot beams is the equivalent to over three and a-half complete Ku-band satellites. Our challenge, since the satellite was already on-orbit, has been to establish the complementary ground network and integrate with the satellite on schedule to expedite the start of broadband high-speed service.
What will the nature of involvement be from your partners , High Capabilities Technologies Co. Ltd (HICAP) and Modern Technology Co. Ltd (MOTECO)?
We have had a successful long-standing relationship in the KSA with both HICAP and MOTECO. Our relationship has led to several successful projects. In this programme, HICAP is key to performing much of the civil works for installation, support, and engineering of the three gateway facilities including the nine-metre antenna systems. MOTECO supports us in overall programme effort including developing and enhancing end-user channel support.
As a vertically integrated Ka-band broadband company, providing satellite design, ground infrastructure, and service operation support, what has your experience been with KA-band so far?
Our focus has been on constantly improving satellite bandwidth economics. The surprises [with Ka-band] have not been limitations, but what can truly be done to improve satellite bandwidth economics. We are not competing with fibre; however, we believe our greatest opportunity is in focusing on competing with less capable terrestrial fixed access networks, including telco twisted pair copper plant, lower-end cable systems, and mobile wireless networks that are used for fixed access.
With ViaSat-1, we believe we have established a new high watermark for capacity. With 134 Gbps of capacity, this single satellite has more capacity than all prior satellites covering the US. The key to these successes has been our vertical integration providing engineers access to every critical component and process in the design and production chain.
What is the current status of Arabsat -5c?
It is our understanding that Arabsat 5c is operating in its orbital position performing its primary mission. The hosted Ka-band broadband high-speed access within the KSA will be operational after completing a formal testing programme in the first half of 2013.
About the project
Representing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), King Abdul Aziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) has selected the Ka-band satellite system from ViaSat Inc. as the service platform for its National Satellite Data Network.
The KACST contract, valued at approximately USD 70 million, includes gateways, network operation facilities, and end user terminals to implement the services using Ka-band capacity hosted on the Arabsat-5C satellite. Arabsat and ViaSat collaborated on the development of Arabsat-5C to add a 10-spot beam, high capacity Ka-band payload.
“With our National Satellite Data Network, we will serve our customers with exceptional speeds and capacity throughout the Kingdom,” said H.E. Dr. Mohammed ibn Ibrahim Al-Suwaiyel, president of KACST.
“The key to two-way broadband is maximising capacity or bits available to the end users to be served,” said H.E. Dr. Mohammed ibn Ibrahim Al-Suwaiyel.
“To accomplish that, our satellite and our satellite services include key attributes from the ViaSat-1 and Eutelsat KA-SAT satellites.”
ViaSat will perform the programme in cooperation with its KSA teammates MOTECO/HICAP.