Big Sky Sales

SPACE THE FINAL FRONTIER. Not just for mankind, but increasingly for telecom, too. Its a big sky up there, and satellite could represent big opportunity for agents and VARs looking to boldly go where few channel partners have gone before.

Satellite faces a legacy of slow connection speeds and iffy quality for real-time applications, explains Larry Jones, president and CEO at satellite provider SDN Global. But that characterization is inaccurate with todays platforms. Satellite now provides multimeg speeds and throughput, and the inherent asymmetrical latency of the architecture has been so minimized through new technology as to be a nonfactor.

That means indirect sales partners should take a second look at what is becoming a rising market in three main sweet spots: disaster recovery/business continuity, rural and underserved markets, and companies with specific application needs, including digital signage or video distribution.

Satellite is flexible enough to meet the demands of a wide range of customers, whether its one site or a company with hundreds of locations, says Scott Pederson, director of channel markets at SDN Global. For companies outside a terrestrial broadband footprint, or those needing disaster recovery quickly, an agent can be a hero with this.

Many companies have route-diverse solutions, but they probably all come from the same fiber node. So one backhoe cut, and thats all she wrote.
— SDNs Scott Pederson

Business continuity is a large target. This is guaranteed to work, so we tell agents to look for opportunities in verticals that have truly mission-critical needs, says Pederson. For instance, satellite can support mobile command units for the Red Cross or the military. And for financial services, health care, just-in-time manufacturers, retail environments and oil and gas utilities, losing connectivity can spell disaster. Satellite can provide insurance against revenue loss, particularly when compared to terrestrial backup solutions. Many companies have routediverse solutions, but they probably all come from the same fiber node, says Pederson. So one backhoe cut, and thats all she wrote.

When it comes to disaster recovery, satellite can provide a solution thats truly independent of the local loop, making it potentially the only solution when terrestrial infrastructure is wiped out. SDN Global delivers voice services for the Army Corps of Engineers in Iraq, for instance, and supported nongovernmental organizations providing relief after the last tsunami.

Mike Mudd, president at satellite reseller Broad Sky Networks, says private companies also are concerned about planning for ad hoc disaster recovery. Satellite is able to provide fail-over in the event of an occurrence in a half-second, and can be up and running in a day if necessary, he says. This gives agents another arrow in the quiver, because when nothing else is left, satellite is there. They can tell clients, you dont have to throw up your hands if something happens.

In the rural and underserved markets, where there is little DSL or cable, and dedicated lines are too expensive, satellite also can be a compelling option. In every major industry, such as insurers, for example, theres a subset outside of the normal terrestrial footprint, crying out for broadband, says Mudd. And voice connectivity too. For $69 per month, they can get satellite voice, which is cell-quality these days.

Wireless communications for those off the terrestrial broadband grid is a focus for VAR Omni Solutions Inc. as well. One customer type in this area is construction companies, says Omni President Randy Marshall. When they break ground at a new site, they usually dont have access to bandwidth. So they need a solution for the short term, and satellite can provide that.

Data storage is another need. This is a market thats exploding, says Marshall. Government regulations, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA and so on require off-site data storage. Its slightly different in every state, but its a big concern. For CIOs suffering from TDD time deficit disorder being able to guarantee this is a big help. Call it protection from Murphys Law.

Source: SDN Global

Satellite dishes can be roof-mounted or placed on top of a trailer.

Then, there are the applications to consider. Agents need to educate their customers on the fact that it can support the same IP applications they have today, says SDN Globals Jones. It used to be that the industry sold cheap and then apologized for the service for the next three years. Now, thats no longer a concern.

Satellite long has been synonymous with multicast video and television, and recently it has been filling the need for video on a less grand scale. Our primary thrust is training and development, and digital signage, explains Jeff Curtis, senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing at satellite operator Helius Inc., which specializes in the management and distribution of rich-media services. VARs can offer companies satellite to support 3MB-quality video to multiple locations simultaneously, whether thats prerecorded content or live. Now that weve come to IP, companies can have more control over what they do with video, which content is distributed to where, [for] how long, whether its part of a unified communications play and so on. For instance, a car manufacturer could send out sales training communications targeted to dealers for a certain brand of car. Whether its customer-facing advertising within the store or employee communications, satellite is a stellar way to enable that.

Marshall says hes seen movement in unusual places, such as movie houses. We signed a movie chain that will use satellite to bring in movies digitally, he says. Rather than worry about shipping expensive reels around the country, they will download the content directly to the theater.

Another opportunity lies in upgrades to support enhanced applications. There are a lot of companies out there with old HughesNet systems, which are basic, legacy satellite systems that perform poorly but were inexpensive at the time, says Mudd. Now, these companies are finding out that they need modern applications to keep their businesses competitive, and support IP, and HughesNet just doesnt do the trick. Selling a satellite upgrade is a play for franchises, big pharma, utilities and government, which have far-flung remote sites and are increasingly relying on mobile and IP broadband applications. We can support Citrix and IP Sec VPNs now without having to re-engineer the entire network, says Mudd. Thats been a big evolution. A Broad Sky agent, for instance, recently landed a contract with the U.S. Forest Service using just such a pitch.

Because satellite customers may range from SMBs to large enterprises over a range of verticals, selling it takes correct positioning and some education on the part of channel partners. This is not one-size-fits-all, and you certainly have to understand what the value proposition is to the company youre talking to, says Curtis. The space segment can be a tough sell. But if you can link it to the purpose of meeting a business need, and layer in demos, proof of concepts and pilots for the bigger sales, you can show them the ROI and get them invested in the idea.

Positioning satellite as an overlay to the existing network is often a winning strategy, he adds. This is not a rip-and replace solution, but rather an alternate way to get to these locations, provide additional bandwidth, or enable some critical applications, such as digital signage. You have to understand the terrestrial side of their network.

Source: SDN Global

Roving vans with satellite connectivity can provide broadband in cut-off disaster zones, rural areas or construction sites.

Also, partners should be able to explain whats involved in installation (CPE tends to be a roof-mounted dish) and how the service integrates with the existing LAN/ WAN of the customer. Typically, you set them up with a dish, point it at the Southern sky, and youre off to the races on the equipment front, says Jones. We can have service up in days in some cases. And if a company provides their general networking footprint to us, we can take care of integrating the satellite into what they have installed.

Agents also should be able to provide information about the provider footprint and how to price it out. In most cases, theres a one-time charge for the CPE, and a monthly recurring charge that depends on whether the service is a primary or backup solution, how much bandwidth is being delivered and what the committed information rate is for the service. A partner likely will have to explain that satellite has come down in cost.

The perception is that satellite is legacy technology and expensive, says Mudd. But the equipment is definitely affordable these days, running between $300 and $1,000 depending, and were talking $100 per month per site for a backup line.

This year will be the year satellite comes into its own, SDN Globals Jones says. People are moving beyond selling satellite transport, he explains. Now, were focused on the reason to buy the technology content, distance learning, facilities management. So that makes it perfect for agents and VARs with existing customers with these needs. This will be a big differentiation year for satellite, and the agents that sell it.

Broad Sky Networks
Helius Inc.
Omni Solutions Inc.
SDN Global
SES Americom

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