Advances in Satellite Communications Technology

A D Little White Paper

Arthur D. Little, a leading international management consulting firm, has published the technical report: ‘High Throughput Satellites: Delivering future capacity needs’. The report defines the competitive advantages of using High Throughput Satellites (HTS) in the Ka-band spectrum.


Executive summary

Advances in satellite communications technology in recent years have led to a significant increase in throughput delivered from a raft of new ‘High Throughput Satellite’ (HTS) systems.

More than a dozen such satellites have been launched in recent years and several more will go into orbit in the coming years. These satellites support diverse user requirements and use cases – from ‘connecting the unconnected’ to providing secure and resilient communications to industries, SMEs and all end users.

In this extended commercial and technical white paper we explore in particular the performance trade-offs, and note the growing importance of higher frequency systems, given the significant spectrum allocations and high performance in key deployment areas. HTS systems offer a step change in bandwidth delivery to support a host of diverse customer requirements. The raft of systems launched must balance trade-offs that affect system performance, user experience and cost of service.

The satellite communications industry supports a wide range of customers whose varying use cases and deployment locations place exacting requirements that must be fulfilled.

Connectivity must be delivered to consumers located beyond the reach of traditional terrestrial networks and yet also to business and corporate clients requiring bespoke systems to support critical communications needs in locations as challenging as the North Sea and the deserts of the Sahara. Satellites also play a critical role in the delivery of broadcast services, media links and other industry specific applications.

HTS systems represent a new generation of satellite communications systems, capable of delivering vast throughput compared to conventional fixed, broadcast and mobile satellite services (FSS, BSS and MSS). The one fundamental difference in the architecture of an HTS system is the use of multiple ‘spot beams’ to cover a desired service area, rather than wide beams, which bring a two-fold benefit:

  • Higher transmit/receive gain: because of its higher directivity and therefore higher gain, a narrower beam results in increased power (both transmitted and received), and therefore enables the use of smaller user terminals and permits the use of higher order modulations, thus achieving a higher rate of data transmission per unit of orbital spectrum.
  • Frequency reuse: when a desired service area is covered by multiple spot beams, several beams can reuse the same frequency band and polarization, boosting capacity of the satellite system for a given amount of frequency band allocated to the system.

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