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Today there are pretty many options available for Business
Satellite Internet connectivity in the U.S. Moreover, new
offerings seem to launch all the time, becoming a bit confusing
for the business owner who can’t obtain traditional high speed
internet or can’t afford the expense of running a T1 line to an
isolated location. Here are several options for commercial
satellite internet solutions, including pros and cons. Obviously,
each company and user have different needs, so no one
platform is a one size fits all.

1. iDirect Platform:
This is a proven Enterprise platform which provides a wide
range of dependable speeds for most any business,
government or heavy use individual. Download speeds from 64
kbps to over 2000 kbps and Upload speeds from 64 kbps to
over 1000 kbps are available. The platform supports “shared
bandwidth” or guaranteed “QOS” bandwidth at much higher
pricing. In the U.S. a 1.2 meter dish is standard. Equipment
Cost: Equipment – A 2 watt system will cost about $2,700
installed. A 4 watt system is about $4,300 installed. Monthly
Service: A minimum circuit is about $250. A typical setup of
1000/256 kbps is $499 per month for a shared bandwidth-no
FAP setup. For about $350 per month you can get 2000/500
kbps service with a 3 GB throughput allowance per month.
There is a cost of $.09 per MB thereafter. The “shared
bandwidth” package is far more predictable with the iDirect
platform than with DirecWay or Starband setup’s. You can
expect to see the advertised speeds 85 % of the time or better.

2. Surfbeam Platform:
This product is in the process of being introduced in America.
Surfbeam uses the same platform basically that a cable or DSL
provider would use, except it is satellite internet. It is much less
expensive than “Enterprise” grade systems. There is only one
provider ready to launch this platform in the U.S. and they
should begin shipping equipment by April 1, 2005. In most
cases a 1.2 meter dish will be utilized with a 2-3 watt
transmitter. Download speeds of 1500 kbps and uploads in
excess of 500 kbps are the advertised speeds; however,
this hasn’t been verified in the field as of this article date.
Equipment Cost: Ranging from $1,295 - $1,995 including
installation. Monthly Service: Ranging from $95 - $400.

3. Starband 484 Platform U.S. :
This is the “beefed up” version of Starband service designed to
attract small businesses and heavy individual users. This is DVB
(digital video broadcast) technology which is converted to IP –
the conversion process is the problem. It adds to overall latency
and even with higher upload speeds than their consumer
products (they advertise “up to” 256 kbps in Turbo Max mode-
unclear what that really is), they don’t support VNP traffic or
VOIP connections. Download speeds are listed as up to 20
times faster than dialup…whatever that means. Dish size is
24”x36” and transmitter strength not given. Equipment Cost:
$900 + shipping + installation (price not given). Monthly
Service: $160.

4. DirecWay Business Plus Service (U.S. only):
This is the DirecWay “beefed up” version of service. The only
meaningful difference between this platform and the Starband setup above is DirecWay has more experience “massaging” the
DVB conversion to IP and possibly more advanced acceleration
techniques. They will support some types of VPN and VOIP, but
it requires expensive equipment ($2,000+) to be placed at the
satellite location and at Headquarters for a VPN circuit- often to
the chagrin of the IT department at HQ. Inadequate upload
speeds for heavy VPN “chatty” programs still plague this
platform. You can expect download speeds ranging from 800
kbps to 1500 kbps or more. Upload speeds range from 29 kbps
to 90 kbps. This system uses a .98 meter dish and 1 watt
transmitter. Equipment Cost: $900 + $375 installation
(shipping included). Monthly Service: $129+.

5. Ka Band Satellite Internet:
When this technology becomes available, it could literally shake
the foundation of the satellite internet world – or not! It is a
technology that has been many years and over 1.5 Billion
dollars in the making. There will be 30 spot beams aimed at the
U.S. and 5 used by uplink centers with the initial satellite
(Telesat’s Anik F2) which will be operated by Wildblue
Communications, a Denver, Co. based company. It is being
targeted to small business operators and consumers in rural
areas through a network of rural electric operators (NRTC)
initially and through two national distributors as the year
progresses. If it works as advertised it will permit
telecommuters to successfully VPN into home office much like
they would with a cable or DSL connection – except at
somewhat slower speeds (due to about 500ms of latency). Still,
it has a lot of promise for the small businessman. They will not
offer an Enterprise solution for some time- if ever. With a
satellite dish about the size of a trashcan lid (.67 meters) and
a two watt transmitter, users will be able to download at
speeds up to 1500 kbps and upload at speeds ranging from
128 kbps to 256 kbps. Equipment Cost: $300-$500. Monthly
Service: Three plans with varying download speeds.

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