Northern Sky Research

Wireless & Satellite Link-ups Yield Traffic Offload Benefits

May 28th, 2014 by Jose Del Rosario   More from this Analyst | Profile

Traffic offload is a central theme among mobile operators as they seek to relieve spectrum congestion and maximize revenue potential, and here, satellite operators appear poised to play an increasing role in this important market.  Indeed, one of the benefits of the proposed AT&T acquisition of DirecTV is that the latter can to be used as a video offload mechanism in managing traffic on heavily burdened terrestrial wireless networks. A TMCnet article stated that “AT&T, after a DirecTV acquisition, could at least consider serving up linear video entertainment by satellite, thus freeing up bandwidth on the fixed network for high speed access.” In essence, companies looking at the triple or quadruple play have to manage voice, data and video traffic and services within their respective infrastructures.

In the area of offloading mobile Internet (non-voice) traffic, this has been done to date using Wi-Fi networks, which has proven to be an effective means for mobile operators to maintain quality of service and manage the stress on mobile data networks.  However, a recent forecast by Ericsson indicated that by 2018, more than half of mobile data or over 7 Exabytes of traffic per month from the current 1 Exabyte will be accounted for by video traffic.  Wi-Fi networks have certainly been used extensively and will likely continue to be utilized over time.  

Yet, the proposition forwarded of additional benefits within an AT&T acquisition of DirecTV or a wireless service provider purchasing or incorporating satellite systems where part of its network infrastructure can act as a video offload mechanism is certainly worth looking into, especially given the massive upcoming monthly barrage of video content consumers and enterprise users will demand in 4-5 short years.

There are a few important points to note:

  • The satellite industry is anchored on Video markets, particularly DTH and Video Distribution due to the advantage of broadcast economics.
  • In the mobile web where video in the form of data needs to be distributed to multiple sites, i.e. instead of video headends or DTH dishes, content will need to be distributed to BTS sites, the same broadcast economic advantages should apply.
  • The massive amounts of data to be offloaded will need a robust but cost-effective satellite solution, and here, NSR proposes a low cost/high volume model that can be achieved using HTS. 
  • The low cost/high volume model is already at play in the consumer broadband access segment, and it should be relatively easy to apply the same business model for video offload.
  • HTS is not and will not be the cornerstone of a wireless telco’s video offload or traffic offload strategy, but it can certainly be part of the network infrastructure, either as a core component or a complementary layer.

Bottom Line

In its recent report, NSR’s Wireless Backhaul, Trunking and Video Offload via Satellite, 8th Edition the research findings indicated that the satellite industry has not yet formulated a solution that targets the video offload market.  Some experiments have taken place; however, the ROI benchmarks have yet to prove a business case to fully develop a video offload via satellite solution.

In NSR’s view, it is not a matter of “if” but “when” satellite players begin developing technical solutions as well as signing deals to partner with mobile operators to specifically address traffic offload issues. A 2017 timeframe is foreseen by NSR to be the start of the video offload via satellite market and considers the proposition as a “wildcard” where traffic and revenue prospects can achieve higher levels of growth compared to current projections.