Lift Off

Status date

The Internet penetration growth curve is still on the steep side: people require more and more affordable and faster connections to the Internet, independent from where they are. The key characteristics of what is expected from an Internet connection are speed, affordability and reliability.

Through the recently launched European telecommunication satellites that use Ka-band technology, Internet via satellite with high bandwidth and low cost is becoming a reality. On the other side, competition from terrestrial solutions is also increasing through technologies such as WiMax, Hiperlan and LTE. To keep a competitive advantage, satellite based systems have to be able to provide service packages that can be easily understood by the customers, with characteristics that are close and directly comparable to the ones available in terrestrial offers, such as ADSL.

In this sense the Lift Off Project tries to further the innovation of recent satellites, investigating how DPI (Deep Packet Inspection) can be introduced by a Satellite Service Provider. The scope of this innovative “next step” on top of the KA-SAT is to optimize the existing services and to generate innovative market offers for satellite internet connectivity, maximizing the user experience while improving the ratio cost/performances.

The Lift Off project is identifying and implementing a solution based on the Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) of the IP traffic on the KA-SAT network, to enable a “flat” profile offering for applications such as Web browsing and email in a market context (Satellite Broadband) where such offering does not exist nowadays. Objective of the project is to evaluate the behaviour of the end users when operating in the new “flat” commercial proposition and to validate the performance of the system with the proposed solution.

More specifically the activities proposed in the Lift Off project are the following:

  1. Collect User Requirements which allow the definition of the “User Profile” (UP) for each market segment identified.
  2. Define Network Performance and Metrics (NPM) able to capture the network behaviour, which will be used as dimensioning tool able to identify the required additional bandwidth to be allocated to each user due to increase of traffic on the network.
  3. Define User Performance and Metrics (UPM) able to represent the Quality of Experience perceived by the end users; these metrics will be utilized to assess the customer satisfaction as well as to measure the actual performances in case a customer complaints.
  4. Build a Simulator/Emulator of the KA-SAT network in order to predict network dimensioning and user experience through extensive simulations.
  5. Design the Pilot System Architecture and integrate all the new elements into the existing Opensky infrastructure.
  6. Deploy a pilot network and run a pilot with real customers in order to:
    • Validate the identified UP, NPM and UPM previously identified under realistic operational conditions.
    • Define and validate the way this innovative Internet via Satellite service can be offered to customers.


  1. Translate User Needs into meaningful User Requirements able to be grouped into User Profiles clusters.
  2. Adapt the simulator/emulator to the KA-SAT characteristics in order to reproduce the condition of the real network and to estimate the dimensioning and costs of the identified User Profiles.
  3. Fully exploit the DPI over satellite, in terms of performances, features, capability of profiling and traffic enforcing.
  4. Properly introduce the concept of the DPI to the end users, understanding the way this feature can be marketed to them.

The project is dedicated to realize a new class of satellite internet profiles that, combined with the new generation Ka-band satellites, can compete with terrestrial Broadband connections in terms of pricing, performance and customization. It allows a lot of citizens to gain access to web based services and boost the economy in digital divide areas.


The high level system architecture is depicted in the figure below:

click for larger image

The main network elements are:

  1. User terminal: This is an IDU/ODU terminal in Ka-band utilized for the standard services over KA-SAT.
  2. Satellite: in the project KA-SAT is utilized, it is characterized by a multispot coverage over Europe with 83 spots.
  3. Teleport: the KA-SAT system is completed with 8 Teleport/IP Gateway over Europe with 2 more as spare. A Fiber ring connects all the gateways. During the project the Hub in Torino is used, where all the traffic from the Italian spots can be collected.
  4. DPI Platform: this is the core of the system and is made of a Policy Controller (where rules are done) and a Policy Enforcer (where rules are implemented in the real traffic).
  5. NOC Platform: the NOC Platform is related to the DPI system and it is operated by Opensky.
  6. 6.Radius and Firewalls.

During the project the following additional development, integration and validation activities are implemented:

  • Definition of the DPI rules through market research, user requirements analysis, traffic statistics and prediction, simulations.
  • Integration and validation of the DPI enforcer, applying different policies in terms of traffic rules (allowing or blocking protocols or applications, giving priorities to certain type of traffic, etc.).
  • Development of a Management and Control Subsystem able to interact between the DPI layer and the existing CRM, charging, billing , reporting, monitoring.
  • Development of a simulation/emulation platform mirroring the KA-SAT environment

The high level architecture of both simulator and emulator is presented in the figure below:

click for larger image

An existing simulator for DVB-RCS based on the satellite network extensions of the Network Simulator (ns-2) will be tailored to the requirements of the project (DPI, KASAT, etc).

The simulator architecture is shown in the next figure, where the elements to be developed during the project are indicated in yellow.

click for larger image

The final version of the Simulator will:

  • Comply with physical and MAC layer of Surfbeam2 for KA-SAT.
  • Modelize DPI for each cluster of users (e.g., business, home, tele-control).
  • Provide a full-scale user deployment for each spot beam.
  • Allow to load the simulated network with different traffic patterns per user type.
  • Provide aggregated network statistics, useful to evaluate NPM.

Emulation activities are performed on a Satellite Network Emulation Platform (SNEP), with specific modules added to match the target system specifications. The SNEP is a cluster of PCs, where real applications and traffic can run.


The project started in October 2012 for a duration of 13 months.

The first part of the project is to collect user requirements and define the system architecture of the pilot network and of the simulator/emulator platform. During this period Network Performance and Metrics (NMP) User Performance and Metrics (UPM) will be identified.

The last part of the project is the pilot stage with real customers, which is dedicated to understand the behaviour and experience of the end users, gathering their feedback on the operational service.

Current status

The Factory Acceptance Tests (FAT) milestone was successful. All the equipment is up and running. Extensive Simulations and Emulations have been performed to define the rules to be used by the DPI.

Such rules have been now configured on the machine; it will be the starting point to profile the service for the pilot customers. The next step of the project will be dedicated to collect users for the project pilot phase.