The Challenge of Connecting Beyond the Edge

By: Santiago Jaramillo

No matter what industry a business operates in, communications are crucial and make it possible for organizations to carry out their daily activities. When it comes to the communications infrastructure in place, the core networks of fiber, cable, and mobile can all provide reliable support for a business to depend on, in line with its requirements. However, when companies need to extend mission-critical applications beyond that core, they can face significant challenges. 

Networks must provide high-quality, reliable connectivity with seamless operability around the clock, even as the data crosses the different transmission formats of fiber, satellite, 4G/LTE, and microwave. The problem is that IT network operators now need to integrate third-party cloud services into networks that weren’t designed to support them. These ever-increasing demands test the limits of very-small-aperture terminals (VSAT)—the pillar technology for remote communications—which ties up IT staff time, limits the capabilities of end-users, and introduces unacceptable failures.

Optimized processes

The satellite industry is adapting to this challenge by deploying Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN), a proven technology in terrestrial communications that creates a secure virtualized Wide Area Network (WAN) from the capacity of all of the circuits available to it.

Every few milliseconds, it checks the capacity of all the circuits for reliability, bandwidth, latency, and other quality of service factors. Circuits that do not pass the test are labeled as unavailable during that period, and SD-WAN securely and automatically redirects traffic to the highest quality remaining links, including failover circuits, to deliver better performance for applications and reduced costs for IT and telecom operators.  

Overcoming rising demands and design limitations

Until recently, the satellite industry relied on manufacturer-specific VSAT platforms to manage the delivery of bandwidth to its customers. While these platforms provide more flexibility and control than legacy, single channel per carrier (SCPC) circuits, they still have significant limitations for the demands of the future.

Most VSAT platforms are proprietary, so modems and hubs are not interoperable; switching or roaming between systems requires manual reconfiguration every time. They also have inherent throughput limitations, and when a customer’s bandwidth requirements exceed these limits service providers must stack multiple modems together and load-balance using standard routing protocols. This makes management more complicated. Given that loads can change dynamically, customers can run into design limitations of individual hubs, resulting in them having to pay for more bandwidth to handle peak loads, regardless of the average usage.

One solution for a multitude of industries

VSAT modems generally only support satellite bandwidth. Leveraging disparate telecommunications technologies, such as wireless and terrestrial links, requires external routers and complex routing protocols that cannot respond quickly enough to dynamic changes across multiple circuits.

However, SD-WAN can overcome this challenge by virtualizing capacity and automatically managing the availability, bandwidth, and latency of networks, making it easy for customers to prioritize bandwidth allocation and content. For example, end users can choose to transmit video streaming over fiber networks and less latency-sensitive business communications via satellite.


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