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IPoS - Satellite Internet

IPoS (Internet Protocol over Satellite) is a satellite Internet protocol which was developed by Hughes Network Systems (HNS), the provider of Direcway broadband satellite systems.

HNS wanted to create a standard for broadband that is applicable to the whole industry and based on IP-centric technology. Since the architecture was common to Hughes’ broadband technology, all it needed was software porting and layering. As a result, all Direcway NOCs in the world are now IPoS ready. Worldwide, Hughes has between 300,000-350,000 IPoS terminals, meaning that IPoS is already used by about half of the broadband satellite market.

IPoS resides in the network layer - over physical and data link layers, which are specific to satellite technology. It features a well-defined interface between satellite dependent functions and the application layers, named SI-SAP (Satellite Independent-Service Access Point). As a result, SI-SAP creates a logical separation between the user interface and the satellite interface and allows applications designed to be compliant with SI-SAP to be easily ported. IPoS manages Layers 1 and 2, and adheres to SI-SAP when connecting to the open world. According to HNS, IPoS is scalable, supporting applications from a single home office to multinational VPN customers.

IPoS got endorsed by the Telecommunication Industry Association (TIA) of North America in December 2003. The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) ratified the TIA 1008 IPoS air interface specification as ETSI TS 102 354. Hughes will start a multi-tiered licensing program available to industry applications and systems providers.

Although there is no other satellite broadband player on board this initiative yet, and IPoS has yet to achieve market acceptance outside of Hughes Network Systems, Hughes foresees a significant interest in IPoS. HNS has lined up support for IPoS from several technology companies, including Microsoft, Intel, Texas Instruments and HP. It’s also generated support from big-name players in the satellite sectors such as Intelsat and SES Americom.

Many call IPoS a marketing gimmick from Hughes. But Hughes officials tout IPoS technology as the first truly global broadband satellite standard and say an industry-standard open interface is essential for the future of the broadband satellite industry. Some cynical industry insiders, however, have described IPoS as an HNS tactic to rob momentum from DVB-RCS, another ETSI standard. Whatever HNS’ motivation, IPoS is still too closely associated with HNS for the comfort of many potential licensees.

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