RCFoc for April 26 - Satellite Bandwidth

Kieron Lawson (kieron@developments.co.nz)
Tue, 27 Apr 1999 10:33:53 +1200

Over here in New Zealand 'The Internet Group' (IHUG -
http://www.ihug.co.nz) have been offering downstream satellite
capabilities for about six months now (http://www.star.net.nz). Prior
to that, they have offered high speed (500kbps) microwave connections to
most of the Auckland area using a microwave transmitter in the Skytower,
a 300 meter tall phallus-shaped building sited in the Auckland CBD.
Price for both services, flat-rate, is NZ$69 per month. IHUG are
currently in the process of expanding their microwave service to include
digital television (http://www.ihug.co.nz/idtv), with black-box set-top
boxes. The Set-Top boxes include an ethernet port for connection to the
home lan.

The only disadvantage to the service is that it is limited to
downstream, with standard modem connections upstream, so is pretty much
only a home-consumer service. I understand that they are currently
experimenting with an upstream microwave service at the moment, and they
also offer dual-channel ISDN upstream with microwave downstream
connections to business customers at NZ$299 per month.
(http://www.ihugbusiness.co.nz/connection_options.html - Note that the
DDS connections towards the end of the page are quite expensive - these
are actually directly related to the charge regime instigated by Telecom
(http://www.telecom.co.nz) - the local Telco who pretty much have a
monopoly over the lines business in New Zealand)

Most of IHUG's backbone (about 130mbps IIRC) is fed from two
Geo-Stationary satellites, PAS-2 and PAS-8, I believe. While latency is
a bit higher than with terrestrial bandwidth, making the service pretty
much useless for online gaming, the benefits of a downstream feed at
this speed are high, particularly for schools and educational
institutions who have until now been limited to sharing an ISDN
connection or paying ridiculous DDS prices to Telecom.

Telecom has been slow to deploy DSL services, but recently announced a
product with a per megabyte charging scheme ($99 per month - 350MB,
$0.35 per MB thereafter).

The $NZ is about $0.55 to the $US at the moment.

RCFoC for April 26, 1999 - TWO Godfathers!?!:

We're ALL 'Developing Countries,' To The Internet.

Another Internet-In-The-Sky opportunity is planning to appear in
Spaceway's (http://www.hns.com/spaceway/spaceway.htm) and
Teledesic's (http://www.teledesic.com/overview/fastfact.html) (and
others') sky: this one from Tachyon Inc
(http://www.tachyon.net/main_tech.html), which promises average
download speeds of between 2.5 megabits/second down to 256
kilobits/second, with "upload" speeds of 256 kilobits/second. (The
differing download speeds are the result of "Quality Of Service"
capabilities, allowing Tachyon to charge higher prices for higher
data rates.) Service will be available across Europe and North

Using a small (under three foot) dish and an associated "black box"
that, according to the April 21 Computergram, runs embedded Linux,
Tachyon will provide "always-on" Internet which is
"...indistinguishable from other Internet connections." The box will
have an Ethernet jack that will happily provide connectivity for a
small LAN.

What I find fascinating is that, in speaking with Tachyon senior VP
Mike Liephold, he told me that he expects to begin service "...THIS
FALL!," which is well before the competition is saying they'll be
online (in 2002 and 2003).

Although Mike wouldn't comment on pricing, saying that the service
will be resold through, and priced by ISPs, Computergram indicated
initial pricing will be in the vicinity of $400/month, with prices
dropping over 2-3 years to target the "high-end consumer market."

But is satellite service such as this just for the "boonies"? I
don't think so. For example, I recently moved two miles within the
same town, yet today as I write this, my ISDN line is finally (Yes!)
being reconnected at my new house after four months of waiting!
After listening to the installer explain the rather massive rewiring
that was required around town to get the appropriate unloaded
circuits to my location, I can at least understand the difficulty,
but that's just the point.

The wired infrastructure was never designed for the world of the
Internet, and the upgrading is slow and painful for supplier and
customer alike. But just as many developing countries are using
wireless phones instead of installing or upgrading a wired
infrastructure, these satellite services may well provide broadband
Internet alternatives where ISDN, DSL, and cable modem services
still fear to tread. In a way, EVERY country is a "developing
country," when it comes to the Internet.

I believe that, eventually, high-speed Internet access will be
easily available to anyone, and eventually at affordable prices.
Perhaps we're seeing that time edging just a little bit closer.