The Current Ecosystem: A Wild Rush of ISPs to Provide Faster & More Data at Less Cost
The Connectivity ecosystem in India is set for a paradigm shift with service providers literally falling over each other to woo consumers into accepting their voice and data offerings. “Free data”, “Unlimited Data”, “Minimal Payment”, “Fast 4G Uploads & Downloads” are some of their advertising catch phrases!
VSAT Remains in its Place
Within all this clamour, VSAT (very-small-aperture-terminal) or satellite broadband steadily holds its place. This type of system has some key advantages. It is a highly secure connectivity medium and connects widely scattered regions. It acts literally as a saviour for end-users seeking connectivity in different remote locations where other modes like DSL, Fiber Optics, 3G and 4G are simply not available.
The key advantage of VSAT is that it provides “always-active” and uninterrupted connectivity. Thus, VSAT is ideal for those businesses that require uninterrupted connectivity and real-time access for mission-critical applications. For these businesses, 100% uptime is a “must”.
Hughes Communications India Limited, a leading VSAT service provider in India, has stated, “Broadband satellite solutions are ideal for businesses that need high-quality and always-on data, voice, and video connectivity virtually anywhere, and which terrestrial networks cannot always deliver, especially in remote locations. Because satellite offers a true alternate communications path it is also ideal as vital backup for organizations that cannot risk outages due to the vulnerabilities of terrestrial networks.”
The backbone and main advantages of a VSAT system comes down to two vital applications:
- Providing terrestrial broadband
- Providing branch connectivity through Wide Area Networking.
Some Interesting Applications of VSAT!
Here are some unique cases where VSAT is possibly the only connectivity alternative in the absence of alternatives.
Deep into the Sunderbans (a dense forest – actually the world’s largest coastal mangrove forest) a Non-Governmental Organization runs a small school in a remotely located village. Yet it utilizes Smart Classrooms with E-Learning being its integral part. Internet connectivity is its backbone. However, none of the usual ISPs provide internet connectivity in this location. The only panacea for them is a VSAT solution.
At a popular, yet remotely located tourism resort in a hilly area in Northern India the tourists always request internet connectivity to keep in touch with their family and friends; yet no usual connectivity line is available due to its remote location. Once again, a VSAT comes to the rescue and is the only connectivity option available to the resort-owner.
A small pharmacy in Arunachal Pradesh (a remote state in Northeast India) needs connectivity for medicine ordering, stock updates, and interaction with its distributors. Here too VSAT is the only connectivity option available.
An engineering & construction firm focusing on the utility sector is working in a remote village in Rajasthan setting up a solar energy project. It needs connectivity to sync with its headquarters, branches and its remotely located employees. Once again VSAT is the only available option.
VSAT is Highly Entrenched within the Large Enterprises and Some Other Niche Sectors
Large enterprises often utilize VSAT as an effective tool for connecting their branches and locations across wide geographical areas. Some other areas where VSAT usage is significantly high are the banking sector (for connecting branches and remotely located ATM sites) and offshore oil & gas exploration.
The India government foresees a Digital India in the future, whereby all citizens (even those in remote villages) will enjoy the benefits of better connectivity. VSAT is the key tool that can provide the magic touch of connectivity to remotely located rural areas and thus facilitate vital applications like healthcare, e-Governance, e-learning, and rural banking to name a few.
SMEs an Unexplored Yet Latent Sector for VSAT
AMI has investigated the usage of VSAT by the small and medium enterprise (SMEs) sector and finds that the key hurdles to VSAT adoption by the SME sector are threefold.
- There is a seeming lack of awareness regarding VSAT in general.
- An apprehension about the proper value proposition of VSAT.
- A general lack of knowledge about VSAT’s various aspects.
This is clear from some of the queries voiced by SMEs related to availability, customization, pricing options, training, services and channel partners.
Due to the sheer size of the SME universe in India as well as globally, there is a huge latent market for VSAT adoption in the future.
VSAT for the Future, there are Numerous Opportunities
The onus is on the VSAT service providers who need to dispel the fear and apprehension in the mind of the prospective customers especially the SME sector that has a highly unmanaged IT infrastruc-ture. Channel Partners are the only route to reach out to this sector, due to their wide geographic dispersion. Joint campaigns by VSAT service providers and their Channel Partners in specific geographies can play a highly positive role in the propagation of the benefits of VSAT.
There are some challenges related to the regulatory and licensing environment that has impeded growth prospects of VSAT service providers. Some knots need to be smoothened related to questions about extent of Foreign Direct Investment and amount of Satellite bandwidth available. Authorities like ISRO, TRAI and DoT can play a vital role in these areas. Once these issues are sorted out, there is no doubt that the VSAT market in India can leapfrog to new heights.
~ Dev Chakravarty