The satellite industry is undergoing a period of dramatic change as operators look to launch more powerful satellites to exploit new opportunities for the industry. For the technology vendors who must keep up with these demands, it is an exciting but challenging environment. Via Satellite looks to recognize the technology company that has raised the bar in 2015 providing the best solutions to the industry.
Over the last two years, iDirect and Advantech Wireless have won the Via Satellite Technology Company of the Year Excellence Award, having to beat off strong competition. The competition has been no less fierce this year with numerous entries yet again. Here, we look at the five companies that have a chance of winning the Award for 2015.
CPI is one of the main players in what is a very crowded and dynamic amplifier sector. In 2015, the company expanded the capabilities for all of the three types of amplifiers it offers: Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTAs), Solid State Power Amplifiers (SSPAs), and Klystron Power Amplifiers (KPAs).
“LifeExtender/LifePredictor technology is now available on all of our new TWTA models. Our new Dynamic Depressed Collector (DDC), technology allows TWTA users who need breakthrough output power for TTC and IOT applications to enjoy nearly the same power savings that gateway operators of our SuperLinear TWTAs do. CPI’s DDC also supports electric orbit raising. And, we introduced a hub-mount, 1.25 kW DBS-band SuperLinear TWTA, which will be available in either liquid-cooled or air-cooled configurations. Our GaN solid state development has further increased the breadth of CPI’s solid state amplifier and BUC offering, and some of these products are being implemented in the airborne communications market. Our newest klystron amplifiers, or KPAs, have been successfully used in support of V-band and EHF band feasibility tests in Europe,” says Gerard Charpentier, vice president of business development at CPI's Satcom Division.
In its TWTA product line, Charpentier highlights DDC as the key new technology innovation of 2015. He says patented technology allows for operating an HPA in either a high power/standard-efficiency mode, or a linear power/high-efficiency mode, all in the same amplifier.
“When amplifiers with this option are set in dual mode, they can switch between the two modes automatically, according to requirements defined by the user. Now, customers no longer have to choose between one highly efficient amplifier with limited CW power and another that provides the CW power without the high efficiency provided by SuperLinear TWTAs. DDC technology allows for both within the same amplifier. This innovation will be available as an option for every CPI TWT or klystron-based amplifier in our product line,” he adds.
One of the key technology accomplishments in 2015 saw the company launch a new 700 W Ka-band TWTA which Charpentier sees as “a significant milestone” for the millimeter wave market. CPI believes this product provides 40 percent more linear power than existing TWTAs across an instantaneous 4 MHz of bandwidth.
“While block upconverters tend to limit uplink bandwidth to 1 GHz, CPI introduced multi-band block upconverters to its Ka-band products in 2015, allowing customers to select different sub-bands based within the 27 to 31 GHz bands,” he says.
With a successful year, the company will look to build on this and have a strong 2016. In terms of where it goes next, CPI will look to introduce more powerful GaN products in 2016, including some that are specifically designed for the airborne communications market, as well as others aimed at broadening its range of existing products. It will also expand the number of TWTA products offering DDC technology, and continue to develop its KPA products for higher frequency applications. Interestingly, the company could look to have more of an impact in the SmallSat market.
“CPI is preparing for the growing requirements of SmallSat companies. While this market segment is not pushing us to increase bandwidth and power, as is seen in the more traditional markets, it does have some unique technological needs that CPI will be able to fulfill with new products in the near future,” says Charpentier.
It is a testament to iDirect’s strong performance that they are in the running again to win this award, having only won it two years ago. The company works with a number of key operators as it plays a front and center role in the High Throughput Satellites (HTS) revolution. One of its main technology accomplishments in 2015 has been around its iDirect Velocity platform, which it launched to meet the distinct challenges that come from operating in large-scale, multiple spot-beam architectures.
“At the heart of iDirect Velocity is the global bandwidth management feature. This allows satellite operators to stitch together multiple spot beams as one unified bandwidth pool. With this, operators can offer managed Megabits per second (Mbps) services to customers across the total bandwidth pool rather than operating strictly within individual beams. iDirect Velocity features advanced mobility capabilities, such as automatic beam selection and spread spectrum. These enable operators to ensure that fast moving remotes can automatically cross multiple spot beams quickly while maintaining a constant IP session,” Mary Cotton, CEO, iDirect says.
One of the key milestones this year is that iDirect Velocity went live on the Inmarsat Global Xpress HTS program, a significant moment for iDirect. Another milestone was evolving its iDirect Evolution platform by introducing a key new feature: Layer 2 over Satellite (L2oS). According to Cotton, this will help satellite service providers integrate their networks with core IP networks to deliver seamless end-to-end service. The capability also enables service providers to build networks that act as carrier-grade Ethernet pipes to transparently carry IP traffic anywhere it needs to go. When satellite service can behave like a mainstream access network, our customers gain access to valuable new markets, she adds.
Overall, 2015 has been an important year for the company with a key new product launch, as well as an evolution of its existing product portfolio. In 2016, Cotton says the company will turn its focus from further efficiency and performance improvements of DVB-S2 in support of the recently ratified DVB-S2x standard. With the implementation of the new standard, she says iDirect will enable its partners to support DVB-S2x carriers of up to 120 Mbps, while leveraging their existing Evolution and iDirect Velocity platforms.
2015 was a key year for DataPath as it looked to implement a comprehensive revitalization of its entire product line. In its portable satellite terminals line of business, it launched a new product in 2015 called the QCT90. It is a quick-deploy man-packable antenna system, with a 90-centimeter reflector, built of carbon fiber and custom cast magnesium for maximum durability, as well as light weight. “To provide ease of use for the customer, the QCT90 includes a built-in touch-screen pointing system that enables the product to go from its back-pack style case to on-air within 3 minutes. The antenna is available in multiple frequency bands — Ku, Ka and X — to meet the needs of broadcast, commercial and military customers,” says David Myers, President & CEO at DataPath.
The launch of the QCT90 was the highlight of the year for the company, and perhaps signified a change in approach when launching new products. Myers says the company no longer thinks just about building a satellite terminal or building a software tool, but that it really focuses on how the end customer connects everything together as an integrated solution.
“This of course influences the ergonomics of our terminals and the screen interfaces of our software. But perhaps more importantly it influences the way we work with partners to ensure compatibility with emerging technologies, especially those that are not necessarily satellite related. For example, earlier this year, we aligned with ScheduALL, one of the leading providers of broadcast content management, to integrate its functionality into our MaxView Enterprise system,” he says.
One of the interesting developments for the company in 2015 was its launch of a new managed cyber security service. Myers talks about some very unique vulnerabilities around the RF equipment and modem technologies and, as a result, DataPath has built a cyber security solution that is tailored to the specific challenges and technologies used in the satellite services industry. In terms of what it has on deck for 2016, Myers says DataPath is developing new products aimed specifically at the COTM market, which it sees as the fastest growing sector in satellite communications.
Harris CapRock’s achievements in terms of technology really revolve around the successful launch of Harris CapRock One, a global network, which is one of the most important technology announcements the company has made in recent years. Harris CapRock One is a unified, fully managed satellite, wireless and terrestrial connectivity service designed to reduce customers’ voice, data and equipment management costs. Harris CapRock One aims to be an intelligent, highly-integrated, end-to-end service that transparently switches between various transport mediums to optimize communications for customers around the globe. It was a significant breakthrough for the company.
“Prior to Harris CapRock One, satellite communications were historically facilitated by antennas, which have been primarily single-band and single-network. Accommodating changes required physical and manual intervention. That not only meant additional costs and engineering labor, but also took a substantial amount of time, resulting in disruption caused by leaving these businesses potentially off line for an extended period,” Tracey Haslam, president at Harris CapRock, says. “We were able to leverage military-grade expertise to further harden our technology and associated services. Rather than a single product on a roadmap, this launch displayed both technological and thought leadership with a willingness to integrate other vendors’ solutions into our offering. This is something that is futureproof, upgradable and scalable. In addition, Harris CapRock One was the first project where many of our design centers spread around the world worked together to provide a single solution.”
Haslam says some of the major facets of Harris CapRock One include a novel and patent-pending approach to deliver multi-band (C, Ku, and Ka) services on a single platform with the bare minimum of moving parts to promote long-term reliability, robustness and reduced cost of ownership. Haslam is excited at how the market is changing. “We are witnessing a much richer market in terms of alternatives and opportunities. Satellite performance is improving — thanks to LEO and MEO alternatives, among others — thereby driving more opportunities to benefit customers,” she says.
One of the recurring issues that has faced the satellite industry in recent times has been satellite interference and how to reduce it and eliminate it. One of the companies that has made a significant impact in this area is VeriSat. The company launched its SatGuard solution, which aims to combat satellite interference. Since the proof-of-concept was demonstrated in 2014, the company has been working hard throughout 2015 to make SatGuard very user-friendly as well as expanding the number of supported VSAT technologies. SatGuard was initially launched with support for DVB-RCS and Newtec Sat3Play. The past year it has developed support for other major VSAT technologies including Hughes Network Systems IPoS, Gilat SkyEdge, ViaSat, and iDirect.
“[SatGuard] radically changes management of interference caused by VSAT terminals,” says Petter Amundsen, CEO at VeriSat. He says it provides a solution to monitor, in real time, the interference caused by each individual VSAT terminal, using the terminal ID. “With our technology, the terminal ID can be determined and interference levels of – 10 dB SNR can be detected with certainty in a matter of minutes, something which previously could take hours, days, weeks, even months. Continuous monitoring may also enable operators to spot and tackle interference before it has a major impact on other services,” he adds.
In terms of where SatGuard goes next for the company, Amundsen believes the solution “has large potential” and the company has a long roadmap in front of it to enhance the technology and expand the features.
“Planned updates include: Support for carrier cancellation so interference can be measured even when it occurs under other services in the transponder; loser integration with satellite operators’ carrier monitoring systems to enable smooth operations from the NOC, as well as implementation of geolocation for the terminal ID,” Amundsen says. VS
Mark Holmes is the editorial director for Via Satellite and Avionics Magazine.