Answer

Configuring VoIP for an office using a VSAT Internet connection

I'd like to configure voice over IP (VoIP) for my office network using a Very Small Aperture Terminal (VSAT) Internet connection. Do you have any recommendations for getting started with such a setup?

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I've been mulling this one over -- I decided against it several years ago, and did so again even after Hughes announced an improved DirecWay Internet that didn't use the analog plain old telephone service (POTS) as a leg for Internet.

VoIP over VSAT configuration recommendations

First, get some background by reviewing "VoIP and Satellite Systems: System Integrator's Perspective" by Toku Oishi. This PDF is a definite must-read, whether you decide to go at it alone or get help from a hosted provider.

OK -- configuring VoIP for an office using a VSAT connection isn't impossible, but before you get started, ask yourself some important questions:

  • Why do you want to do this?
  • Is it practical?
  • Is it worth the effort?
  • Name that latency factor with satellite -- is it 250 ms, or is it up to 900 ms for Internet-enabled satellite services? Maybe you have a stated latency level in a service level agreement. (Keep this in mind when you read below.)

Also, you should definitely seek a VoIP-ready satellite Internet provider, especially if you have one site and lack the resources to implement it yourself. Before you seek a provider, though, consider some more questions:

  • What compels you to add VoIP to the VSAT Internet connection?
  • Are there benefits or just cost savings? If so, what kind of savings and what are the benefits?

The kicker is latency. If your application involves push-to-talk, then you're talking ship-to-shore, and I say go for it! Geostationary location(s) can put you a notch up, and then some of the providers are using POTS or the public switched telephone network (PSTN) in their offerings. If you happen to be in the target market areas of ERF Wireless (around League City, Texas), then you should reach out to them -- they are leveraging fiber and satellite with radio in some niche verticals.

If you have a qualified business reason for pursuing a VoIP over VSAT connection, then it is worth the chase. But seriously, look at ERF Wireless -- if you are in their footprint, you could eliminate some time and effort. If not, then review the list of available providers and weigh your options. Most importantly, though, really consider why you want to deploy VoIP over VSAT, and fully understand that there are some challenges and obstacles you're likely to face. Start with the business case first; that should either qualify or disqualify your efforts when you speak with hosted providers.

This was first published in December 2010

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