The next big thing in satellite won’t be limited to Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) or one particular frequency or technology. Organizations will need to invest in hybrid solutions — pulling from multiple sources and working collaboratively — in order to build sustainable business solutions.
During the Monday afternoon session, “Case Studies: Enabling Interoperable, Hybrid Infrastructure,” at SATELLITE 2020, a pair of speakers discussed their own respective organizations’ approaches to meeting customer needs through hybrid systems that could work together seamlessly as an alternative to proprietary technologies.
Speakers described the ways companies in the satellite and space arenas are investing in hybrid infrastructure to support aerospace networks with the ability to orchestrate, control, optimize, and move data through an internet of flying and/or moving things. A growing body of satcoms view infrastructure as the gateway for enabling interoperable, high-throughput, low-latency hybrid networks.
Tom Freeman, senior vice president of Land Mobile for Kymeta Corporation — a self-described “chief evangelist” — offered his insights on the future of hybrid solutions from the perspective of an organization that has embraced more than one identity. Kymeta, which made a name for itself as a provider of flat-panel, electronically steered antennas and hardware, has expanded into a well-known full-scale solutions provider with a portfolio of hardware and software offerings.
“We don’t think of ourselves as a satellite company,” Freeman said. “We think of ourselves as a communications company. We don’t care where the bits come from as long as the bits get to the consumer.”
As part of that philosophy, Freeman said Kymeta takes a technology neutral approach, and doesn’t endorse LEO, Geostationary (GEO), or any other altitude-based solutions. Its line of holographic antennas are flexible and multifaceted, and enable internet access for passengers and their vehicles on virtually any moving platform such as trucks, trains, buses, automobiles or vessels.
Co-presenter Shayn Hawthorne, senior manager and Amazon Web Service (AWS) Ground Station Program Lead, Amazon Web Services, said it’s important to approach all solutions with the end user in mind.
Hawthorne said he’s focused on building services to support “air-gapped regions” in order to support government-specific needs. “We’ve got ... a strategic goal that we want to do what is best for our customers. Working backwards is being customer obsessed and figuring out what workloads they want to do and how to help them do that,” he said.
The focus on infrastructure and ground systems is an important expansion for a company whose founder, Jeff Bezos, has solidified his foothold in the satellite industry with Blue Origin. The 2018 rollout of a new AWS platform offers multiple services to the commercial satellite supply chain. In an April 2019 interview with Via Satellite, Hawthorne described Ground Station as a “game-changer” for the industry, and the world’s first fully managed ground station as a service, which will make things easier for satellite operators to get their data back on Earth.
Freeman, meanwhile, discussed the way Kymeta’s multiple technologies — such as beam-forming technology to mute signals, and diffractive metamaterials — blend together to form a comprehensive solution in order to ensure the right data is transmitted at the right time.
“We talk about cellular deserts and cellular shadows,” Freeman said. “We want to blend into the fabric so we are ... another communication channel ... some data needs to come out of the car in seconds, other data [can be delayed] ... So if you’re a Facebook update, we can buffer or delay that. We’re talking about a way to inteligently monitor what comes into and out of that vehicle.”
When moderator Daniel DiFonzo, president of Planar Communications Corp., asked about the viability of true interoperability in the industry, both speakers suggested it will become more of a reality in the future.
“In the further future, I see us offering further interoperability with digitization of [Radio Frequencies] RFs, so you can have lots of different antennas in cities, and can use digital signal processing on the backend,” Hawthorne said. “The hope is to get to a future where the different frequencies don’t become an impediment.” VS