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Satellite service for mid-sized businesses rolls

Mon, 05/13/2002 - 8:00pm
Duffy Hayes

Getting sufficient broadband if you're a small or medium-sized business today is not easy, especially if your only option is expensive dedicated access. And if you're an enterprise business with a bunch of rural outlets … forget it.

But satellite technologies are growing to be a more viable alternative to the business connectivity quandary, and VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) technology from provider Gilat Satellite Networks is becoming more widely available.

Gilat announced that its U.S. subsidiary, Spacenet Inc., has signed a series of new contracts for its Connexstar broadband service. So far, Spacenet claims more than a dozen customers and three resellers for the business-class broadband service, and they have announced that they have commitments to deploy at more than 2,000 sites over the coming year. Most of the contracts for the Connexstar service are for three years, the company said.

So far, other VSAT providers have neglected the market for small to medium-sized businesses, as several hundred locations are required to cost-justify a custom VSAT WAN network. Spacenet targets networks on a smaller scale, with from 50 to 300 sites incorporated in the network.

Gilat is behind another broadband satellite offering, StarBand, which brings basic two-way satellite connectivity to consumers. Despite being backed by heavyweights like DBS provider EchoStar Communications and Microsoft Corp., the StarBand system so far has signed up only a nominal number of subscribers - roughly 40,000— and has been plagued with reports of poor service, distribution and performance. Whether the Connexstar service can overcome similar issues will be key to its future success or failure.

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