Hughes Demonstrates 20 Mbps Broadband

WASHINGTON: When the government talks about expanding broadband connectivity around the nation, it’s often satellite technology that gets forgotten or overlooked. Satellites just can’t give millions of end-users the kinds of speeds they get from terrestrial services, the thinking goes. Satellite Web systems rely on cable or DSL for upstream traffic, until now.

Hughes Network Systems set up shop this week in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, just around the corner from the FCC, to demonstrate Web service at a whopping 20 Mbps, way fatter than the 1-5 Mbps you can now typically get from a coaxial cable.

In the demo, Hughes engineers set up what it sees as the connected home circa 2012: a big screen streaming a movie from Netflix at 3 Gbps; a robust regular old Internet connection running multiple simultaneous data streams; VoIP over satellite at 64 kbps; and a 1 Mbps high-definition Polycom videoconferencing system for good measure.

The major key to the big pipe is a giant pipe in the sky--a satellite, codenamed Jupiter and scheduled for launch in 2012, that will pump out 100 Gbps.

The setup for the demo involved exactly what a future user would have, but it received data from Hughes’ Spaceway 3 satellite, with a capacity of 10 Gbps--enough juice for the demo, but not when that service is scaled to the massive amount of users Hughes envisions.

Also helping enable the high-speed service is Web acceleration and enhancement software. For example, traditional TCP technology on the Web is not satellite-friendly, with its regime of “handshakes” to create connections. Hughes has software to make it more smooth for space-based connectivity.

And, upstream traffic goes right up from the same .98-meter dish, not over a terrestrial connection.

Hughes is showing its system to get the attention of the various agencies (such as the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Rural Utilities Service) that are handling some of the federal stimulus funds, and of the FCC, which is in the midst of a major broadband review. This is needed, Hughes officials said, because the role satellite can play in the nation’s broadband plan is frequently overlooked.

With the massive capacity ahead, Hughes figures the service will be appealing not just to consumers but also for a wide range of government and enterprise users. The company touts the system’s versatility and configurability as well as its ability to deliver capacity on demand when needed, as in the case of disaster-related services.

For example, America’s Emergency Network, which delivers disaster information among media, government and emergency managers, uses Spaceway 3 on-demand to deliver content from its hub in Las Vegas to partners around the country.

And Hughes’ Inter-Government Crisis Network uses the unique onboard switching and routing capabilities of the Spaceway 3 to create any number of user groups among crisis-related agencies, which can be immediately activated in any emergency. -- From Government Video