Broadband Internet Access for Residential and Small Office/Home Office

This is the original story of our technology development for WildBlue. As of January 2012, WildBlue is still in service, but has been supplanted with a new high-speed service called Exede Internet, based on our new high-capacity satellite system. Exede Internet still builds from the same technology legacy as WildBlue, which was the first satellite system to use a well-established terrestrial system as a technology base to build from. That gave it immediate advantages in economies of scale and the ability to support large networks serving hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Learn more about Exede Internet.

WildBlue Background

Thanks to the innovation of an advanced Ka-band broadband system, WildBlue became an affordable, two-way broadband service throughout the contiguous United States. Following its rollout in mid-2005, subscriptions quickly grew to about 420,000 customers.  

The primary objectives of the technology behind WildBlue are to reduce the cost of providing satellite broadband and to make it easier to provision and manage subscriptions. Advanced spot beam, bent-pipe satellite technology and an innovative ground system design were the first steps.

The Beginnings of Frequency Re-use to Lower Bandwidth Costs

Spot beam satellites focus multiple, high-powered beams onto the earth, with each beam covering a specific geographic region, similar to the cells of a wireless phone network. This technology produces an increase of four to six times the capacity of conventional Ku-band satellites that have only one large beam or "footprint", generally covering an area slightly larger than the continental U.S.

WildBlue launched its service using all of the U.S. Ka-band capacity on the Telesat Anik F2 satellite. Then in March 2007, WildBlue initated service on its own satellite, WildBlue-1. As the first full Ka-band spot beam commercial satellite, WildBlue-1 immediately tripled the capacity of the network.

Building From Terrestrial Technology Makes Satellite Simpler and More Affordable

Perhaps as important as choosing spot-beam technology is another aspect of the WildBlue strategy; building a satellite system based on well-proven and mass produced technology already in use by millions of broadband customers.

The initial WildBlue service was based on the cable industry's Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS®). By adapting a widely-used communication standard to satellite, WildBlue leveraged millions of dollars in investment for its own use, including mass-produced chipsets, scalable hub hardware, and customer premises equipment.

To adapt the system to satellite, WildBlue chose Viasat as its technology partner. Viasat engineered a satellite modem, a compact Ka-band transceiver, and the satellite modem termination system (SMTS), which is the baseband "headend" of the network. (Viasat acquired WildBlue in 2009).

System Elements Combine to Deliver Mass Market Scale

The satellite modem, similar in size and function to a DSL or cable modem, converts the analog data transmissions into Internet Protocol (IP) data packets, which can be read by subscriber PCs or any digital Internet appliance. Viasat technology enables WildBlue to leverage standard components while ensuring the design provides excellent performance over the Ka-band satellite link.

Another key part of the terminal technology provided by Viasat is the outdoor satellite transceiver. The 3-watt linear output power transceiver is an integrated, compact package, operating at transmit frequencies of 29.5 to 30.0 GHz and receive frequencies of 19.7 to 20.2 GHz. As with the other system components, this low-cost transceiver is key to making the cost of the customer equipment affordable to the average consumer.

At each WildBlue gateway location, the Viasat SMTS provides the interface between a high-speed terrestrial Internet backbone and WildBlue subscribers. The SMTS controls the access network, acts as an IP router/switch to communicate with and manage the traffic for each subscriber satellite modem, and performs authentication and encryption for subscribers. Thirteen WildBlue gateways throughout the U.S. and Canada provide high-speed connections to the Internet via a redundant fiber backbone.

Exede Internet – A Leap Forward in Performance for Satellite Broadband

The demand for broadband by satellite is indisputable, as is the growing demand for more bandwidth. Each time WildBlue has added capacity to its network, a spike in subscriber uptake followed. Today, WildBlue cannot meet the demand of the market and capacity is sold out in key geographic areas, which has limited subscriber growth. Consumers are also expecting more and more performance from their broadband connections, as demand for video and other multimedia continues to accelerate.

With the right technology, satellite can provide that kind of great user experience, equaling median DSL or cable services.

To remedy the capacity crunch, Viasat has engineered a transformational, high-capacity satellite system, including the satellite, a next-generation SurfBeam 2 ground system, and breakthrough web acceleration. The combination produces a quantum leap forward in satellite capacity:

  • Increases total bandwidth available by a factor of 10
  • Service speeds to homes that are eight times faster than traditional satellite broadband
  • Good enough to compete with DSL and wireless 3g/4g services, with speed four times faster than average DSL (according to an FCC study)

With abundant bandwidth to allocate to each subscriber, this new satellite system delivers a new level of speed and service quality – an economical, high-volume, media-enabled service – for the first time.

The debut of this exciting new level of service began in May 2011 with its rollout to customers of Eutelsat ToowaySM in Europe and then in early 2012 this next generation of satellite broadband became available in North America through Exede Internet in the U.S. and Xplornet in Canada.