The Future of VSAT
High Throughput Satellites (HTS)
As defined by Wikipedia.org; High Throughput Satellites (HTS) is a classification for communications satellites that provide at least twice, though usually by a factor of 20 or more, the total throughput of a classic MSS satellite for the same amount of allocated orbital spectrum thus significantly reducing cost-per-bit.
Whereas traditional satellites utilise large regional beams that cover an entire footprint with fixed capacity, High Throughput Satellites are characterised by multiple spot beams to increase capacity through a process called frequency reuse. These spot beams bring focused capacity to a specific region, which in the case of the maritime industry will be key commercial shipping routes.
The overall investment costs associated with HTS services should theoretically be less than traditional VSAT services, since satellite terminals will be smaller in size and easier to install and deploy.
Recommended further reading: http://www.idirect.net/Insights.aspx
Commonly used today for satellite TV transmission, Ka-band VSAT has an extremely high frequency and so like Ku-band, is susceptible to rain fade.
Using its fifth generation of satellites, Inmarsat offers global Ka-band as part of its Global Xpress service. This was originally due to launch in Q2 2014 but saw various set-backs resulting in a final release in March 2016 (see http://www.inmarsat.com/press-release/launch-fleet-xpress-marks-start-new-era-sees-smart-ship-operations-become-reality/) .
In parallel, several other service providers have launched their own Ka-band offerings, including Telenor Satellite Broadcasting’s THOR 7 HTS Ka-band; which promises 6-9 Gbps via satellites with 25 spot beams each.
The THOR-7 constellation promises to cover the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Meanwhile, other satellite operators will cover other regions, including Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat which will cover the majority of Europe, whilst Yahsat 1b, NewSat Australia, Avanti Communications and once again Eutelsat will jointly provide coverage to the Middle East; resulting in an alternative solution to Global Xpress for vessels operating regionally in those areas.
Satellite operator Intelsat also launched their EpicNG HTS platform in March 2016. Intelsat EpicNG was designed to deliver the higher performance, improved economics and simpler access needed for customers to unlock new maritime applications for satellite-based solutions. Customers that have integrated Intelsat EpicNG into their networks are experiencing up to 165% improvements in spectral efficiency with their existing networks and hardware, and as much as 330% on next-generation platform and modem technologies.
(See: http://www.intelsat.com/news/press-release/intelsat-epicng-delivering-on-the-promise-of-high-throughput-with-high-performance/ and http://www.intelsat.com/intelsat-insider-newsletter/q2-april-2017/momentum-and-growth-continue-for-intelsat-epicng-in-2017/)
Inmarsat Global Xpress
As part of a US$1.6 billion investment, in August 2010 Inmarsat awarded Boeing a contract to build its new constellation of three Inmarsat-5 satellites. The satellites were to form its worldwide wireless broadband network called Inmarsat Global Xpress (GX).
Launched as a commercial service in December 2015, the Inmarsat GX constellation is formed of three Ka-band, high-speed mobile broadband communications satellites, with a fourth scheduled to join the fleet in mid 2017. Each I-5 satellite is expected to have a commercial life of 15 years.
The first three I-5 satellites were launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, and together they provide the coverage required to deliver global GX services:
- I-5 F1 – launched on 6 December 2013 to serve Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia
- I-5 F2 – launched on 1 February 2015 to serve the Americas and the Atlantic Ocean Region
- I-5 F3 – launched on 28 August 2015 to serve the Pacific Ocean Region.
The I-5 satellites operate with a combination of fixed narrow spot beams that enable Inmarsat to deliver higher speeds through more compact terminals, plus steerable beams so additional capacity can be directed in real-time to where it’s needed.
Operating in the Ka-band, while integrating with Inmarsat’s long-standing L-band network, GX allows customers across aviation, maritime, enterprise and government sectors to have access to high-throughput communications with L-band back-up. Fleet Xpress is the maritime communications package commercially available today from Inmarsat, combining FleetBroadband with Ka-band VSAT.
Intelsat EpicNG does not constrain the customer to only Ka-band spot beams, instead adopting uses a multi-band approach. Using C-, Ku- and Ka- bands, wide beams, spot beams and frequency reuse technology, EpicNG is Intelsat’s next generation satellite platform. Designed as a complementary overlay, EpicNG is fully integrated with Intelsat’s existing satellite fleet, teleports and the global IntelsatOne® terrestrial network.
Intelsat EpicNG is based on an open architecture and is engineered for backwards compatibility, allowing mobility, communications, media and government organizations to realize high-throughput performance utilizing their existing hardware and network infrastructure. At the same time, increased control means these organizations can offer their end users customized, differentiated solutions by defining network topology, hardware and service characteristics.
According to Intelsat, this multi-band approach will enable customers greater control and more freedom of choice over hardware and service attributes, as the right frequency band is allocated according to the particular customer’s applications and region.
Intelsat EpicNG services were launched in March 2016 with Intelsat 29e offering a footprint spanning the Americas, the Caribbean, Eastern United States and the North Atlantic region. Intelsat 33e expanded the global footprint to Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Intelsat 32e increases the throughput available in the highly-trafficked Caribbean and North Atlantic routes, providing resiliency for mobility network service providers servicing those shipping and air routes. Two additional Intelsat EpicNG satellites – Intelsat 35e and Intelsat 37e – are scheduled for in 2017. Intelsat EpicNG’s global footprint will be completed with Horizons 3e, with a launch planned in the second half of 2018. Horizons 3e will extend Intelsat EpicNG’s coverage to the Pacific Ocean Region and further expand Intelsat EpicNG’s presence in Asia Pacific.
To learn more about HTS, watch “A High Throughput Satellite Teach-In for the Mobility Sector” (http://www.intelsat.com/videos/a-high-throughput-satellite-teach-in-for-the-mobility-sector/). This video explores the five technical attributes of HTS design as well as the ways those attributes apply to mobility customer business models.
Telenor’s HTS constellation, Thor 7 offers 6-9 Gbps throughput with up to 25 simultaneously active spot beams, with coverage across the North Sea, Red Sea, Baltic Sea, North Atlantic, Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean.
Telenor is promising download speeds in the tens of Mbps, even from small antennas and will deliver uplink speeds from 2-6 Mbps (depending upon the antenna size selected). Telenor will also implement a package of solutions to mitigate rain-fade on Ka band and will use Ku-band to provide continuity of service alongside the Ka-band development for Northern Europe.
The commercial THOR 7 service provides regional coverage with a favourable look angle over the main European shipping lanes and utilises relatively small spot beams, which provide unprecedented high-power performance for maritime applications.
As part of the service, the iDirect platform offers automatic and seamless spot beam hand over – a necessity for a market that relies upon continuous connectivity.
Although not VSAT, the Iridium NEXT constellation (based on L-band) is another key player in satellite communications and is commonly used as a back-up service alongside VSAT connectivity.
Iridium NEXT will maintain the existing Iridium terrestrial network of 66 cross-linked Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites, which completely cover the globe while delivering more bandwidth and higher data speeds to support new applications and more global subscribers.
The second-generation satellite constellation enables high performance and reliable mobile communications across the globe, no matter how remote the location or severe the weather conditions. It supports more bandwidth and higher speeds for new products, enabling partner solutions on a scale not yet imagined.
As of 25 July, all 10 Iridium NEXT satellites have been successfully deployed.