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Skype via Satellite

What's Needed For Proper Operation
Over A Satellite Link

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Simply put, Skype via satellite is a very expensive proposition, especially if you want service with guaranteed voice and video quality. By guaranteed, I mean crystal clear picture and sound. As with other video streaming services used over a satellite link, the only way to achieve guaranteed quality is with dedicated bandwidth.

Here's why ...
Proper Skype operation requires a significant amount of throughput bandwidth to make it work effectively. Usually, up to 100 kbps per voice call and up to 300 kbps for each video webcam session. Throughput bandwidth refers to that specific amount of bandwidth that must always be available to support successful operation.

A Skype via satellite webcam session generally will seize all the available bandwidth continuously during a call until you hang up. It needs all the bandwidth to be available during the call, otherwise voice and video quality will degrade or you may even experience random disconnections.

It is largely because it consumes so much bandwidth during its course of operations that Skype is known within the satellite industry as a "bandwidth hog". This is in spite of the fact that it is very popular for providing voice and video communications around the world.

For terrestrial broadband networks - i.e. fiber optic or cable, Skype's operational bandwidth requirements are not an issue. However, because satellite bandwidth is very costly, if you intend to run Skype via satellite with guaranteed voice and video quality, you can expect to pay a substantial amount of money.

Solution For Multiple Skype User Network

Following is an example of the cost involved for a small Internet Cafe network serving multiple users of Skype services at the same time with guaranteed quality over a dedicated satellite link.

If all 6 people in this cafe network are engaged in Skype video webcam sessions at the same time, at least 2,000 kbps or 2 Mbps of sustained throughput on the satellite will be required to support this simultaneous usage. When compared to broadband cable or fiber optic networks, this is not that much bandwidth; however, over a satellite network it is a rather substantial amount of bandwidth.

Sustained 2,000 kbps throughput means that you need to have all this bandwidth allocated as dedicated CIR. CIR stands for Committed Information Rate and means that this bandwidth is dedicated to you only and is not shared with anybody else.

CIR is required to support all streaming usage like continuous data transfer, VoIP, videoconferencing, webcams, etc. You need the same amount of bandwidth on the Rx receive and the Tx transmit, so we are speaking about a total of 4 Mbps of dedicated CIR satellite link to support 6 Skype webcams with guaranteed quality.

A ballpark pricing for that amount of dedicated satellite bandwidth would be something like $14,000. USD per month. As you can see, using Skype via satellite to communicate with guaranteed quality is unreasonably priced.

Money Saving Tip
In a situation where you need to provide satellite service to support Skype usage with guaranteed quality for a business or commercial environment, there is no choice other than a dedicated satellite link. However, you can let people know you are running in a bandwidth constrained environment and encourage the use of Skype in shifts.

By limiting the simultaneous usage to half of the number of PCs in your network, you can SAVE as much as half the expense for this dedicated link.

Solution for Individual Skype Users

For those individuals who wish to use Skype via satellite and are willing to forego guaranteed voice and video quality, there is a shared bandwidth satellite solution that will deliver satisfactory service for substantially less money. And .. it does not require a dedicated satellite link.

Instead, this shared bandwidth solution includes some dedicated bandwidth on each service package level to ensure service availability at all times. Keep in mind, this option delivers satisfactory not guaranteed voice and video. So, if you want good quality Skype video over this connection, the more dedicated CIR bandwidth that you can acquire - particularly on the Tx upload, the better!

Service Recommendation
Look for a service package that will provide good sustained throughput. Skype service will probably be decent at about 100 Kbps, but it will use as much as 384 Kbps if it can get it.

Select a shared bandwidth service with at least 24 Kbps of Tx upload CIR (dedicated bandwidth) and sustained throughput around 100 kbps. Something like 1024 kbps/512 kbps, 10:1 contention ratio service with 102 kbps Rx/51 kbps Tx CIR should be sufficient. However, you need to understand that with this service package you will see better video than the people on the other end of the connection.

Streaming Services Summary
The same concepts apply to all streaming services or applications that generate continuous traffic: radio/TV streaming, VoIP, heavy file downloads, P2P, etc. Voice services - like Skype voice or VoIP - require much less CIR bandwidth, so these usually remain affordable. Depending on the service and voice codec used, VoIP usage usually ranges from 11 to 30 kbps CIR per each line.

It's webcams and P2P services that generate the most bandwidth concern. If a satellite provider tells you that their satellite service supports streaming or unlimited webcams and they do not provide you with enough CIR, then this is simply a marketing move that is not backed up by any resource on the satellite spacecraft.

More Skype Info

For complete details on dedicated and shared bandwidth service solutions for using Skype via satellite communications, follow this link to my service provider recommendations.

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