By Koen Willems
Global MilSatCom, held in London last month, provided a forum for the satellite industry and government and military users to come together to understand how space and the commercial satellite sector can help the military meet its operational objectives. Today, varying operational requirements call for satcom platforms that offer multi-service capabilities with the very highest reliability, efficiency, flexibility and security, and can accommodate applications across land, sea and air.
Increased Focus on Security
In mission-critical operations, security and resiliency are essential – but not all security threats are created equal, and defence organisations should have the flexibility to choose a platform that meets any operational requirement and combines the latest efficiencies with an extra security layer.
Anytime, Anywhere Connectivity
Market reports predict a big increase in OTM and OTP applications over satellite. Replacing traditional narrowband and legacy VSAT solutions, disruptive VSAT technologies are filling the gap, overcoming various challenges historically associated with OTM satellite communications while maximising efficiency, service availability and end-user experience.
Size, Weight and Power (SWaP)
To support the flexibility and mobility of these operations, SWaP requirements are becoming increasingly important; satellite terminals need to be transported and carried to conflict areas. This challenge is being addressed through SWaP-optimised modem boards and highly efficient return waveforms. Supporting small terminals that still deliver high throughput within a reduced amount of bandwidth is a great asset for government and defence network operators that seek to achieve an optimised total cost of ownership.
The design and development of a next-generation waveform is underway, involving a consortium of European companies. The European Protected Waveform (EPW) is being developed under the 2019 European Defence Industrial Development Programme (EDIDP). Built around efficiency, security, affordability and interoperability, the waveform will provide a new standard in satellite communications.
Various consortia are undertaking extensive work and demonstrations, including the European Space Agency’s SATis5 initiative, which provides a proof-of-concept test bed to demonstrate the successful integration of satellite ground segment with 5G infrastructure. A number of 5G use cases over satellite, such as ‘smart nation’ and ‘smart defence’, require close interworking with terrestrial mobile networks. Satellite architecture must leverage network orchestration, virtualisation and slicing functions to offer seamless connectivity service anywhere in the world, as well as a lower-cost, highly flexible and scalable infrastructure.
LEO, MEO, HEO, HAPS and GEO will cater to the bandwidth-hungry sensors and increased volume of mission-critical communications. These satellites and networks need to address operations on a global scale – and the ground segment technology, the space segment and the services they deliver must go hand in hand to provide seamless and agile communications. This can be achieved through a suite of technologies, such as efficient waveforms, adaptive coding and modulation, beam switching, roaming, beam forming and satellite hand-over technologies.
The satellite sector must work to build multi-orbit strategies and leverage the best of new constellations and very high throughput satellites, together with 5G technologies, to empower the satellite ecosystem to innovate at a rapid pace and enable new applications.
Koen Willems is Head of International Government Satcoms at ST Engineering iDirect.