Satellite networks must be big to be economical

Published on: 2015-02-05

This Northern Sky research report has the details:

The assumptions are clearly laid out as follows:
  • A network is expected to grow from being a 50-screen, 20-site deployment in Year 0 to a minimum strength of 500 screens and 200 sites in Year 9 of the analysis.
  • The same network could also possibly grow from a 1,000-screen, 250-site deployment in Year 0 to a maximum strength of 20,000 screens and 5,000 sites in Year 9 of the analysis.
  • All screens are networked and consist of a standard screen, media player, connectivity equipment and AV cabling as the Customer Premises Equipment, while servers and software form the backbone. Installation costs of all equipment have been taken into account.
  • Recurring costs, on a yearly basis, consist of network bandwidth and maintenance of all equipment.
  • Factors such as cost of content and site rental are assumed to be equal across all deployments and hence have no relative impact.

The total cost of deploying a Digital Signage network of the scale mentioned above ranges from $150,000 to $11 million per year depending upon the number of screens deployed, and a large portion of that total is the cost of the screens. However averaged over a 10 year-period, the cost per screen rests between $2,300 and $3,200 per screen deployed. This translates to a cost of $7,000 to $10,000 per site if we consider the average number of screens between three and four per site. This figure for the average number of screens per site was established by NSR as a part of the Global Market for Digital Signage report and widely accepted by the industry.

The figure below depicts the variation in the cost per screen when compared across two technologies for connecting Digital Signage sites, namely terrestrial (wired two-way) and satellite one-way (DVB-S/S2 and terrestrial return path). As the figure shows, the "tipping point" is achieved when the cost per screen for deploying this network via a one-way satellite solution falls below that for deploying the same network over a terrestrial equivalent. This benefit continues as economies of scale are achieved, a long-standing advantage of a satellite solution. Based on the inputs above, NSR's analysis reveals that this tipping point is achieved at a network deployment of close to 4,500 screens.

Our take:

This is the first analysis of terrestrial versus satellite distribution costs that we're aware of -- publicly at least.  We're sure plenty of companies have done their own research on the best method to get data to hungry digital signage screens, but unfortunately the results of such studies are typically kept under wraps for competitive (or other) reasons.  That said, we're not surprised by the conclusions -- even with small aperture dishes taking over for huge C-band ones, the cost of installing satellite receiver equipment and paying for bandwidth is not cheap.  The economies of scale only kick in when there are enough endpoints and shared data amongst them to make satellite multicasting worthwhile.  Even in the case of a very large network, though, if there is a lot of different content on each screen, a terrestrial network is still the way to go.

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