ViaSat Redefines Ka-band for Consumers/Broadcasters

After following ViaSat-1's launch and learning about the satellite's capabilities, ViaSat was on my "must-see" list at CES. After visiting the ViaSat exhibit in the parking lot outside the LVCC Central Hall, I'm convinced ViaSat will redefine Internet-over-satellite for consumers, and make satellite uplinking so easy and inexpensive that it could compete with terrestrial microwave and 4G wireless ENG.

For consumers, ViaSat's Exede service will offer download speeds up to 12 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload for $49.99/month, with a 7.5 GB monthly data cap. This compares favorably to Verizon's $50 per month with 5 GB monthly data plan for LTE, with approximately the same data rates. For those needing a high data allowance, there's a 25 GB per month plan (same speed) priced at $129.99 per month.

Engadget's Zack Honig has a video showing how the consumer service works at ViaSat residential satellite broadband internet hands-on (video).

ViaSat also plans to offer professional broadband services.

For TV broadcasters, one of the most interesting of these planned services is the use of a private data connection to one of ViaSat's ground stations for connecting with news vehicles or portable dishes through the satellite without going through the public Internet. Unlike Ku-band SNG, the Ka-band allows the use of dishes in the 70 cm range so that they can be added to many existing microwave ENG vans. Antennas of up to 120 cm can be used with larger vehicles for increased data rates under adverse weather conditions. Since this is a data service, there is no need to book satellite windows or transponders before connecting. And unlike today's SNG, the link is bidirectional, allowing voice-over-IP phone connectivity, cueing, and downloading of B-roll material for editing in the field. The major disadvantage is the latency due to the trip to ViaSat's geostationary satellite and back, but it's no worse than that with today's Ku-band links.

Testing with broadcasters is already being organized. Stay tuned for updates.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.