Volume II, No 7 September 2017
Independent Analysis and Commentary on Maritime, Aero and Land-based Satellite Technologies
In this Issue:
Sky and Space Global
New Nano Satellite Venture Promises Communication for All
Phasor on Target with New Phased Array Flat Panel Antenna...
Great Momentum in Technology, Financing and Commercialization
A Higher Plane: Boarding the Next Generation in Inflight Connectivity
Special Feature: The August 21st Solar Eclipse - Our Coverage and Photos
Cover: Sky and Space Global Satellite Interconnect
Satellite mobility World
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Welcome to the September 2017 issue of Gottlieb's Satellite Mobility World. Our magazine is now over 18 months old and in just 19 issues, we're now read in over 40 countries!
We're following an industry that is rapidly evolving. Satellite Operators are racing to build new HTS and LEO constellations. Hub and Modem manufacturers are introducing new ultra high speed infrastructure, and flat panel antennas will soon be coming to market.
At Satellite Mobility World, we're following these new technologies and the strategies that are reshaping the industry. The big news this month is the launch of Sky and Space Global's three demo satellites, SpeedCast's acquisition of Ultisat and coming commercialization of the Phasor antenna. We also have a special feature on the August Total Solar Eclipse including our own unique photos of the event which we think you will enjoy.
Gottlieb's Satellite and Mobility World is published monthly (except August) by Gottlieb International Group., Inc. Suite 100, 1209 South Frederick Street, Arlington, VA USA 22204
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SATELLITE MOBILITY WORLD
In this Issue:
Industry Trends and Analysis: (pg. 3)
"Sky and Space Global: New Nano Satellite Venture Promises Communication for all" (pg. 5)
"Phasor on Target with New Flat Panel Phased Array Antenna: Great Momentum in Technology, Financing and Commercialization"
"A Higher Plane: Boarding the Next Generation in Inflight Connectivity"
"Special Feature: The August 21st Solar Eclipse: A Look At Totality" (Pg 28)
Recommended Upcoming Mobility Related Satellite Industry Events"
Industry Trends and Analysis
RigNet and Inmarsat Locked in Dispute over $65 Million GX Contract
August 15th, 2017 - Inmarsat and RigNet remain locked in a dispute over a $65 Million 'Take or Pay" contract for Global Xpress capacity signed under the administration of former RigNet CEO, Mark Slaughter. On August 14th, RigNet announced its intent to terminate the contract pursuant to its right to do so if certain conditions of the agreement were not met.
As we understand it, the agreement was relatively "soft" in nature with execution subject to successful launch of all three GX satellites, GX being the best alternative for customers, etc, etc. So, it is likely that the enforcement of any judgment against RigNet will hinge on whether Inmarsat met the variety of conditions stipulated in the contract - many of which may be subject to debate. So given the fact that former CEO Slaughter provided for several scenarios under which the contract could be terminated, we suspect that Inmarsat would have difficulty in enforcing the contract. Given the current state of the Oil Patch, RigNet certainly has reason to want to shed itself of the obligation to purchase significant amounts of GX capacity.
Speedcast to Acquire UltiSat and Create New Government Division
Washington DC, USA, July 24, 2017 – Speedcast International Limited (ASX: SDA), the world’s most trusted provider of highly reliable, fully managed, remote communication and IT solutions, today announced it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire UltiSat for a purchase consideration of up to USD$100m, payable over 2 years and subject to the ongoing financial performance of the company. UltiSat is a leading provider of remote communications and professional services to governments, in particular the US Government, and to International Government Organisations (IGOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs). The acquisition strengthens Speedcast’s position in the Government and NGO sectors, complementing Speedcast’s government activities in Australia, Asia, Europe and Latin America.
“The acquisition of UltiSat extends Speedcast’s position serving Government and NGO customers. UltiSat has built a really strong reputation providing remote communications and professional services to key customers, such as the U.S. Government and IGOs,” said Speedcast CEO Pierre-Jean Beylier. “I am excited to have the UltiSat team joining Speedcast. Speedcast’s scale, global network and unique support services capabilities will enable the combined Group to provide expanded services and coverage for UltiSat’s customers around the world. Speedcast will also be able to leverage UltiSat’s solutions and expertise to serve other governments globally with which Speedcast has existing relationships.”
UltiSat CEO Mohammed G. Abutaleb will lead the newly-formed Government division at Speedcast that will be focused on providing communication solutions and professional services to Speedcast’s and UltiSat’s existing and new Government and IGO customers, as well as driving new growth in the nearly $5B market for government and military satellite communications.
“The UltiSat team is thrilled to join the Speedcast Group. Speedcast’s scale and global capabilities will enable us to expand the portfolio of services we can offer to our customers and to pursue new opportunities. This is an exciting development for our employees and our customers, and I look forward to taking our combined Government and IGO business to new heights over the years to come,” said Mr. Abutaleb.
The transaction is expected to complete in Q4 2017 subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory approvals. Inmarsat Demonstrates Seamless Global Xpress Connectivity in VIP Aircraft Worldwide Test Flight
2 August 2017: Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L), the leading provider of global mobile satellite communication services, today announced the successful completion of its Global Xpress ‘Around the World’ test flight. The exercise, conducted on a Gulfstream IV aircraft between June 5 and June 11, 2017, covered more than 25,000 miles and demonstrated Global Xpress’ ability to deliver seamless, worldwide coverage across multiple spot beams and satellites.
While government and business users have historically had to manipulate flight plans to avoid gaps in coverage and performance, the test flight enjoyed complete flexibility in route selection. The flight route spanned the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, beginning in the United States with stops in the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Australia and Fiji.
A Global Xpress subscription-based data plan was configured for the Honeywell aero Tail Mount Antenna (TMA), with a committed information rate of 4Mbps forward and 1Mbps return but capable of 15Mbps or more. Uniform coverage and service was delivered to the aircraft as it moved across 28 beams with handovers that went unnoticed by users; and 3 satellite-to-satellite handovers that were accomplished seamlessly.
Panasonic Avionics Brings Premium Entertainment and Global Connectivity to Air China
LAKE FOREST, CA– 26 July, 2017 – Air China, the flag carrier and one of the major airlines of the People’s Republic of China, has selected inflight entertainment and connectivity (IFEC) solutions from Panasonic Avionics Corporation (Panasonic) for its fleet of Airbus A350 aircraft.
Under the terms of the agreement, Panasonic will provide its industry-leading eX3 inflight entertainment for 10 Air China A350 aircraft. The first of these aircraft will be delivered in December 2017.
By selecting eX3, Air China will offer a unique passenger experience that includes audio and video on demand, a content library that can offer up to 300 movies, 200 TV shows, games, music, a moving map, and much more.
These A350 aircraft will also offer global connectivity services, which will allow Air China passengers to keep in touch with friends, families, co-workers and current events everywhere these aircraft fly. Panasonic operates its connectivity service in 210 countries, including China.
Hideo Nakano, Chief Executive Officer of Panasonic Avionics Corporation, said: “We are honored to partner with Air China on its A350 program. Because the airline’s route structure includes very long flights to all seven continents, it needed an IFEC solution that would help keep passengers entertained and offer new opportunities to generate revenue.”
“With eX3, Air China will offer its passengers a memorable experience that lets them watch movies and television, listen to music or connect to their favorite social media applications like WeChat. The reliability, performance and flexibility of eX3 and our connectivity service makes it an ideal choice for these aircraft.”
SmartSky 4G LTE Air-to-Ground Network Deployment Initiated
CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 3, 2017 SmartSky Networks, LLC, an aviation communications provider, has initiated deployment of the nation's first airborne 4G LTE-based air-to-ground (ATG) network. Using 60 MHz of spectrum and patented beam forming technology, SmartSky's network will provide more than 10 times the typical speed and capacity of the current industry standard ATG network, and at a lower cost per bit, ushering in the new era of business-grade inflight connectivity as shown in this customer demonstration flight video compilation.
The design and roll out of SmartSky's patented infrastructure is being led by its veteran telecommunications team, building on extensive network and radio technology experience at companies such as Sprint, Nextel and Vanguard Cellular. With years of intensive research and development already completed, the company's recently announced $170M Series B funding round jump-started the long lead-time implementation processes for roll-out of the U.S. network. Accomplishments to date include:
Network data centers have been established and are operational in Ashburn, VA, and San Jose, CA;
Commitments have been secured for high bandwidth backhaul resources;
Installations have been completed of new and highly advanced technologies that provide for secure, very low latency, virtualized evolved packet core (EPC) operations;
The first Supplemental Type Certification (STC) is under development and on track to be submitted to the FAA in the near term, with software for the airborne systems now being flight tested. FAA Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) and STCs for over 40 popular business aircraft models will follow the FAA's approval of the first STC, based on commitments from leading MROs and OEMs;
86% of the selected base station sites nationwide have already passed initial on-site viability testing and are now in permitting and backhaul-connection phases. Final ground infrastructure is being installed and commissioned upon completion of local permitting;
Production activities for radios, antennas and ancillary equipment for both ground stations and aircraft are underway;
Multiple flight test ranges in diverse geographies have been implemented and field validation testing of the ATG radios, antennas and network infrastructure is ongoing.
The company's estimate for completing coverage to support the network's nationwide service launch has been updated to mid-2018, reflecting additional time being required for STC-related software optimization and production of base station radios. SmartSky's Early Bird customers and distribution partners have been notified, as consistent with the company's commitment to timely updates.
"Customers are unanimously impressed after experiencing inflight demos, confirming that we have significantly raised the bar for what will constitute best-in-class, future-ready airborne connectivity going forward," said Chairman and CEO Haynes Griffin. "They seem equally appreciative of the fact that the few months of additional schedule to meet the high standards we have set for this network is ultimately to everyone's benefit."
To learn more, visit smartskynetworks.com, call 800-660-9982 or email email@example.com.
Investor Group Led By HPS Investment Partners, LLC and Tennenbaum Capital Partners, LLC to Acquire Globecomm Systems Inc.
HAUPPAUGE, N.Y., August 9, 2017 — Globecomm Systems Inc. (“Globecomm” or “the Company”), a leading service provider in designing, integrating, and operating complex communication solutions differentiated by capabilities in satellite and wireless, announced today that an investor group led by HPS Investment Partners, LLC (“HPS”) and funds managed by Tennenbaum Capital Partners, LLC (“TCP”), have entered into a definitive agreement to acquire Globecomm from a New York-based private equity firm. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
With nearly 400 employees and 200 engineers spanning 17 offices and 10 countries, Globecomm leverages unique innovations, world-class engineering, and global network connectivity to link anyone to anything, wherever in the world their customers’ needs dictate, no matter how remote, hazardous or challenging. Globecomm is dedicated to improving communications and leverages its world class, global teleport and fiber network and data centers to offer end-to-end, managed service communication solutions worldwide, all supported by a 24/7 Network Operations Center.
“This transaction positions Globecomm’s business for the future and accelerates our company’s evolution to provide complex communication solutions to the connected world,” said Jason D. Juranek, Chief Executive Officer of Globecomm. “I am excited about our strong and growing pipeline of opportunities within our core markets, as well as investments we are making in adjacent verticals, to further expand our diversification strategy. In the more than three years that we have partnered with HPS and TCP we’ve successfully delivered against our customer-focused strategy. With this transition, we have taken significant steps to recapitalize and strategically position Globecomm for long-term success. Their collective experience and extensive expertise collaborating with management teams and companies in our industry will further enhance our ability to grow our business and provide our customers with state-of-the art services and solutions. We are eager to work with our new owners that continue to share our passion in the industry in which we operate and are supportive of our long-term future.”
The transaction is expected to be completed in the third calendar quarter of 2017, and is subject to customary regulatory approvals.
Sky and Space Global Launches First Satellites
SAS "Three Diamonds"
While giant corporations armed with billions of dollars in investment capital chase the vision of ubiquitous broadband connectivity for the planet, Sky and Space Global plans to solve a more basic problem - provide not broadband, but narrow band voice, SMS, M2M, e-mail and IoT services to millions using low cost, nanosatellites - services similar to those offered by Inmarsat, Iridium and Globalstar but at much lower cost.
On June 23rd, relatively unnoticed by its larger peers, the upstart company launched its first three demonstration satellites, known as the "Three Diamonds," the initial component of a planned 200 satellites constellation designed to provide communication solutions in the equatorial region and eventually globally.
While originally conceived as a way to provide basic communications to those unable to afford more expensive satellite services, the S-Band based constellation has huge disruptive potential. Ultimately, with a global constellation of 1000 satellites, it could mount a serious pricing challenge to the other L-Band offerings by leveraging its lower cost infrastructure and operating costs.
Consider that the cost to build and launch its three demo LEO satellites was only $3.5 Million, and a constellation composed of 200 such satellites that will cover + - 15 degrees north and south of the equator will cost only $160 Million. Hence, to achieve global coverage with an estimated 1000 satellites, the cost would likely be under $1 Billion.
This clever concept has already attracted $15 Million in initial funding through a series of offerings through its listing on the Australian Stock Exchange (Listed as SAS).
Satellite Mobility World recently met with Meir Moalem, Sky and Space Global's CEO, to find out more:
Satellite Mobility World: You have achieved a lot since the founding of SAS in 2015. Can you give us some background on the concept?
Meir Moalem: We believe that communication is a basic human right and that all people, regardless of their economic situation, should have access to it. So, in concept, we plan to leverage the extremely low CAPEX and operating costs of a Nanosatellite constellation to offer basic narrow band services, voice, SMS, and e-mail at pricing levels affordable in third world communities.
Of course, we expect to further support this objective by selling basic services packages and M2M and IoT transport at higher price points to government and corporate customers.
Satellite Mobility World: Please tell us about the satellites themselves. Who manufactured them and what are their technical capabilities?
Meir: The satellites are manufactured by Danish Nanosatellite firm GomSpace. The "Three Diamonds" each weigh 3 Kilograms and additional satellites will be larger in mass. The uniqueness of the constellation is achieved through interlinking the satellites and proprietary software, thereby obviating the need for an expensive network of ground stations. The constellation is essentially self managed with only a single station required for billing and systems upgrades. We do not need a ground station to control optimization of the network as the satellites control themselves, maintaining their distance autonomously - an approach that significantly lowers operating costs. It's all done automatically in space.
Satellite Mobility World: What about bandwidth? As the Nanosatellites are very small and low powered, how much capacity can you actually deliver?
100 Kbps will be available to ground based terminals, assuring suitability for both the retail customer and the B to B market and hand held terminals will support more than enough bandwidth to handle voice, SMS etc. Let's not forget that the satellites are LEOs that are much closer to the earth than GEOs and therefore require less power.
Satellite Mobility World: How will you deliver services to the end user?
Meir: There are couple of ways we can accomplish this - either directly to a to-be-developed satellite/cellular capable handset or to a conventional smart-phone with WiFi capability.
In the first case, we are looking at a partnership with SocialEco, a firm developing an advertising subsidized $1 smart phone for the low income, third world market. This phone would communicate via WiFi with a ground based "hot spot." The "hot spot" receiver could be carried around or mounted outside a home or office, similar to Iridium Go but at a much lower cost.
In the second case, The idea would be to incorporate a dual S-Band, cellular receive capability into a $30 phone, allowing the subscriber could roam between the satellite and cellular networks as required. Both of these phones are currently at prototype level and commercial availability is expected in early 2018.
Satellite Mobility World: What is the current status of the satellites?
Meir: The initial three demonstrations satellites are currently in orbit and undergoing two months of testing. Tests of inter-satellite linkage and basic operations have been completed, and we will shortly begin testing of data transmission to ground based users. After the commercial demo, we will work with customers to specify their individual requirements and demo their application. Afterward, we will begin commercial services.
As we have only three satellites in orbit, initial services will be limited to M2M and IoT. Once the planned 200 satellites are in orbit, we will be able to offer a complete spectrum of services. So far, all testing has gone well and according to plan.
Satellite Mobility World: How did you launch the three "demo" initial satellites and who will be your launch partner for the rest of the constellation?
The three initial satellites were carried aloft piggybacking on a Space Agency of India, PSLV, Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. In the future, we will use dedicated launches conducted by Virgin Orbit and possibly a second provider. We expected to launch dozens of satellites in a single sequence.
Satellite Mobility World: One of the more challenging aspects of your venture goes beyond the technical, to the business side of operations. How do you intend to market the satellite services to such a large and diverse customer base and what about local licensing?
Meir: To reach our markets, we plan to partner with cellular operators, PTTs and other telecom companies who will resell to end users. We have already signed up several firms in this regard and realize that third party re-sellers are a vital element of our marketing strategy. For example, we already have agreements with GlobalSat Group and Sat Space Africa.
We will also leverage SocialEco's relationship with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Program to reach Third World users. A major focus is expected to be bringing on-line banking services to rural communities - a key element of economic development.
In terms of licensing, we have licensed our frequencies with the ITU and expect to work with local partners to secure any additional licensing that might be required. We are also familiar with how Inmarsat and Iridium handle the issues and expect to have similar freedom to operate. Note also that for the trans-oceanic maritime segment, no local licensing is required.
Satellite Mobility World: In addition to the markets you mentioned previously, are there other markets you plan to pursue? What about mobility.
Meir: Of course, our initial objective is to offer low cost communication to third world users and corporate and government entities with an equatorial belt stretching 15 degrees north and south of the equator. Constellation deployment will begin at the end of 2019, ramping up in 2019 and completed in 2020.
In the longer term,3-5 years, we will consider to further extend the constellation with around 1000 satellites in orbit in multiple planes to provide global coverage. At this level even for the equatorial constellation of coverage, we expect our services would be attractive to aviation, shipping and remote enterprises.
Inasmuch as our service operates in the low frequency S-Band,we can offer the same kind of rain resistant services as competitive L-Band players at significantly lower price points. Given our pricing advantage, we believe this our equatorial constellation will ultimately generate around $500 Million US in annual revenues.
Satellite Mobility World: Meir, thank you for sharing you plans with us. We will continue to follow your progress as you develop this highly promising venture.
Low Cost Nanosatellite Venture Promises Communications For All
SAS Satellite Inter-linking Video - Click to View
About Meir Moalem:
Meir has over 20 years of experience in management, R&D and operation of state-of-the-art projects in Space Systems and Unmanned Aerial Systems. He was responsible for the MEIDEX experiment on Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) and was the project manager for Israel’s first astronaut flight and has managed other Israeli satellite projects including Ofeq, Tecsar). He is also a jet fighter pilot, Lt. Col (Res.) of the Israeli Air force.
Meir has a B.Sc. in Physics and Computer Sciences (with honors) and an M.A. from the Diplomacy and National Security executive program (with honors). Currently he is working on his PhD in national security and space programs at Tel Aviv University, Israel. Meir has also received the Israel National Defence award in 2009.
Great Momentum In Technology, Financing and Commercialization
After nearly five years of development, Phasor's disruptive, new Electronically Steered Antenna (ESA) is in advanced stages of commercialization and is expected to soon announce that it has closed its "B Round of financing.
Developed by a talented team of dedicated engineers in a "Skunk Works" like environment, the satellite industry will be excited to discover that the ESAs capabilities far exceed any competitive antenna, whether that is a traditional mechanically-steered parabolic dish or a newer flat panel antenna technology, making it especially suitable for high speed broadband applications at sea, on land and in the air.
Make no mistake, the antenna is highly disruptive to the conventional steered dish market, setting a new standard for reliability, ease of installation and adaptability to coming LEO constellations. Here is the very latest update on this emerging technology from David Helfgott, Phasor CEO.
SMW: : I understand the company has made considerable progress in securing investors and that Phasor has raised a significant amount of capital. Is the company now fully financed through commercial product roll out?
DJH: Phasor has had strong support from its core investors for several years, and we recently completed a significant incremental funding round, which we plan to announce soon. This funding allows Phasor to complete commercialization of its first electronically steered antenna products, and to further develop next generation technologies which will enable powerful enterprise-grade, mobile broadband services for commercial passenger vehicles and the satellite operators and mobile network services providers who serve them.
SMW: Phasor has recently made some major advances on both the technical and business side. It is our understanding that the multi-year development program is nearing completion and that commercial introduction is likely with the next 9 to 12 months. Can you bring us up to date on your progress?
DJH: Phasor has now progressed to TRL (Technology Readiness Level) 7 and is engaged in TRL 8, Beta Test activities for its core technology and initial products. We expect to release Ku-band maritime and land-mobile ESA (electronically steerable antenna) product variants in 2018 following successful field trials. After that, we plan to release our initial aero market products..
SMW: Given that the potential markets for the ESA are maritime, aero, land, which markets have priority and when do you expect commercial introduction in each?
DTH: All three of these commercial mobility use-cases are important to Phasor…and our technology will be deployed in each. The core technology is identical for maritime, aero and land-mobile, but the final terminal configuration and the licensing and certification processes for each can vary quite a bit. So we are responding to both the market demand and the process of commercialization.
SMW: From the beginning, the Phasor antenna has been positioned as a high capacity B-to-B product. Given the falling prices of microprocessors, is it possible that the price of a Phasor antenna could fall low enough in volume to be suitable for mass market, consumer applications?
DJH: Phasor’s technology is robust, powerful, “enterprise-grade” and intended for commercial mobility markets…principally passenger vehicles broadband access, and increasingly for aggregated operational telematics data-links. The same ESA aperture will interoperate between the several kinds of satellite constellation architectures– GEO, MEO and LEO. The software-defined beam forming provides capability that is impossible today with mechanically-steered antennas. Even with all this functionality and capability, Phasor’s technology is based on industry standard processes and materials and these are subject to volume economic effects…so yes. The greater the volume the lower the cost. It is therefore conceivable that Phasor will find a welcome market in large volume, standardized products.
SMW: I understand that the initial product will be a Ku-Band antenna. What are your priorities in terms of developing antennas that address Ka-Band and other frequencies?
DJH: Our principal priority is to launch outstanding ESA products in Ku band. However, our technology is readily translated to other frequencies and we are already in discussions and initial design reviews round a Ka version. We have also been asked to develop our ESA platform in C and X band, but clearly Ka is where our next opportunity lies, following Ku product launch.
SMW: Reliability is a key advantage of the Phasor Flat Panel ESA. It can be said that the modular infrastructure of the antenna allows it to keep function –albeit at a lower capacity – even if individual patch elements or a complete panel fails. Is this feature unique to the Phasor unit?
DJH: We believe so. The system architecture is modular, and each radiating “element” works cooperatively with its peers to create a coherent, aggregated communications beam, in a basic configuration called a “core module.” Core modules are then combined to create electronically steered antenna apertures of various sizes. This combination occurs at “baseband” (unlike traditional phased arrays where it occurs at RF frequencies) which means the often large RF losses are removed from our system… a very efficient technique. This also means that any kind of failure, at the element or even the module level is localized and allows the remaining aperture to continue to perform. The key attributes of our patented system design include scalability, redundancy, modularity and performance, all which contribute to reliability.
SMW: It is our understanding that a key objective of the company is to integrate send and receive functionality into each modular antenna panel, (Core Module). What advantages are inherent in integrating both Tx and Rx functions on a single panel and has this objective been achieved, or when will it be achieved?
DJH: Phasor has multiple products in development, all based on the same core technology. Phasor’s initial product design includes a separate Tx and Rx aperture, combined to create an integrated Tx/Rx array. We have specific customers who have asked for both Rx-only and Tx-only systems, as well as combined Tx +Rx systems. We have additionally developed an overlaid Tx/Rx array-based product architecture, which provides the same connectivity and functionality, using half the space. This is ideal for broadband connectivity to smaller vehicles like business aircraft, smaller boats, and intercity buses, and will open new mobile broadband markets for services providers. Our overlaid products will follow shortly after the separate Tx + Rx arrays.
SMW: Given the fact that the propensity by end users to upload video and photos is now creating significant demand on the up-link, how is your performance on the TX side enabling you penetrate markets such as cruise?
DJH: Phasor’s Tx performance has always been very strong. Our ability to dynamically create extremely well controlled and accurate beam patterns, while on the move, means that we can ensure we always meet the regulatory masks. This, therefore, enables our ESA to transmit a significant amount of power unlike other electronically steered antennas. Phasor’s technology has the BUC embedded within each element and so, not only is this cost effective, but it also means that because these are individually each low power, the overall reliability is extremely good.
SMW: What about shipping, storage and installation? Can you compare the costs of installing managing these issues with a conventional antenna? How much can be saved using “just on time” delivery and ease of installation?
DJH: Operational and logistical considerations have been included at the beginning of our system design. While we have not yet gone to full commercial production, our technology is superior to bulky, heavy, mechanically-steered antenna solutions. The benefits of a lighter weight, smaller, flatter, more reliable and modular system are self-evident. The logistics, and maintenance & repair chain will be greatly improved and simplified.
SMW: While flat panel ESAs offer significant advantages in terms of new market development, reliability, aesthetics and serviceability, their efficiency declines the further they are from a position directly under the satellite. Solutions to this appear to be increasing power, deploying the antenna in a curved or conformal configuration, compensating by increasing the size of the antenna or mounting the antenna on a platform that swivels, along the antenna to be turned toward the satellite at low latitudes. What approach will Phasor take toward this problem?
DJH – As with any flat, electronically steerable antenna, performance does drop off with “scan angle” however this can be greatly mitigated through the placement and mounting angle of the ESAs to minimize the time spent at lower elevation angles. This, in combination with the ability to combine multiple ESAs mounted around the vessel, can create a system that delivers significant performances in all locations. The ability to combine multiple ESAs also solves the problem of “blockages:” line-of-sight obstructions that can disrupt service of traditional antennas that are placed near or next to taller parts of the vessel for example.
We believe that mounting the electronically-steered antenna on a mechanically-steered platform that swivels negates several principal benefits of a high-performance ESAs. – low profile, aesthetics, and solid-state reliability. A conformal or curved antenna that fits along the curvature of the vehicle (like an aircraft fuselage or high-speed train car) is an elegant solution, which presents more antenna to the low angle GEO satellite than a simply flat antenna; (of course, this issue is completely mitigated with the advent of wide-band LEO constellations).
SMW: LEO constellations may soon be available. How will their introduction affect the use of flat panel antennas? As look angles to these satellites will always be favorable regardless of a user’s latitude, can we consider Phasor/flat panel antennas as a long term, obsolescence proof solution in mobility markets?
DJH: That is exactly right, these new wide band LEO constellations are really where ESAs will come into their own – significantly out-performing traditional mechanically steered antennas. Not only will they perform more reliably, but Phasor’s antenna will have instantaneous beam switching and multiple independent beams enabling seamless coverage when switching between satellites within a constellation or being able to provide interoperability between GEOs & LEOs. Phasor’s antenna will have multiple independent beams enabling seamless coverage when switching between satellites within a constellation or providing inter-operability between GEOs & LEOs.
SMW: Dave: Thanks for bringing us up to date on Phasor's progress. We'll be following your roll out closely. Thank you for you time. A.G.
Phasor on Target with New Flat Panel Phased Array Antenna...
Phasor Aero Antenna
Conformal Antenna Configuration
by Sef Senhaji, Senior Director, Business Development for the Aero Market, VT iDirect
A Higher Plane: Boarding the Next Journey for In-Flight Connectivity
To say that passenger expectations for in-flight connectivity have increased would be an understatement. No longer content with cheap, wired headphones, today’s passengers consider in-flight connectivity a must-have, and it increasingly guides their decision on what airline to fly.
According to the 2016 SITA Airline IT Trends Survey, 97 percent of passengers now carry Internet-capable devices while traveling. And, as many as one in four of these tech-savvy customers choose to fly with one airline over another simply based on Wi-Fi availability.
Yet, initial uptake has been slow for paid service and there are several contributing factors. Data rates in the sky currently don’t match rates on the ground. Many passengers believe that Internet service is a basic right and should also be offered for free – just like in hotels and cafes.
This situation has airlines looking for other ways to secure business value from their onboard networks – rethinking the financial formula for in-flight connectivity. Today, airlines are also moving beyond an exclusive focus on the customer entertainment, connecting the entire aircraft to enable digital applications and connect to operations on the ground.
“Fully connected” now means cockpits with electronic flight bags to improve aircraft operations. It means increasing communication between the crew, cockpit, and ground maintenance teams to allow for better predictive aircraft management and to reduce repair delays.
It means equipping cabin crews with the latest mobile technology to improve customer care, increase on-board credit card transactions, and offer real-time authentication to help reduce fraud, all of which lead to increased revenue. And of course, it means high-speed connectivity and premium content for passengers.
According to Valour Consultancy estimates, the connected airline could save the aviation industry over $1 billion annually.
Managing Bandwidth in the Sky
The new vision of the “connected aircraft” present an even greater network challenge for airlines. It equates to managing a global wireless network in the sky that serves a much broader suite of applications and end-users, all of which are vying for contested bandwidth.
The number of aircraft coming on-line is rising quickly. Euroconsult estimates that upwards of 17,000 commercial aircraft across more than 80 airlines will offer onboard connectivity by 2021, compared to just 6,500 at the end of 2016.
Now is the time for airlines to begin implementing new innovation. So, let’s focus on several key opportunities as the airline industry embarks on the next leg of in-flight connectivity.
Leverage High-Speed Capacity
The most critical challenge today is the need for higher throughput connectivity to the plane. The emerging solution is High Throughput Satellites (HTS) which delivers increased data rates to passengers and lowers the airlines cost per bit.
NSR predicts that HTS and Ku-band VSAT networks will overtake Air-to-Ground (ATG) systems as the dominant mode of in-flight connectivity. ATG will decrease from a 73 percent market share in 2014 to 35 percent in 2024. HTS will rise from 3 percent to 33 percent market share in the same period. By 2025, NSR estimates 18,000 aircraft will be powered by HTS, adding up to $2.8 billion in potential revenue.
Improve Service Levels
But speed, by itself, is only part of the equation. Combining HTS with mobility applications presents a major challenge when it comes to managing complex Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The increased capacity available through HTS can mean very little unless you can increase the quality of the end-user experience.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to manage bandwidth across a contended network that spans multiple beams, aircraft and end users. At any given moment, there are thousands of aircraft operating around the globe, with each one needing to connect to various bandwidth levels over the course of their journey. Even with faster modem speeds, bottlenecks can occur if network traffic is not prioritized correctly.
Those operating aero VSAT networks need to expand their thinking from what data rate is being delivered on an individual airplane to how do they source, integrate and manage a global pool of bandwidth. They need a global bandwidth and network management system that allows them to pool satellite capacity across numerous spot beams and create group service plans that can automatically allocate resources as they are needed.
Another key requirement to providing the optimal customer experience is automatic beam selection and fast-beam switching. To ensure seamless connectivity, an aircraft must now be able to automatically switch between satellite beams as it moves from one geographic footprint to the next with no manual intervention across multiple satellite footprints in a high-speed environment. Internet sessions should not be interrupted as the plane moves through several beams on a flight.
Adopt Multi-Provider Roaming
Service providers catering to regional airlines will need to adopt roaming to expand service reach outside of their core networks. Mobile operators have mature architectures that enable a customer to roam from a home network to a guest network while maintaining home service plans. The satellite industry is developing similar capabilities whereby a satellite service provider may partner with other service provider to enable their mobility terminal to roam between autonomous networks.
Service providers adopting these business and technical models will maximize capital and operational resources. The roaming technology itself can evolve into multiple forms – roaming from a service provider’s regional coverage to another, or roaming from a GEO constellation into a LEO/MEO constellation.
Bringing Smarter Technology Onboard
A major area of improvement for in-flight connectivity encompasses onboard satellite equipment. From antennas, to onboard computers to remotes, technology is now more powerful and efficient, resulting in improved bandwidth utilization and reduced weight penalties. New innovations also now allow for significant reduction, or even elimination, of traditional upgrade-related downtime, such as installation and maintenance.
Advancement in aeronautical flat-panel antennas have increased network speeds and reduced airline operation costs. The result has been antennas that are smaller, thinner and more aerodynamic, combined with greater bandwidth capacity. These antenna’s electronic steering capabilities also represent a significant advancement over traditional mechanical methods when it comes to ensuring constant satellite connection.
Powerful Software-Defined Modem
Swapping out onboard equipment is a considerable logistical and regulatory challenge. It can take several years for a government regulatory body to approve a new piece of hardware to be installed inside an airplane, even longer if it requires installation of new antennas or anything mounted to the frame structure of the airplane.
Today, airlines can adopt a remote solution that’s engineered with a high degree of flexibility to adapt to changing requirements while only paying for the capabilities that they really need at any given time. Through software-defined and re-programmable remote architectures, this next-generation of remotes can be continually upgraded over-the-air to increase network capabilities and throughput levels, while dramatically extending the deployment life in the air and minimizing aircraft downtime and certification processes.
This software-defined architecture also allows to incorporate support for other waveforms in the future whether for working more efficiently on different GEO HTS satellites or different orbits such as MEO and LEO altogether.
A Platform for the Future
Today’s in-flight connectivity challenge is about meeting rising customer expectations while allocating a broader pool of bandwidth to feed connected aircraft applications. What is the right capacity to source? What is the best use of that capacity? Where are the greatest returns? Where can costs be lowered? How can technology life cycle be expanded?
These are the key questions airlines and network operators must ask as they prep for the next leg of in-flight connectivity. Success requires choosing the right communications platform and developing a comprehensive business case. Those airlines that can best leverage in-flight connectivity will gain a clear business advantage in terms of customer loyalty, crew productivity and company profitability.
About the Author
Joseph “Sef” Senhaji is the Director of Business Development at VT iDirect. In this role, he is responsible for developing the aeronautical strategy for the company.
Mr. Senhaji drives and delivers the evaluation of business benefits and risks for external opportunities from financial, strategic, operational and technical perspectives.
Mr. Senhaji has over 16 years of experience in the satellite communications industry. Prior to his current role, he held a business development position at Tachyon, where he led cross-functional teams to deliver innovative satcom aero solutions. He also held Sr. Systems Engineer roles at Comsat Labs and Viasat, where he directed the deployment and acceptance of new satellite communications systems.
Mr. Senhaji holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Texas Tech University, an MS, Electrical Engineering from Virginia Tech, and an MBA from the University of Maryland. He lives in the Washington D.C. metro area with his family and enjoys tennis, golf and cycling.
At the suggestion of several of our readers, we're including our story on the great total solar eclipse of 2017.
We were there. Originally, my wife, Margarita, and I had planned to observe and photograph the eclipse on the the South Carolina coast, but on the morning of the 21st, due to a discouraging local weather prediction, we were forced to leave the Charleston area and race 150 miles northwest to Newberry, SC where the weather was expected to be favorable - a last minute move that turned out to be the right one.
After a three hour drive up I 26 past Columbia, we arrived in Newberry and were offered a site reserved for serious observers, high on a hill overlooking the tiny town, near dead center on the total eclipse path.
Below, in the town, was an event like no other. Fueled by the anticipation of a magical celestial moment, thousands gathered. Main Street was closed off to vehicles. There were bands playing and ice cream trucks rolling - all helping to heighten the sense of excitement as the town counted down the hours, minutes and seconds to totality.
While the morning was clear, by noon a crowd of white cumulus clouds was rising to the south, and along with it the anxiety that somehow, a stray cloud might rob us of the view we craved, of the ephemeral, two minutes, thirty two seconds of totality - the chance to see the solar corona, the hydrogen prominences, the legendary "Diamond Ring" in the sky and the emergence of stars and planets in mid day. Together, along with thousands of other eager viewers, we waited for the sky to darken.
This was my fourth total solar eclipse and I knew the experience well. Like the other eclipses, I had prepared for months and practiced the photographic routine - important because in the excitement of the moment mistakes can be made.
My equipment was superb, consisting of a 3.5" diameter Questar telescope, especially suited to the event and a Sony Ar ii, a 42 Million pixel mirror less camera coupled to the read of the telescope. In order to capture the several phases of the eclipse, the legendary "Diamond Ring," the hydrogen prominences and the inner and outer corona, shutter speeds of the camera would be continuously adjusted during the eclipse.
As totality approached, the clouds parted to reveal an open blue sky. The temperature dropped and silence settled around us. Conversations stopped; birds grew silent, and the day grew darker. As the last few vestiges of sunlight faded, we were enveloped in the moon's shadow. In seconds, bright "beads" of sunlight collapsed into the "diamond ring," and onlookers stared in awe as the sun's bright white corona emerged, accompanied by giant hydrogen prominences reaching into space. The Corona was cotton white, and the sky was a dark twilight blue, the 360 degree horizon a pale pink, like the last moments of a sunset.
As the sun emerged from behind the moon and the darkness faded, a cheer rose around us in celebration. Together, we had all shared a very special moment. It was a snapshot in time and a feeling of triumph like no other.
We are pleased to be able to share our photos with you, and hope that at least once in your life, you will have the opportunity to witness this remarkable spectacle. A.G.
Special Feature - the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse - Up Close
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There are many mobility related satellite industry events and unless you have an unlimited budget, here are the "must attends" and others that may be of interest. Note that the "hot" sectors in the sector are Cruise, Aero and Yachts.
***** World Satellite Business Week: September 11-15,2017 at the Westin in Paris: Other than the Washington Satellite show, we consider this to be the best satellite industry event in the industry. Attended by virtually all of the top executives, it includes "Smart Plane," an event focusing on the use of satellite on aircraft and numerous sessions focusing on mobility, as well as the Summit for Satellite Financing. In our view, nothing beats this events in terms of offering networking opportunities in an intimate atmosphere. While very expensive, at around $3,500 this conference is worth every penny.
**** VSAT Global: September 20-22 2017, London, England: Also expensive at 1,899 British Pounds, VSAT Global is usually well attended. However, if you have to choose between the two conferences and are interested in the best networking opportunities, we recommend World Satellite Business Week.
****Monaco Yacht Show: September 27-30 2017: For those specifically interested in this VSAT market, this is the major event. While the total number of large Yachts is around 6,000, growth is around 10% per year and the sector demands relatively high bandwidth connectivity. While a niche market, it's one with a lot of potential.
*****Seatrade Cruise Global, 5-8 March 2018, Fort Lauderdale, Florida: In terms of bandwidth demand, this mobility segment tops all but the commercial airline sector. In 2017, Gottlieb International Group presented a special seminar along with Global Eagle Entertainment, and we will be doing a repeat in 2018 - highly recommended and inexpensive.
*****Satellite 2018, Washington, D.C. March 12-15, 2018: This is the most widely attended satellite show in the world and includes an excellent conference. However, attendees need to plan their agendas very carefully to avoid conflicts between meetings, sessions you want to attend and visits to selected booths on the show floor. It's definitely a jam packed four days.
***Posidoina, Athens Greece, June 4-8th, 2018: This is a key show due to the Greek shipping industry's leading position in the Tanker industry - the leading cargo maritime sector in terms of VSAT purchases. We expect to do a VSAT applications event at this show.
*****Global Connected Aircraft Summit, Arlington, VA June 7-9, 2018: In our opinion, this is the best event dealing with aircraft connectivity. As the commercial airlines struggle to upgrade and install Wi-Fi aboard their aircraft, the demand for bandwidth and associated Internet applications for both passenger entertainment and monitoring of aircraft systems is the prime focus. As the industry is also a leader in the use of IoT and M2M applications, what can be learned at this conference has applicability in other mobility sectors as well.
***CommunicAsia: June 26-28: This is probably the best Asian satellite industry event. While not heavily focused on mobility, we recommend it for the excellent industry networking opportunities.
Other Conferences/Shows of Interest:
***Digital Ship CIO Forum/Cyber Resilience Forum: Held in numerous locations around the world, these events are notable for their focus mainly on IT related issues including cyber security, IoT and M2M. Sponsored globally by Marlink, they are held nearly everywhere.
The next events in 2017 are in Tokyo on 30 August, Rotterdam on September 26, Singapore on October 44th, Hamburg on October 10th, etc.
As the maritime cargo sector is in a major slump, the shipping people who attend these events are not in a buying mood. These events are probably worth attending at least once for their IOT, M2M and Cyber Security content - if you have the budget and the time. If you are interested in finding buyers, focus on the Tanker sector and attend Posidonia.
**PTC Honolulu January 21-24, 2018: This one's a favorite if you are selling to the South Pacific Islands or some Asian customers. Held in a nice casual atmosphere, it's a good networking opportunity. It's also noted for the best business expense "right off" around (a fact that few attendees want to admit) - glad it's held in Hawaii in January.
Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Related Events
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