Randeep Sethi, Managing Director, Decibel Technologies
With improved network speeds, creation HD, and UHD video content, and the insatiable appetite of consumers for better experience and quality, the broadcast infrastructure is also adapting to user needs.
Satellites are getting much more powerful and intelligent. Similarly, the ground-based infrastructure is also changing for both mobile and fixed stations. The improvement in cellular networks and higher data rates equipment that uses cellular bounding has also started providing options for supporting the news gathering applications. However, the use of satellite medium is still the most popular and efficient way due to widespread availability and reduced possibility of service degradation. Cellular networks suffer degradation of quality of service (QoS) due to congestion, possible blackout due to local natural disasters, or destruction of cellular infrastructure. This becomes an important factor when broadcast coverage is to be provided in crowded areas or after a calamity.
One of the key changes that the broadcast industry will see in the near future is the availability of LEO (low Earth orbit satellites). This satellite constellation formed by hundreds of satellites working as a network, will provide significantly higher data rates, at very low costs and will be available all over the world. The cost of terminals will be much lower and will allow the possibility of last mile connectivity by using existing smartphones or similar Wi-Fi or bluetooth devices. Thus, these new satellite constellations will provide a high throughput backbone infrastructure that will transform the way content is collected, processed, and delivered. Another advantage will be significantly reduced latency (delays) of 25 ms as compared to current delay of 500 ms due to satellites being positioned at a distance of about 1200 km instead of 36,000 km. Thus, various other applications will be possible where reduced latency is important. This will open new dimensions in areas of information/media collection and sharing.
Due to lower height of these satellites and highly integrated and optimized terminals the power requirements to close a link and operate will be significantly reduced. Most of these terminals can be powered by solar panels, thus providing reduced cost of operation and higher green footprint. The industry now expects flexibility, reliability, and innovative designs. Key trends with customization in the ground equipment market include customers demanding customized solutions within stringent timelines and budget and quicker deployment of customized solutions.
Various drivers in the SATCOM industry which played a vital role include ground equipment, network equipment (gateway, control station, and VSAT, TV dishes, broadband dishes) which has a total market of USD 58.9 billion. Satellite manufacturers account for 4 percent growth YoY.
Ka-band networks are being deployed globally and in India. Use of Ka band will not only allow much higher data rates but also very small terminal sizes for the user. The antenna systems that form the gateways need special technologies to be incorporated in earth station antennas, as the profile accuracies needed for antenna reflectors become more critical due to temperature variation during the day. Some antenna manufacturers have developed sub-reflector tracking capabilities to efficiently ensure a good performance that is otherwise difficult to be achieved by conventional antenna mounts. All the uplink and downlink chain electronics is now possible to be located in the antenna hub thus, reducing the significant losses in IFL at Ka band frequencies.
Other major drivers have been the light weight single case terminals and next-generation GaN-based amplifiers. The flyaway terminals use extremely efficient antenna optics that can be installed in less than 5 minutes and can be compactly packed and transported as check-in baggage. These small terminals are very rugged and use carbon fiber reflectors.
The manufacturers have started using GaN-based amplifiers instead of GaAS-based amplifiers. GaN-based solid state power amplifiers have extremely attractive properties, making them ideal for use both on ground application, as well as for space-based satellite communication systems.