A look under the hood of the ViaSat-2 ground network

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  • Updated 8 months ago
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Satellites get all the press, but the ground network the Viasat team built is equally impressive. Read more in the Inside Viasat blog.


Below, see the difference between the cloud-based antenna for ViaSat-2 (left) and the larger ViaSat-1 antenna.
The building behind is full of servers and electronics for the older system; all of which isn't needed for the new Satellite Access Nodes.


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Alex, Viasat Corporate Communications

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Posted 9 months ago

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Jim16

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"ground network the Viasat team built is equally impressive."   So impressive that others want it....

"ALCAN, Isotropic Systems and Viasat will develop high-throughput terminals to work with the mPOWER satellites being built by Boeing for SES. "    https://www.ses.com/press-release/ses-networks-announces-partnerships-groundbreaking-o3b-mpower-cust...
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Alex, Viasat Corporate Communications

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I'm working on a blog post with our antenna team in Switzerland about these flat-panel phased array antennas, which are super cool. I didn't know much about how they worked but learned the basics: the flat panel has a bunch of electronics on the face of it that form beams which can be moved around to point at different satellites or, in the case of a plane or train or other vehicle, to maintain tracking to a particular satellite. That's all without the antenna moving at all. This is interesting for the NGSO (non geostationary orbit) satellites since they rise and set and cannot stay on a fixed antenna like your service off our GEO birds does. So as a line of these LEO or MEO birds rises and sets, these phased array antennas shift constantly to stay connected. As the price drops, we could in the future conceivably be able to use these for residential, which would mean an antenna that would never get out of alignment, could switch between satellites on a dime and be a lot smaller and easier to install. We'll be seeing these things on planes, cars, trains, ships and more as they start becoming mass produced. 
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VeteranSatUser, Champion

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I would think Exede in the Air has to operate on a similar concept today as a plane goes across the country. A forerunner perhaps of what you are describing above!
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J&J

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Ya mean one of these HERE new-fangled antenia  ?
 
That's some high-speed stuff going on in that box and it ain't MIMO
 
(Edited)
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Alex, Viasat Corporate Communications

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The current in-flight antenna we have is pretty sophisticated, but it's mechanical: it rotates under the radome on the fuselage to track the sat. Flat pane/phased array would do the same only with a lower profile and no moving parts.
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Jim16

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"regarding the prices of electronically steered flat panel antennas. Commercial models range from $15,000 to $45,000,"

Yikes!

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J&J

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When will the remainder of the VS2 ground stations be built?
 
And why service San Francisco right out of the hat?  That's a small footprint where everybody has about 40 ISP's to choose from... who's subscribing to Viasat there?  I would have thought a better place to start would have been Silicon Valley, especially the mountains to the east.  There are billionaires living in these here woods and most of them have HughesNet for their Internet.  When I ask why they have Hughes, they reply "what else is there" and I'm flabbergasted.  I tell them Viasat but sadly I can't give a demonstration of VS2 because it isn't available here.  People around here have money to burn...  or invest, but they are fickle, they want to see it work first.  If they like it, they buy it, and I mean far more than just the service.
 
 
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Alex, Viasat Corporate Communications

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I couldn't tell you the underlying logic of how these beams are being lit up but I suspect it's got more to do with the network config than the actual location. This satellite has quite a few more beams than VS-1, and they're not all the same (some more powerful than others, for those 100-meg areas). All of the ground stations are built -- it's just a matter of configuring the network. Should all be done soon ...
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J&J

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Well I guess that answers that.  Can we see a beam map of VS2?
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Jim16

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You're pushing your luck...  :)

"for those 100-meg areas".   I wonder how many and what it takes to be a 100meg area.

(Edited)
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VeteranSatUser, Champion

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There are a number.  What does it take?  Pure speculation on my part, but from what I had seen, high utilization areas of Viasat-1.  Now THAT is a good thing.  After all, what good does a 100Mbps beam do over NYC!
(Edited)
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Martin Seebach

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Greetings to Judge and Jury. You may be a neighbor in 'these here woods.' 

Now onto SSDD gripe at Viasat. Where did the hood get put. All I see is one nice image of 2 satellite dishes. How would they fit under any hood? Behind the curtain past smoking mirrors works better. :)) Did you put the same people on this who imagined up to 12mb/sec fallacy? newest intern on this one? I've been asking why my location bounces from San Diego to Portland with some in California central valley and some in Oregon high desert. Apparently the person who might respond has been on nearly a full year break. Recently the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska and some tiny village in Northern Manitoba showed up on list of places the computer believes it has visited. Are concerns of class action certs why no response? Or is it embarrassment over the dead cat burial at crossroads on a full moon forecast? If the former you have valid concerns. If the latter, take a breath, clear your mind and forecast with a 15 percent...ummm, perhaps better to use 40 percent...margin of error/safety. I am quite sure the US government and military covered most, probably all, of Viasat2 build and launch costs with a generous over estimate clause. So the miserly .20 and less speeds are pure mean bs? Or me being a noisy customer got the response? Regardless of reason behind them it truly is no way for a service to operate. Your disclaimer on speed is not the panacea you seem to be placing such faith in. Cavalier disregard towards past, current and possibly future customers promotes ill will that translates into churn, cancelled service and in worst case hefty law suits from hungry attorneys. Much safer to promote actual conditions instead of fiction and blue sky fairly tales with a wink and smarmy smile. I must compliment your login applications although NSA and/or DARPA likely provided asic and coding to assure authorized access only.   
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johnny c

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Pretty much the story of technology, as time goes by, systems become smaller, increased processing power more robust and more reliable.  Thanks for the look.
(Edited)
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Stephen Rice, Champion

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And this is why I keep saying, the cost for Viasat 2 is more than double (possible 4x) whatever the satellite itself cost.  Lots of things on the ground have to exist for the magic to happen.