Thursday, October 29, 2009
Monday, October 26, 2009
Frequently Asked Questions......
FTI understands that our High-Speed Satellite Internet Solution is a new concept for many cable operators and poses some concern for others that have experience with other satellites solutions. Here are a few of the questions we hear most often from operators. If you would like more information on any of these topics or have more questions please contact the sales team at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 1-800-833-3353.
Q: How long has FTI been in the Internet business?
A: FTI has been offering two-way satellite Internet services since 1996 to schools, businesses, and ISPs throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. The FTI system uses advanced satellite technologies to provide the most reliable and technically available system despite the presence of the most difficult of local weather conditions.
The FTI two-way satellite Internet service was first offered under contact in 1996 to provide parity of service to rural schools in Arizona and Wyoming where the requirements were for “fiber levels of availability” and “metropolitan area Internet data rates”. The original Wyoming school service was a two-way C band offering with subsequent similar service provided to Hispanic schools in Mexico and to ISP’s in the Northwest Territory of Canada. Years of satisfaction with the service has resulted in the contract being renewed with the stipulation that all schools be upgraded to the high-speed system now being offered to cable operators for even greater reliability and faster data rates.
Although the C band satellite Internet service was very reliable, the costs associated with of C band uplinks, frequency coordination, recurring frequency protection and FCC licensing made the offering less than ideal for small cable operators. The service FTI offers today utilizes the best of both worlds as a C/Ku band hybrid. This unique service uses complementary polarized satellite transponders on a cable TV satellite (IA-5) to provide C band downlink service to eliminate fade from localized weather anomalies together with a Ku band uplink with UPC (Uplink Power Control) to mitigate rain fade factors. The result is a single antenna solution capable of achieving fiber levels of availability.
The FTI system has already been proven in this difficult operating environment for the past seven years and has been further improved with the use of DOCSIS-compliant and certified equipment to provide high-speed Internet services to small cable systems.
Q: How much does it cost?
A: FTI has alleviated the risk of offering Internet service because; FTI’s service is priced based upon the number of subscribers only. There are no other charges such as line charges or satellite fees. The capital cost is comparable to the requirements of traditional telephone services but the fixed reoccurring fees for bandwidth and connectivity are no longer required. With this business plan, a cable operator is cash profitable with the first subscriber with up to 75 percent gross operating profit.
Q: What are the Data Rates?
A: The equipment provided allows data rates delivered to the headend up to 18 Mbps downstream and up to 4 Mbps on the upstream. However, unlike residential satellite-delivered Internet services, FTI’s solution includes a CMTS that allows the operators to set the data rates to the subscribers and has built-in TCP acceleration, traffic management, and a local proxy/cache. The cable headend is connected directly to the Internet backbone via the FTI satellite connection. All of the features not only result in increased throughput but also eliminates potential bottlenecks as typically experienced in a rural terrestrial Internet connection. The standard Internet service package to the cable headend is limited to 2 mbps outroute and 512 kbps inroute. As the cable system grows, the data rates are automatically increased by FTI up to 10.0 mbps for system with over 500 subscribers.
Q: What is the Excess Usage Fee and why is it needed?
A: The Excess Usage Fee is FTI’s way of encouraging cable systems to monitor and control their own subscribers. Although the current usage limits have been used for the past seven years with only one system exceeding them in the entire period and, then, only for one month; there is a general agreement that the limits should be evaluated based upon domestic cable television subscriber usage patterns. FTI has established a moratorium on the Excess Usage Fee through the end of the year in order to determine the average monthly Internet use per subscriber for the purpose of raising the limits on the contracted Excess Usage Fee to more realistic levels.
With a telephone provided connection, a cable system receives 1.544 Mbps and is unable to exceed that limit. As a result, the cable operators are forced to monitor individual usages within the system and impose their own controls to ensure that all subscribers may share relatively equally in the fixed data rate made available at the headend.
By way of contrast, the FTI system provides a much bigger pipe but it is shared with other cable systems, usually in different time zones so that peak network usage is at different times of the day. Rather than limit each system to a T1 service level FTI has elected to offer the higher data rate based upon cable system data demands while providing the software tools to manage subscriber use locally. As such, each cable system has the capability to use substantially more than what a fixed T1 service might provide.
In this configuration it is imperative that each cable system monitor and control their subscriber’s usage just as in the example system above. To ensure sufficient bandwidth at a system level, FTI provides the software tools to allow systems to control their own total usage. FTI is not considering this fee as an additional revenue source but rather as a motivational tool for local system monitoring and control and furthermore, FTI hopes that it is never applied.
Q: Will the Proxy/Cache allow Chat and File Swapping?
A: Absolutely. The purpose of the proxy/cache is to give real-time users priority to the satellite link. It increases the quality of service that cable operators can provide.
Q: What about Java Script?
A: Java Script works fine. As a matter of fact some of the tools FTI uses to control the system are Java Script based. FTI has yet to find any application that does not work with this service.
Q: Is there an auto transmit power adjustment?
A: Yes. The FTI system utilizes an advanced uplink power control system that is only limited by the excess gain in the transmitter unlike other systems that either do not have UPC (Uplink Power Control) or are limited to only a few dB. Typically, the excess gain of the FTI system is greater than 10 dB above the gain required to achieve 99.5 percent availability in any given site location with resulting uplink availabilities greater than 99.99 percent.
Q: Is there Forward Error Correction (FEC)?
A: Yes, the FTI system uses the most advanced FEC available. It is referred to as TPC or Turbo Product Code and provides an additional 2 to 3 dB margin above and beyond current cable television digital FEC systems. In other words, if two C band satellite links were providing HBO and the FTI Internet services to the cable system when a terrible thunderstorm caused the HBO signal to fade, the FTI Internet service would require nearly twice the downpour of rain to occur before Internet fade would begin.
Q: Is this service Virtual Private Network (VPN) friendly?
A: It is better that friendly; it is secure. The FTI system is capable of VPN traffic in both an Internet and Intranet applications. The satellite modem is equipped with a Defense Encryption Standard 3 (“DES3”) chip set that can be activated at anytime. “DES3” allows for totally secure VPN communications between the cable system’s headend and any other comparably equipped location in the Internet or Intranet. Moreover, communications through the FTI satellite system to other systems also on the FTI Intranet never touch the public switched telephone network and are totally private.
Q: Aren’t satellite links unfriendly to file uploads and lose connection?
A: This is a very valid observation for typical two-way residential and SOHO satellite technologies that are being marketed by FTI competitors. Lost data due to interrupted or lost connections between the system and the satellite are not uncommon in these residential applications. Setting aside the FTI provided data buffer located at the cable headend, the FTI system is designed to maintain connectivity to the satellite in the most extreme localized weather conditions.
The possible data rates far exceed any normal or practical small system inroute file upload requirement. The FTI system utilizes an inroute caching system that provides a number of functions including a buffer that prevents any degradation or loss of data due to the loss of the inroute (or outroute) carrier. The cache (data buffer) continues to accept any data or information from the cable Internet user regardless of the condition or continuity of the connection between the backbone and the cable system headend. The only link where a lost connection may result in actual lost data would be the loss of a connection between the cable Internet subscriber and the cable headend.
Notwithstanding the above, FTI’s commercial grade solution was designed by a cable operator for small cable systems. Inroute data rates from the cable subscriber to the cable headend are limited by the tier of service authorized by the cable company. Typically, these service rates range from 128Kbps to 512Kbps. The inroute data rates from the cable headend to the Internet backbone are limited by the capabilities of the satellite modem at 4 Mbps.
At least one FTI customer provides the most difficult application possible with respect to lost packets in uploads or downloads by uploading streaming video of concerts via the FTI platform and service and, does so without the buffering provided to the cable operator with the proxy/cache server.
Q: Isn’t satellite latency an unavoidable problem with satellite Internet?
A: Ordinarily, yes; but not with the FTI satellite system. Traveling at the speed-off-light, a signal originating from a cable system and passing through the satellite to the Internet access point in Woodbine, Maryland would normally take half a second with a corresponding time delay or latency on the return signal path. With any latency or time delay for terrestrial Internet queries, a typical lowest possible latency or time delay for a satellite transmission is 1300 msec with much greater (over 2000 msec) latency typical of the residential satellite Internet systems; but NOT with the FTI system.
Round trip ping tests of the FTI satellite Internet solution are normally average between 500 to 600 msec; a test result that testifies to the effectiveness of the TCP acceleration built into the satellite modems included with the FTI solution. While somewhat greater than the latency of a terrestrial connection, the FTI solution makes up for the slight increase in latency with blindingly fast file downloads. When both factors are considered, the net effect is faster downloads and Internet access.
As a point of comparison, the normal latency associated with a cellular telephone call is comparable to that of the FTI satellite Internet service.
Q: What about “Gamers”?
A: The subject of “Latency” cannot be raised without also addressing on-line gaming applications. Competing satellite Internet applications do not have the advantages of Internet acceleration; download speeds and caching or proxy capacity at the cable system headend. As such, latency of gaming applications through these “residential” satellite Internet services is quite substantial.
When satellite transport latency is reduced to the 500 msec to 600 msec range, however, other contributing latency in the on-line gaming experience begin to become factors. These latency factors include the type of video card, hard disk read/write speeds, memory type, total RAM and memory speed. All of these factors contribute to latency with the FTI satellite Internet latency being relatively inconsequential in the overall total of all latency contributions to on-line Internet gaming.
Profitable Internet in Small Cable Systems
Pushing Internet into Small Cable Systems: The Wireless “Last Mile”
The key to a successful implementation of high-speed Internet systems is no different than the proven formula for good cable television operations; large numbers of happy contented subscribers that receive reinforcement of the wisdom of their monthly purchase of services through good experiences with the technology. As in any business, large numbers of satisfied customers remain the one constant of the determination of “success.” Unlike conventional businesses, however, the cable operator must take the technology to the customer. Unlike conventional businesses, the cable operator must provide a wide range of flexible services capable of change with local market conditions. This is particularly true of small cable system operations given the limited numbers of homes passed by the cable plant together with the high fixed costs of new technologies.
Today, multi-megabit wireless technologies exist that allow the small cable operator to cost effectively extend the reach of the most profitable service offering available to the cable operator since the 60’s; that service being high-speed Internet. Typical last mile delivery of Internet services is accomplished via an upgraded two-way cable system. Some cable operator are able to accomplish this task with the addition of two-way electronics only while others must contend with aging cables and connectors configured in a sometimes unworkable two-way cable system architecture.
In the alternative, a number of wireless technologies are available that allow distribution of the two-way high-speed Internet services up to 30 miles in a line-of-sight path with short range coverage using technologies that are relatively immune from path obstructions such as trees or small structures. These technologies present the small cable operator an alternative to time consuming and sometimes costly system upgrades while concurrently extending the coverage area miles beyond the franchise boundaries.
Unlike the capital costs associated with a system wide upgrade in order to offer a service to a select few subscribers, the implementation of a wireless last mile to the Internet subscriber restricts the capital costs of installation solely to those the subscribe to the service. Concurrently, the relatively low capital costs associated with today’s wireless alternatives provide a means to extend the service to other franchise areas, surrounding homes that cannot be reached economically with cable plant extensions or businesses that may not ordinarily consider subscription to the cable services.
A wireless last mile solution provides many small cable operators an immediate solution to the provision of high-speed Internet services whether or not there are future plans to upgrade the system to two-way. At the same time, the “homes passed” by the wireless signal becomes significantly greater though a line-of-sight 30 mile radius coverage area of up to 2,800 square miles in the extreme case using “backhaul installations” and a 10 mile radius of coverage (300 square miles) with typical subscriber installations.
Finally, while it is unlikely that the entire cable channel line-up can be economically microwaved to a nearby community or cluster of homes, the two-way high-speed Internet signal may be easily cost justified for an “Internet Only” service in most areas.
As a result of the consideration of a wireless last mile solution, the small cable operator is now able to significantly increase the number of homes passed by the high-speed Internet service thus meeting the primary objective of successful business operations; large numbers of satisfied customers.
How many subscribers can you afford to lose...Several months ago a small cable system owner in Montana asked the question, “How many subscribers can you afford to lose before you have to add high-speed Internet?” He had been observing basic cable losses to EchoStar and DirectTV for months with little sign of a reversing trend in either other cable systems or his own. With only a few hundred subscribers and being located in a extremely rural area, standard commercial Internet options were either too costly or not available. The future appeared to be frustratingly depressing as more and more subscribers responded to the lure of hundreds of “digital quality channels” for less than the cable bill. Clearly, something had to be done. Understandably, he was not surprised to hear that he was not alone in his dilemma.
In the August Multichannel News article, “STEALING SUBS – Cable Sustains More Tough Losses to DBS”, columnist Mike Farrell reported second quarter increases in DBS subscriber growth of 795,000 subscribers while the cable industry claimed 280,000 of that figure in losses. Annualized, this represents a cable industry loss of over 1 million basic subscribers IF the trend does not continue to escalate. In the same article, Echostar chairman, Charlie Ergen, made it clear that the 67 million strong cable television subscriber base is the primary marketing target for Echostar growth. “The real focus is cable companies,” Ergen said. “They have 67 million customers. If we are going to grow our business, we’ve got to get customers, for the most part, from those guys.” The second quarter growth figures for DBS together with the reported cable industry subscriber losses suggest that the Echostar strategies are working and the DirecTV is likely vying for the same subscribers.
Today, setting aside local channel carriage in rural cable markets, there is one service that differentiates DBS from the cable services; reliable high-speed Internet. For those cable companies fortunate enough to be operating in larger communities, Internet services can be contracted from the telephone company and can be provided cost effectively to relatively large numbers of Internet subscribers. For those cable companies in rural America without these telecommunications resources, often times the choice is either to purchase expensive telephone company Internet services and attempt to amortize the expense over a dozen or so Internet subscribers or not offer Internet services. It will likely become increasingly evident that the latter option will be met with steadily declining basic subscriber numbers and a proliferation of small dishes throughout the community if the DBS industry has anything to say about it.
Today, there is an option for the small system cable operators. Two-way high-speed Internet services can be provided without the need for telephone connectivity. Moreover, the Internet rates are based upon a fixed fee per subscriber, thus, ensuring profitability with the first subscriber added. Unlike the DBS attempts at two-way satellite Internet using small rooftop dishes, the cable company solution is a reliable high-speed system designed for businesses and cable companies with a larger two-way satellite dish designed to be immune from all but the worst local weather. Maximum data rates may be contracted up to 6 mbps or as low as 2 mbps on a per subscriber basis.
Last mile delivery to the cable subscriber can be via a two-way cable plant or wireless solution direct from the cable headend.
Today, the small cable operator can meet the challenge presented by Charlie Ergen and the DBS industry as easily and cost effectively as the larger metropolitan cable operations…………..or not.