Industry veteran Tim Shroyer, CTO, General Dynamics, Satcom Technologies, sees the dawn of a new era driven by innovative technology that offers increased capacity to users at the prices that have never been lower.
Do you see the dawn of a new era with regard to the emergence of Ka-band, the reduction in cost of ‘bits’, improved mobility, the ability to make smaller antennas work and other innovative technologies?
Ka-band satellites are providing significantly more on-orbit capacity in most regions of the world. Communications’ products from UAE-based Yahsat and others coming on orbit in the Middle East, make a reference to similar advantages. Users benefit greatly from the increased power and bandwidth available from these new Ka-band transponder services because the satellites have broader spectrum available and higher downlink power.
In addition, they can also “re-use” the spectrum through focused spot beams. Where previous satellites had spot beams to essentially increase power and sensitivity over narrow regions of interest, the new spot beam technology permits the same satellite to use the same uplink and downlink frequencies to cover different areas at the same time, multiplying the capacity available on the satellite just as cell phone systems do on the ground. This frequency reuse reduces the total cost of the transponder capacity because it shares the cost of the satellite among many more earth terminals.
Why do you believe Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) is ideal for broadcast?
Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) is unique in communications technology because it can cover significant regions of the earth from a single transmitter. One high power transponder on a satellite can cost-effectively provide television or radio distribution services over an entire region, bringing all the benefits of high bandwidth, high quality video and audio broadcast in the most cost-effective way possible. These same services benefit commercial and military communications systems by delivering information needed by a larger number of users simultaneously.
What are your views on the cost per bandwidth being a primary consideration in satellite communications?
The big consideration in satellite communications has always been the cost of the satellite transponder bandwidth, or space segment. However, the cost of the space segment really includes the cost of the bandwidth itself, usually expressed in MHz or actual RF bandwidth, and the cost of the whole communications system. With efficient earth terminals and effective IP routing systems, the cost of the initial earth terminal hardware might be higher than the cheapest possible approach, but if properly designed, it can result in the lowest total costs overall, including space segment leases and equipment procurement costs. This trade-off is especially important with new Satcom-onthe- move systems. A less capable Satcom-onthe-move system might initially cost less than a high-performance terminal that can maintain contact with satellites and transmit efficiently, but the total cost will always be lower for the communications overall with a highperformance Satcom-on-the-move system.
From choosing the right terminal to interference issues, what are the challenges ahead?
Some of the challenges in the satellite communications industry are determining how to make best use of this new broadband mobility capability. Satellite broadcast is fairly well understood by consumers and broadcasters alike. It is so common to use satellite communications systems for television broadcasting that we all simply take that for granted. It just happens and appears to work flawlessly. We in the industry keep pushing on the capabilities of earth terminal technology to reduce the costs of the hardware on the ground while improving the real performance. That is more challenging because the price points are being pushed hard by the market at the same time. New Satcom-on-the-move terminals will continue to evolve quickly as users find more and more applications for the growing use of broadband coverage anywhere in the world. We will continue to play a leading role in developing new and improved communications systems in support of military and commercial users worldwide.