Innovations in Satellite Antennas Attracting New Markets & Opportunities
“We’re working on adapting this technology to various platform sizes,” says Greg Otto, director of sales and marketing at Thinkom. “It’s not all about commercial air transport. There’s a large addressable market with no current high data rate solution, including business jets that are not equipped with tail pods. We’re investing in smaller apertures to accommodate smaller fuselage sizes.”
To have reliable Internet access while flying at 35,000 feet is no longer a luxury. It’s becoming mandatory for passengers who are starting to choose airliners based on this capability.
Otto says antenna technology from Thinkom is changing industry perceptions about what new conformal/low-profile antennas can do in terms of reducing drag (fuel burn) and increasing throughput while, at the same time, boosting affordability to end users.
Last year, Gogo announced its hybrid Ground-To-Orbit (GTO) service and then its 2Ku service for global connectivity in early 2014. “I don’t think anyone thought you could have a low profile, high- and low-latitude capable, phased array on a commercial aircraft,” adds Bill Milroy, Thinkom’s chairman and chief technology officer. When compared to competing solutions, the 2Ku system is half the height, provides more than twice the throughput, and reduces aerodynamic drag by over 60 percent, says Milroy.
Some of Thinkom’s research and development funds are being invested in Ka-band antenna solutions for commercial platforms. The metrics for these next generation solutions will be even more impressive, measuring one-third the height, yet offer three times the data capability when compared to commercially-available competing antennas, according to Milroy.
Currently, he says there’s an industry movement toward launching Non-Geosynchronous Orbit (NGSO) satellites in Ka- and/or Ku-band. However, Milroy points out that the extremely broadband and polarization diverse conformal antennas that Thinkom is designing and fielding today for Geosynchronous (GSO) systems may turn out to be fully compatible with the next generation NGSO systems.
Meanwhile, the trend for GSO systems is to work over wider, tunable, and instantaneous bandwidths to gain full global capability with every type of satellite — both HTS and FSS. In line with this goal, Milroy believes that antennas will need to further push the limits on reduced adjacent satellite interference and overall system linearity as higher-order (more operationally efficient) modulation codes become the norm.
“The antenna technologies that will benefit most from the rapidly evolving adoption of broadband IFEC services in the future are antenna solutions that are agnostic to the various satellite network architectures, are efficient over both equatorial and near-polar routes, and minimize fuel burn to the airlines,” says Milroy.
Excerpted from an article published in Via Satellite.