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Satellite Internet Providers 336

pitchblende writes "Our company works in remote locations in Northern Canada. We have been experiencing major communications problems with our current satellite service. We use satellite systems that go for about $1000 apiece, with $100/month in fees. The service is 'shared' rather than dedicated, and our VOIP, etc, has been getting worse by the day lately. From what I can tell, dedicated systems go for $30k and up. I hope someone(s) out there has some suggestions, recommendations?"
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Satellite Internet Providers

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  • Down (Score:2, Funny)

    Come back down to lower Canada...
  • Amazing (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mrbcs ( 737902 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:06AM (#24213077)
    I can't believe you got voip to work at all. I had a satelite before.. ping times well over 1200ms. It was pretty much useless as far as I was concerned. 500 meg bandwidth cap a day so you couldn't even download an iso. Mine wasn't "shared", but it still sucked pretty bad.

    Sorry about your luck, dial-up would probably be about the same though and a lot less money.

    • There you go: Get a lot of phone lines and dial-up connections. Or just use regular telephone instead of VoIP if it's that important.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oldspewey ( 1303305 )

        remote locations in Northern Canada

        Almost certainly negates this:

        Get a lot of phone lines and dial-up connections

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mweather ( 1089505 )
        Or even better, use satellite phones instead of rigging up a more expensive and less reliable facsimile of satellite phones.
    • Mine wasn't "shared", but it still sucked pretty bad.

      What is meant by 'shared'? How is any satellite system not a shared medium?

      Perhaps I'm just not understanding some sat lingo here.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vlm ( 69642 )

        I have been distantly involved in this technology for a couple decades. Not directly involved but I had several co workers who did these type of projects.

        Pay enough money and you too can get a dedicated T1 thru satellite, and run whatever you want over that T1 such as inet access. Obviously this is how the telcos used to provide satellite voice service.

        I hear there are also gadgets that encapsulate ethernet frames into something that looks like an MPEG stream and can be multiplexed and demultiplexed with

    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:35AM (#24213677) Homepage Journal

      Residential internet is shared. With satellite, it's the same transmitter for a lot of people. With cable, your neighborhood is on the same cable. With DSL, you may have a dedicated line to the CO, but you're sharing bandwidth at the link the CO has with the rest of the world. Sharing bandwidth is actually a good compromise as it reduces the cost of making sure they have provisions for bandwidth that most people aren't using anyway.

    • Re:Amazing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by anpe ( 217106 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @12:04PM (#24214289)

      I had a satelite before.. ping times well over 1200ms.

      Smells like something funny on the provider side. I assume the satellite was geostationnary (35786 km from earth). So given that the signal travels at the speed of light, a RTT between you and the provider hub should be:
      35786 / c * 4 * 1000000 = 477ms
      4 being the times the distance is travelled (modem->sat, sat->provider, hub->provider, sat->modem).
      Of course the signal travels a bit less fast, and there's some processing at your providers but I've seen results around 600ms.

      Weren't the 1,2 sec RTT you're talking about between two sat modems? That would explain such a huge delay.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by grcumb ( 781340 )

        Smells like something funny on the provider side. I assume the satellite was geostationnary (35786 km from earth). So given that the signal travels at the speed of light, a RTT between you and the provider hub should be: 35786 / c * 4 * 1000000 = 477ms

        I lived and worked in the Eastern Arctic between 1994-97, so my information is somewhat dated, but at that time, 1.2 seconds was an average round trip time, because in order to reach our Internet backbone in Yellowknife, we had a double satellite hop. For reas

  • by Scuzzm0nkey ( 1246094 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:07AM (#24213101)
    Try and set up a chain of repeating 12' satellite dish broadcasters retrofitted for 802.11G like the one they set the distance record with. It got like 125 miles, so 10 or 15 of them ought to get out to the middle of nowhere. Latency would probably blow, but it's still better than satellite.
    • by diodeus ( 96408 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:18AM (#24213355) Journal

      ...and the electricity would come from?

      Go look at a map of northern Canada.

      • by jacquesm ( 154384 ) <j&ww,com> on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:28AM (#24213555) Homepage

        solar panel, battery and a small wind genny should do just fine. That's how most weather stations 'up north' are being powered and it would work quite well for a small low power router. There is a Canadian company in the rockies that makes really nice hardware for just that purpose, check out valemount networks http://www.staros.com/ [staros.com]

        here is another example.

        http://www.ecofriend.org/entry/solar-powered-wireless-router-to-bring-internet-access-to-remote-areas/ [ecofriend.org]

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Coniagas ( 99136 )

          Solar panels? Someone has never worked the high arctic. There are 2 seasons, day and night. In July at the top of Baffin Island there is 24 hour sunshine and in November you have 24 hour nights.

          Then depending on location there is the task of anchoring anything you set up. In Pangirtung on Baffin, the airport is secured with steel cables anchored to the baserock. In the 70's watched a DC3 while taxing get airborne as the wind caught it. The wind across the Davis Straits can put a basic hurricane to

          • by jacquesm ( 154384 ) <j&ww,com> on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @01:33PM (#24215789) Homepage

            Indeed, I haven't lived/worked in the high arctic, but the original poster mentioned 'remote locations in Northern Canada', which is not the same as the 'high arctic', and since I've actually lived in such a location for three years in a solar and wind powered home I think I have some relevant knowledge. In fact, in the Canadian winter when it's clear solar panels will have amazing output because they are kept nicely cool by the surrounding air :)

            The simple fact that they use satellite there right now according to the OP, indicates they are not in the high arctic or even near it, because there are no satellites in line-of-sight doing telco in the high arctic as far as I know, *maybe* inmarsat has some coverage there (it will cost you dearly though, but if you need them they are almost always the only player), but certainly not at the rates the OP quoted.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by grcumb ( 781340 )

            In Pangirtung on Baffin, the airport is secured with steel cables anchored to the baserock. In the 70's watched a DC3 while taxing get airborne as the wind caught it. The wind across the Davis Straits can put a basic hurricane to shame.

            Ah, good times.... Pilots servicing that air strip call their passengers 'Pang Pukers'. I'll never forget walking into an Iqaluit bar and hearing the end of a conversation between two bush pilots: "So I turned around and said to her, 'Lady, do you mind not screaming so loud?

      • Weather notwithstanding, combination battery/solar would probably work. It's not like they use THAT much power. Still talking a few grand *per relay* plus permission to use the land.

        You should probably just bite the bullet and have a cable run. How far is it, exactly, to the nearest whatever?

      • solar or wind with battery ?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by BuckaBooBob ( 635108 )

      He probably would be better off with Packet over Avian Carrier or Packet over Caribou..

      Northern Canada is covered in forest and Just taking a guess.. depending on how far north he is.. he could be 6+ hours drive to the nearest point of civilization and what type of access it would have who knows.. maybe 56K dial-up could be considered high-speed new fangled technology there :)

      I am shocked I haven't seen any comments about Igloo's yet.


    • by Goody ( 23843 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @12:33PM (#24214805) Journal
      Try and set up a chain of repeating 12' satellite dish broadcasters retrofitted for 802.11G like the one they set the distance record with. It got like 125 miles, so 10 or 15 of them ought to get out to the middle of nowhere. Latency would probably blow, but it's still better than satellite.

      Building 10-15 125 mile links with 12' dishes is no trivial (or inexpensive) task when you consider the site acquisition and civil work to pull it off. The operational costs to maintain it in such a harsh environment aren't trivial either. And using 802.11G for this is a joke, and 10-15 125 mile links are going to have an availability that's horribly low, probably in the 70 or 80 percent range. FCC Part 101 (or whatever the equivalent is in Canada) licensed microwave is clearly the way go if they want any reasonable amount of bandwidth and availability, but the cost of this network will dwarf whatever monthly recurring they're paying now.

      Pulling off an interesting wireless experiment with hacked and overextended hardware is a lot different than building a production network.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ubercam ( 1025540 )

        Manitoba Hydro [hydro.mb.ca] built, maintains and operates two microwave networks that run from Winnipeg to the north. They use them to control northern dams from the central control office in Winnipeg. I know someone who was involved in the implementation of remote switching of manually operated dams back in the 70's who was actively involved with the microwave system. He said the latency is VERY low. They can switch things almost instantly from Winnipeg, over 1000km away.

        They have used it in the past (maybe still do) t

  • VoIP over satellite? How's the latency?

  • by Bluefirebird ( 649667 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:09AM (#24213165)
    That is the nature of the Internet satellite business. The quality-of-service is dependent of the traffic from other terminals, since it is a shared service.

    The only solution to this problem is to try to secure some premium class traffic for sending VoIP and have the border gateway properly configured to mark VoIP packets accordingly. The rest of the traffic should be served as Best Effort, in order to save money.
  • by esobofh ( 138133 ) <<ten.sulet> <ta> <ghk>> on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:10AM (#24213185)

    Are you dealing with the satelitte provider directly? i.e. infosat, telsat, etc?

    Directly they won't do much in the way of service level agreements that have financial penalties associated with them. However, if you were to purchase network services from a communications supplier that was working along with your satellite provider, you may find they have more weight in getting you the service levels you are paying for (and contracted).

    I suggest you give TELUS a call, and compare prices/service levels for service in your area.

  • Teleco (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:16AM (#24213315)

    Depending on where you are, Enerconnex offers some kind of service to remote locations though its primary target is oil and gas in northern Alberta. I don't know if that particular company can help you. It is a division of Northwestel.

    You might also want to contact Northwestel directly but seeing as it is a government-sanctioned monopoly with a government-sanctioned profit margin, I wouldn't expect much help. It's probably cheaper to blast your own satellite into orbit that to get service from it.

    Also, Northwestel should read Bell as Bell wholly owns Northwestel.

    Satellite is pretty much the only system that you can get from another company, at least in the Yukon. Northwest Territories and Nunavut may have different telecos that don't suck so hard. I'm strongly considering getting satellite for my own personal internet just because I loathe Northwestel and its business practices.

  • by Joe The Dragon ( 967727 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:17AM (#24213339)

    Skycasters has speeds in which commit data can be transferred and they have Platinum Service Plan will be optimized for VoIP

    All plans include 1 publicly routable static IP address.

    http://www.skycasters.com/broadband-satellite-compare/compare.html [skycasters.com]

    • I notice they don't say anything about the latency. They say they tweak the TCP/IP stack to mitigate the latencies, but you can't tweak the laws of physics. Could one of their customers please ping the next router upstream and post the results?

      Don't get me wrong, it's probably great for browsing the web and email and stuff. I'd be really surprised if you could manage a decent VOIP connection or any gaming over that connection.

      • IIRC, the theoretical minimum to-the-satellite-and-back latency for a geo-stat satellite is about 240ms, so double that for getting there-and-back from an earthly server, not even counting other normal delays, so tack on about another 100ms to that.

        With tweaks, VOIP should work fine, though you might want to treat it more like radio than telephone.

        Non-turn based games are obviously a non-option.

  • Move (Score:3, Interesting)

    by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:19AM (#24213369)
    Satellite internet service has latency issues that will NEVER go away. It's the speed of light that is the limiting factor. I'm surprised you were able to use VoIP at all, honestly.

    You simply aren't going to get good performance out of a satellite internet service. It might be acceptable for simply web-browsing and e-mail, but for a business? Forget it. It's strictly a "we have no other choice" option.

    You're screwed, basically. If you want a good internet connection, you need something that is based on a good ol' cable, whether it be copper or fiber. If you don't have those available, then you need to build them. If you are really in the boondocks of Canada, then expect to pay millions to lay your own fiber.
    • Re:Move (Score:4, Insightful)

      by BuckaBooBob ( 635108 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:29AM (#24213581)

      He is in Northern Canada... its highly likely He has no other choice.. Its likely he is using VoIP because there are no copper lines for 100's of miles. Its likely he is even running of a generator for power..

      Being in northern Canada.. its much like being in the middle of the ocean.. Good luck on getting a landline :)

    • There is always the bright side that if you do lay your own fiber you could rent it out to everyone else and recoup the cost. ....Though if their was people who wanted to pay for fiber to beging with than it would already be there.

    • You know that there are satellite phones, right? Yes, the latency is annoying, but 500ms and even 1000ms is not crippling for a phone conversation. It will not be natural, for sure, but you can still talk. If his VoIP has been getting worse then it's clearly not due to inherent speed-of-light latency, because those satellites don't suddenly get farther away.

    • by hpa ( 7948 )

      Satellite internet service has latency issues that will NEVER go away. It's the speed of light that is the limiting factor. I'm surprised you were able to use VoIP at all, honestly.

      You know... satellite used to be the only option for intercontinental phone calls, too. It wasn't until the late 80's that undersea fiber cables finally dominated that market.

      There is, of course, a perceptible lag, but it's perfectly serviceable.

  • by RichMeatyTaste ( 519596 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:20AM (#24213393)
    WAN optimization, works rather well. We have several offices connected via VSAT links (shared bandwidth like yourself) and VOIP and everything works fine. The Riverbed averages about 90% compression across all traffic.
    (a href="http://www.tredent.com/news/fhi-deploys-riverbed-steelhead-appliances-after-testing-cisco-packeteer-and-juniper/">Go here you want to read our "success" story.
    • Damn butterfingers....
    • by Kamokazi ( 1080091 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @12:09PM (#24214369)
      I can vouch for the Riverbed as well. We use it for our connection to the Philippines (from Ohio, USA), and it works great. At one point it had cut down 50GB of requests to 2GB of sent traffic. I really don't think there are any alternate connections unless any of the sites get cellular service or you lay your own cabling which would be godawful expensive. You could sample a few other providers maybe, but I think optimizing your current connection may be your best bet.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      The Riverbed units will only help if your upstream bandwidth is greater than the bandwidth you are trying to provide. We tried to replace our Sky-X Mentat boxes with Riverbed last fall, but found that the Riverbed didn't perform even as well as the Mentats in our network.

      In a nutshell, we have 6MB from our upstream via fiber or copper (not sure which) and we provide 6MB Internet service to our service area (500 miles away) via satellite. After hooking up the Riverbed, we had no perceptible difference b
  • You can (Score:4, Funny)

    by kellyb9 ( 954229 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:22AM (#24213433)
    You should run a few hundred miles of ethernet cable down to Pennsylvania. I'll let you plug into my linksys router.
  • by gwn ( 594936 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:24AM (#24213469)
    never underestimate the bandwidth of a DeHaviland BEAVER full of cd and DVD's...
    • by fnj ( 64210 )

      But the latency blows. Milliseconds? Hours! First you've got to go wake up the pilot ...

      For every packet.

  • Terrestrial Wireless (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:26AM (#24213507)

    In order to avoid satellite providers altogether, a number of areas in southern Alberta have made the switch to terrestrial wireless systems. These systems typically operate in the 900 MHz or 2.4 GHz band, and provide each client with a highly directional radio frequency line of sight (it works through trees and bush) to the provider tower, which can be several kilometers away. These systems are very reliable, and boast latency and bandwidth similar to modern cable networks. Most providers do have a bandwidth cap in place, but they are not nearly as absurd as satellite provider caps. Best of all, they cost a fraction of a satellite connection, and the equipment itself costs less than $100 at the client site.
    With regards to specific technologies, check out the offerings of Motorola in their Canopy line of products. I'm sure there are many others, but I have experience with this one =)

  • by Gunfighter ( 1944 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:27AM (#24213529) Homepage

    Get with some of your local ham radio geeks. Those guys are amazing. Granted, their radio bands and equipment are not approved or licensed for commercial use, but they can probably at least point you in the right direction. Once they get the equipment (which is way less than $30k) and license, they can toss packets all over the place for free. I don't know what the bandwidth or latency is like on their systems, but I do know that when it comes to getting information from point A to point B, they get pretty creative. Certainly they can help you come up with something that will fit your needs (for a nominal fee). Worth a shot!

    • by chinakow ( 83588 )
      HAH, well here in the states it is limited to 9600 baud so good luck with that. I am fairly sure Canada doesn't have the same restrictions but they are not setting up wireless broadband connections either.
  • I think you should print out all your data packets and send them via mail.
  • Hosed, Eh? (Score:5, Informative)

    by da' WINS pimp ( 213867 ) <dart27NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:39AM (#24213769) Journal

    We [fmars2007.org] used NetKaster's commercial grade service at 75+degN. The farthest north it has been deployed according to their tech as of last summer. All satellite is shared, but we had good luck with VOIP and even some video conferencing when the weather cooperated. That far north you have to shoot through a lot of atmosphere to hit the bird. I would say if transport size is not an issue, go with two of their 1m dish systems and load balance. That should get you want you want.

  • Its not your ISP causing the problems. Its The Thing [wikipedia.org]. You are all doomed.
  • Carterphone!!!!! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by xtype2.5 ( 761755 )
    If voice is all you need try this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carterfone [wikipedia.org]
  • Get three providers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bill, Shooter of Bul ( 629286 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @11:53AM (#24214063) Journal
    I Had the same problem in the Caribbean. We ultimately just subscribed to the three different satellite services, and just had our network route the traffic accordingly. And yeah voip works fine over satellite. I don't know how it works so well, but it does work.
  • How far apart are the sites you need to work from? Within a few hundred kilometers of one another or literally all over the place? If you can set up a high-powered WAP in some kind of central location that has high-speed, you might be able to figure something out by putting some kind of repeater using dish antennas way the hell up there on a balloon or something.
  • You could try Iridium or what every they are calling it now. I know that they use it as a backup system in the Antarctic.

  • by DarthBart ( 640519 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @12:18PM (#24214573)

    I'm currently employed by a US-based VSAT provider and I'm the guy in charge of the IP sections and a good portion of the RF section too. Here's my advice and words of wisdom.

    1) You'll get what you pay for. Satellite spectrum *is* expensive, so if you're only paying $100/mo for service, you're being oversubscribed to hell and back.

    2) Consumer satellite providers mostly share bandwidth by TDM access. They have a large carrier from their earth station that runs all the time, but your transmitter bursts in a duty cycle set by the system controller at the earth station. Its great for downloads, but it sucks for VOIP.

    3) The people who say "VOIP won't work over satellite" are dead wrong. It works just fine. We have many customers in the US and several in Europe that use VOIP just fine. However, they're on "dedicated bandwidth", so there's no TDMing. If they're buying 512kbps of bandwidth, they have 512kbps of bandwidth. But they also pay more for that.

    4) I don't know exactly how much data and voice you need, but consider BGAN as a possible solution.

    5) And, shameless plug, feel free to contact me and we can see what we can do for you.

    • by TheSync ( 5291 ) * on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @03:35PM (#24217995) Journal

      Let's put some numbers on it: bulk satellite transponder time is going to cost you $100 to $200 per hour depending on band and desirability of satellite.

      If you go with DVB-S2 on 36 MHz transponder Ku satellite, I'm assuming you can generally get by with 8PSK 2/3 modulation (except when it rains very hard), about 7.1 dB Es/N0, for a data rate of ~60 Mbps.

      To just break even on $100/month service, you need to revenue of around $100k a month (add in uplink equipment depreciation, internet access costs, to transponder costs), and that means you need at least 1,000 subscribers.

      Average data rate of 60 Mbps / 1000 subscribers is 60 kbps. Yes, Internet use is bursty, but this is a worst-case scenario.

      I suspect most of these systems probably have 10,000 subscribers for a 10:1 oversubscription on a typical 60 kbps end-user capability.

      Note that I've ignored any return satellite bandwidth.

      The Ka band satellites do have the ability to have smaller spot beams, and they may use DVB-S2 variable bitrate to ramp up on cells that have no bad weather, but I don't think the SpaceWay sats are actually being used in this fashion right now.

      The verdict I've heard from everyone using satellite internet: better than dial-up (but with more latency for games), but that's about it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by DarthBart ( 640519 )

        DVB-S2 hasn't been around all that long, though. Most of the satellite ISPs are using QPSK 3/4 or 7/8s modulation. That'll squeeze you about 45mbps out of a 36Mhz transponder.

        And true bulk time is measured dollars per megahertz per month.

        TheSync...now there's a blast from the past from my Cidera days.

  • If you are only remote from a town with broadband by a few tens of miles, why not take that $30k and build a couple of towers with WiFi or WiMax relays?

    WiFi on cantennas gets some decent travel and even better on purpose built antennas. Two or three hops might add some latency, but I'm betting it won't be as bad as you are seeing now. See http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&output=googleabout&btnG=Search+our+site&q=WiFi%20distance [google.com] for some examples of how to do it. Some of those records are impre

  • Use CP/IP (RFC 1149 [ietf.org] ).

    You'll get great bandwidth, especially during migratgory seasons.

  • Good, Cheap, Fast. (Score:4, Informative)

    by zentigger ( 203922 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @12:50PM (#24215133) Homepage

    Pick 2.

    We operate over 50 sites North of 60, with our own uplink facility in Southern Canada. I can tell you satellite bandwidth is EXPENSIVE! Face it, it costs a lot of money to get those things floating around the planet and keep them up there.

    There are a few options available to lower the cost, which tend to lead to the 3 options.

    The one thing that Infosat does is use KU band. This is cheaper because is has a much greater suck factor. The main problem is the impact of rain-fade. This becomes especially significant in the high north becuase, being on the edge of the footprint (lower gain) and having much more atmosphere to pass through, plus lower elevation angles on the antenna lead to higher noise from terrestrial radiation. (we used infosat links for a number of years, and had the same problems you talk about)
    The other option is to use C-Band. It has a better footprint in the north and rain fade is a fairly negligible factor. It is also significantly more expensive.
    Telesat now has KA band as well, but I'm not that familiar with how it performs, or is priced. There are some issues with KA band, as well because it uses spot beams, so you cannot have a direct link between the East and West without a downlink in the middle somewhere.
    Most providers that are offering a "cheap" solution will also provide shared bandwidth solutions. This works well up to a point, as it allows you to make use of extra space when other users aren't using it (commonly called "burst" speeds), but the main problems with this are that everyone tends to want to use it at the same time (more or less) and it is easy for the provider to oversubscribe the link. You may be able to talk to your provider about traffic shaping options to see if they can prioritize voip, although I suppose that is not a very PC remark these days :)

    If you use the service mostly within the communities, there is a last mile broadband solution available for most places in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut (www.qiniq.com / www.airware.ca) using MCS (Clearwire).

  • VSAT (Score:5, Informative)

    by battery111 ( 620778 ) * <{battery111} {at} {gmail.com}> on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @01:18PM (#24215543)

    I am currently deployed to Iraq. Dues to the specialty of my job, my 3 man team rates our own VSAT uplink. The system we use is made by GCS and is their Cheetah model. Not 100% sure whose birds we use, but I believe Intelsat. This system in general works pretty good, auto acquire dish, integrated router, VOIP, etc. Since it is military, it also provides an uplink to SIPR, also with VOIP capability. The system works alright, but it has been known to be quite finicky, particularly with power sources. While the system is allegedly rated for a wide range, both AC and DC sources, in reality, it sometimes has a problem with generator AC power. Because of my remote location, generators are all there is for power, and anyone who has lived off of generators for an extended period of time can tell you that the power isn't always steady. In the past, power outages due to generator outages have killed the system, requiring one or more components to be replaced. Bandwidth is so so but it does do VOIP fine. Only other gripe I have with it is the management of it. Have to jump through a few hoops to connect to slashdot (something about non-work related . . .).

  • by popoutman ( 189497 ) * on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @03:07PM (#24217579) Journal
    Disclaimer: I used to be the lead tech support for 3 years for a small satellite-only ISP (25 employees) up to 18 months ago, which resold bandwidth from SES-Astra using both Gilat-360e satmodems for SOHO and BBI satmodems for the enterprise products, and later on EMS (now Advantech) DVB-RCS terminals for the enterprise.

    Latency is usually considered the biggest issue with IP over satellite. The best latency you can possibly get is 550 msec round-trip. If you are working with 2 satellite-enabled sites, your best will be 1100 msec, as there isn't any method of routing packets on the satellite. Packets will have to be sent to the groundstation and be rerouted, re-encrypted and repackaged for transmission to the other endpoint.

    The other big killer for satellite IP is the issue of jitter. If you are close to noise floor for receiving or transmitting, you will get a *lot* of jitter as you miss your timing slots or the SIT requests retransmission of the packets. You will also get jitter if you are close to the throttling limits that the provider has enforced in the background that will delay the transmission of frames as a crude QOS system.

    Latency kills applications that use lots of small packets for data transmission, e.g. RPC, older implementations of remote desktop, certain VPN solutions. Jitter on the other hand kills things like VOIP that function best with an expected and consistent timing of packet arrival.

    The usual method of IP over satellite that I saw in practice was the DVB-RCS protocol http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DVB-RCS [wikipedia.org] which in essence packages an encrypted datastream in the mjpeg frames that would be handled as part of a television feed. Knowing the limitations of exactly how the data is transported can go a long way towards explaining the reasons why some apps work great for some people and other apps plainly suck.

    There is not a huge amount of bandwidth available on the transponders, and the cost of the use of a transponder and the associated equipment at a groundstation can be frightening.

    The issue of pointing accuracy and available power is also critical with satellite IP. The receive strength is important, but not as critical as the pointing required for the transmission side of things. The usual method that we had for pointing was to contact teh upstream provider that had the oscilloscopes on the feed, setting a carrier wave on the satmodem, and changing the point until there was a power peak. Then the antenna was tightened up and comissioning was completed once the routing was set up.

    Satellite is good if you work within its limitations. It'll give you good service if your equipment is correctly specified and performs to its spec. It's unfortunate that the cost is so high, but that's the cost of using a transponder on a commercial satellite.

  • by kriston ( 7886 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @04:08PM (#24218677) Homepage Journal

    Most of these posts concern the Fair Access Policy limits and latency but you are probably excessively familiar with it already. I'm discussing how to solve your problem with access.

    The key phrase that catches my eye in your question is that you are in remote, Northern Canada. The beams you are able to receive are at such an oblique angle you should feel lucky to get any service. As you know the satellites are over the equator. The latitude at which you are located is likely so far north that the satellite signal has to travel through so many hundreds of miles of murky atmosphere before it has to travel another 22,500 miles to the satellite. You might consider yourself fortunate that it even works at all at such a high latitude.

    Northern Russia has an even bigger problem and they solved it with highly-elliptical orbits, sometimes called "tundra" orbits, but that requires some expensive ground equipment to track the birds and it's not even 100% available. The Antarctic uses huge C-band dishes and they're not even available at all times of data due to even more atmosphere attenuating the signal.

    While you do not specifically mention the provider or the satellite format you are probably using a Ku-band system like Starband or HughesNet. WildBlue, while actively marketing to Canada, has most of its spotbeams aimed at just north of the Canadian border and they're at really oblique angles at that. Since WildBlue uses Ka-band it's out of the question for these distances and will be unavailable when the weather is rainy.

    To solve this problem you'll be looking at expensive, non-consumer solutions that work in the C-band. Though the signals were somewhat weaker in the past, the newer satellites serving up north have surprisingly powerful C-band beams and, being in the C-band, they aren't affected by raindrops like Ku-band and Ka-band are, so the low angle in your location wouldn't be such a huge problem.

    The following outfits provide this kind of specialized internet service. I hope they are useful to you.
    For this kind of money, and the way C-band works, you can find dedicated transponder segments (and even entire transponders) so you will have a dedicated link.

    This firm provides custom satellite solutions:
    http://www.bcsatellite.net/ [bcsatellite.net]

    These sites have VSAT terminals for C-band (they do exist in case you were wondering):
    http://www.satcomresources.com/VsatTransceivers.jsp [satcomresources.com]
    http://www.anacominc.com/prod_xc.html [anacominc.com]

    Finally, you can punt and use Inmarsat terminals. They're not optimal but they can give you data in a pinch.

  • by Fallon ( 33975 ) <Devin...Noel@@@Gmail...com> on Wednesday July 16, 2008 @10:01PM (#24222799) Homepage Journal
    I can't help you Canada, but can relay my experiences from Afghanistan.

    512 down 128 up dedicated, 1.2 meter dish (I think, could easily be wrong on the dish), ended up running about $30,000 U.S. a year. About 2 people could fired up Vonage VOIP and get a decent connection, any more than than and things went bad. Ping times were 675-800ms when the link wasn't too saturated. We had upwards to 18 different people sharing the link, so it was often saturated, especially in the evenings.

    We looked at several different companies, and found some 256 symmetric shared (duno where the sharing took place, ISP or satellite, or what) connections for a little cheaper, but when we tried those out, they were all but unusable.

    Getting decent bandwidth and low latency to the ends of the earth isn't cheap, reliable, or effective. It wouldn't surprise me if the middle of nowhere northern Canada had an equally poor satellite footprint to Afghanistan.

Garbage In -- Gospel Out.