Ford turns to Telesat for broadband services

Telesat Canada and Ford Motor Company announced a multimillion-dollar satellite-based program late last month that will provide high-speed intranet and Internet services to Ford Motor dealerships across North America.

Ottawa-based Telesat, along with project partners IBM Corp. and Hughes Network Systems, will immediately provide broadcast and broadband services to an estimated 2,000 of the firm’s Ford and Lincoln-Mercury dealers across Canada, U.S. and Mexico. The solution is now available in Ford dealerships and will enable dealers to transmit large data files using high-speed Internet rates and ensures secure access to the corporate Intranet, according to Telesat.

Until this point, Ford dealers had been going off on their own and finding local ISP services for general Internet connections, said Steve Lowe, North American director for business solutions at Telesat.

Ford was looking for a way to have a common North American broadband platform across its entire dealer base and Telesat’s satellite solution had an advantage in the simplicity of the network design, Lowe said.

“It’s a pure broadband satellite-based system – there is no terrestrial component other than the back-haul network at their host,” Lowe said.

“It’s the ubiquitous service offering – it doesn’t matter if they’re near a central office or cable company, anywhere within North America they can have the same level of service. They’re getting superior performance because of the speed of the service. For this scale, to be able to deploy a broadband solution to this number of locations, there really isn’t another solution that would have the same cost benefits. When you are a large corporation that has thousands of points of presence, you like to be able to manage that.”

Telesat’s relationship with Ford Motor Company began almost 10 years ago, when the company designed and implemented Ford’s Canadian VSAT (very small aperture terminal) satellite network. The network allows Ford to transmit data to and from its dealers using small, outdoor antennas. In 1999, Telesat, in partnership with IBM, was contracted to manage the in-dealership maintenance of Ford’s VSAT dealer network in the United States.

“Many large organizations around the world are turning to broadband networks for complex, high-bandwidth communications needs, and satellite technology is emerging as an ideal platform,” said Larry Boisvert, Telesat’s president and CEO. “Telesat’s unparalleled experience – both in space and on the ground – has earned us the trust of marquee customers such as Ford for both broadcast and broadband services needs. We look forward to increasing our business in this emerging area.”

Larger organizations are constantly seeking low-cost solutions for complex, high-bandwidth communications needs, noted Mark Quigley, telecom analyst for Kanata, Ont.-based The Yankee Group in Canada.

“We are seeing more and more companies gravitating toward Internet/intranet-based solutions,” Quigley said. “As with everything, it’s always more for less. [Companies are] looking for much more bandwidth to provide those services as the applications tend to get more complicated as we go forward.”

In light of the terrorist events in the U.S., companies are going to look toward redundant pathways so that they are not entirely dependent on one provider or on one mode of moving information, Quigley said.

“For a company like Telesat, it does provide a service that is not wireline-based,” Quigley noted. “There becomes considerable value added in that all of a sudden there is possibility of a redundant network being set up that is not dependent on traditional infrastructure-and can’t be affected in the same way infrastructure was affected on the 11th of September.”

Telesat, in Ottawa, is at