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J. V, Evans and A. Dissanayake COMSAT Corporation 6560 Rock Spring Drive Bethesda, MD 20817

Some 16 proposed new satellite systems operating at 36 to 46 GHz (Q-band) and 46 to 56 GHz (V-band) have been proposed to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission by U.S. companies, Of these, 14 are intended to provide global, or nearly global, service. One is intended for U.S. domestic service, and one is a package to provide additional store-and-forward capability on an earlier proposed Little LEO system. This paper provides a brief summary of the 14 global systems, which for the most part are designed to exploit the wide band offrequencies available for services such as multimedia distribution and Internet access. Systems are proposed that would use geostationary orbit, medium earth orbit, low earth orbit, and Molniya orbit satellites, and in some cases combinations of two of these orbits. Most of the new systems propose to employ new technologies such as multiple narrow spot-beam antennas, onboard demodulation and routing of trafic between beams, intersatellite links, and in some cases scanning beams to continuously illuminate the service area as the satellite flies by. Some of the difficulties involved infielding systems at these high frequencies arise from the propagation impairments that can be expected and the high cost of solid-state power devices for user terminals, which will drive up costs. It is concluded that, while the large amount of bandwidth (3 GHz) proposed by the FCC for these systems is attractive, few if any are likely to be built while spectrum remains available at Ku-band.

(GEO) remains the orbit of choice for most systems. Geostationary satellites require no tracking by earth station antennas, which greatly simplifies their cost, installation, and maintenance. This makes economic sense, given that most of the cost of a fully deployed system can be in the ground segment. Low-earth-orbiting (LEO) systems have been proposed (e.g., by Teledesic at Ka-band) out of concern for the half-second response time encountered over geostationary satellites, which can limit the speed of access to the Jnternet and hinder real-time applications such as teleconferencing. Two systems (Hughes Communications StarLynx system and TRWs GESN) are hybrids employing both GEO and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites. Hughes took this approach because its business plan calls for providing service initially over North and South America via GEO satellites, and then launching the MEO system as the amount of traffic increases worldwide. TRW, on the other hand, has designed a system that exploits the advantages of both types of orbits, and one in which intersatellite links will be used to route traffic along all possible satellite-to-satellite paths. Additional information given in Table 2 includes the number of satellites to be deployed; the anticipated total satellite capacity (when fully loaded); whether intersatellite links will be used; the type of onboard routing contemplated; and overall projected capital cost. The latter usually includes the cost of the first year of operation. All of the 14 systems proposing to offer global or nearly global service employ some form of onboard routing. This is necessary because designers have had to exploit narrow spot beams in order to overcome propagation effects (as discussed below), and are then confronted with the problem of how to route traffic among the beams. Table 3 provides details of the RF portions of the payloads, including the number of beams to be used; their size; and Table 1. FrequenciesProposed for Q/V-bandSystems Downlink Uplink Orbit (GHz) (GHz) Geostationary Non-~eostationarv 37.5-40.5 37.538.5 47.250.2 48.2-49.2

In 1997, following applications by Motorola for a satellite system called M-Star, and Hughes for a system called Expressway, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) opened a Notice of Inquiry offering others the opportunity to propose systems operating at millimeter waves (Q and V-bands). The FCC-proposed frequencies for the Q/V-band systems are given in Table 1. Table 2 lists (alphabetically by company name) the 14 global Q/V-band satellite systems proposed to the FCC [1], Included in the table are the name of the system, some indication of its coverage, and the type of orbit(s) to be empIoyed. It can be seen that geostationary earth orbit

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Table2. ProposedU.S. Q/V-bandSatellite Systems No. of Satellites 9 11 80 14 6 4

20 9 10 72 7 12 25 72 14 15 Global Global ~60 *50 Global Global Global +70

D enali Telwom.

System Pentriad
GE*Star Plus GS-40 Expressway SpaceCast StarLynx QJV Band Cyberpath M-Star Orblink VStream Aster VBS GESN

Orbit Molniya

25N 85N Global *70 Limited global Limited global +80

Satellite Capacity (Gb/s) <36

-70 -1 -65 -@ <5.9 <6.3 545 17.9 -3.6 -75 <3.2 -lo 4 -50 -70

Intersatellite Link

Onboard Switching
MSM MSM MSM SSTDMA SSTDMA Baseband ATM baseband ATM baselmd MSM & SSTDMA MSM MSM SSTDMA & Baseband Baseband Baseband

Capital Investment ($W

1.9 3.4 ? 3.9 1.7 2.9 4.75 1.17 (for 4) 6.4 0.9 3.5 2.4 1.9 3.4

GE Americom Glcbalstar L.P. Hughes Comm., Inc. Hughes Comm., Inc. Hughes Comm., Inc. Lockheed Martin Loral Space& Comm. Ltd. Motorola Orbital Sciences Corp. PanAmSat Spectrum Astro, Inc. Teledesic TRW

2? optical
No Optical 3 Gb/s Optical 3 Gb/s 2 optical 5 optical 3 optical 2 radio 2 radio 27 radio 2 radio 2? radio 2 optical 4 optical 10 optical 4 optical



MSM: Microwaveswitchmatrix. and power of the transponders. In some instances, the system design is too complex to fit neatly into this format. For example, a number of designs employ transponders (the frequency-changing, bandwidthdefining portion of the payload) that are shared by a common power amplifier. This is invariably the case where the onboard routing is performed via a static switch matrix, for example. Thus, the number of transponders and the number of power amplifiers are not necessarily the same (as is usually the case in simpler bent pipe satellites). Another example is the case of active phased arrays, where all the amplifiers in the array may contribute some power to all the beams, and the notion of a single power amplifier that excites a single beam no longer applies. the number, bandwidth,

can be encountered in the different wavebands. It is evident that effects become more severe at shorter wavelengths. 2.1 Gaseous Absorption Gaseous absorption depends on the frequency (Figure 1), the path length through the atmosphere, and the atmospheric humidity. Figure 2 shows the absorption as a ftmction of humidity for 40 and 50 GHz at an elevation of 20, There is little the satellite designer can do to avoid these effects other than to design a system that allows the earth station to view the satellites at a high elevation angle. This is best achieved with MEO satellites in polar or near-polar orbits, The original plan for the Teledesic Ka-band system entailed the use of 840 satellites [5], and was driven by a decision to serve terminals only within 0 to 40 off the nadir of the satellite. This is obviously an expensive and extreme solution. Somewhat interesting in tiis regard is the Pentriad system (Table 2), By exploiting Molniya orbits, the system provides coverage of the more populous regions (northern hemisphere latitudes between 25N and 85N) at elevation angles above 40.

2. .Q/V-BAND PROPAGATION Propagation effects on satellite links have been studied by a number of groups employing satellite beacons and other methods. (For review, see Allnutt [2] and Crane [31.) Table 4 provides a simple checklist of the impairments that

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Table3. Parametersof U,S. ~-band No.of

System No. of Beams
w v -Lmncl

Satellite Systems
TWA Power (W) 80 100 25 48 100 25 100 150 100 50 Active phased array 40 Active phased array 25 75 50 EIRP (CtB1v) 73.0 77.7 59 52 52 55 48 72 55 70.5 56 64.2 user 62.7 gateway 77.5 21-29 to MTSO 33-43 to cell site 62 60 60 66.7 60.7 61.4 59 83 78 End-of-Life Power (m 6.000 15,000 4,500 15,000 15,000 15,000 3,900 Dry Mass 0%) 1,444 --5,500 992 3,500 3,500 3,500 4,130 Life (Yr.)

Beam Size

Earth-Space Transponders 80 12

Transponder Bandwidth (MHz)* 78


12W-band 40 V-band 9 Ku-baud GS-40 30 steered 20 V-band 8 Ku-band 40 V-band 16 Ku-band 40 GEO 32ME0 9

-0.4 0.30
1 x 3 2 0.15 1 x 3 0.15 1 x 3 0.15 0.6 0.30

15 7.5 15 15 15 12 15

16 30 20 8 40 16 40 32 48 user 8 gateway 100 104

SpaceCast StzuLynx Lockheed Martin Q/V Band Cyberpath M-Star

300 250 18/90 300 250 300 250 270


100 32

0.42 -1.1

142 90

19,800 1,530

4,315 1,004

15 8

Orblink VStream Aster


-0.5 1.5 0.50 spot 1 & 5 regional small 32 48

800 narrow 20 wide 80 18

50 1,000 375 470 spot 980 regional


1,268 -5,000 1,120

9 15 15

20 8 spot
8 regional 2 steerable

5,000 3,500


32 Up 40 down 32 GEO 48ME0

? 32 48


1,250 12,700 15,000

566 2,769 2,707

7 15

300/ 3,000

Active phased array

* Defined here as the passband(s) of the frequency-changing portion(s) of the transponder.

Table4. PropagationFactors AffectingSatelliteLinks Propagation Factor GaseousAbso@ion CloudAttenuation RainAttenuation Rain/IceDepolarization TroposphericScintillation x x x x x Cband Kuband Kaband x x x x x Vband x x x x x

function of the percentage of time for a station in Singapore operating at 20 elevation, The curves show that, for 1 percent of the time, attenuation cam exceed 4 dB at the uplink frequency and 2 dB at the dowrdink frequency. 2.2 Rain Attenuation

One consequence of operating the uplink (V-band) close to the molecular absorption line (shown in Figure 1) is that there can be a significant difference in the atmospheric attenuation between the two edges of the band. This is illustrated in Figure 3, which shows estimates for this effect, including rain attenuation and other impairments, as a

By far, the most severe problem facing the designers of Q/V-band satellite systems is rain attenuation. This problem has been studied by various groups over a wide range of frequencies and climates. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) climate model is shown in Figure 4. Here, the A regions are the driest, and the P regions have the heaviest thundershower activity, which is responsible for the severest absorption events. Figure 5 shows model calculations for rain attenuation for five of these climatic regions (E, H, K, M, and P) for the V-band uplink frequency. It can be seen that the design of

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28 o & 3 fi6 & $4 $ K p2 ~ c1 .!

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I 100


Figure 3. Cumulative Distribution of Differential Attenuation Across the 3-GHz Band at Downlink Frequency (40 GHz) and Uplink Frequency (50 GHz) at Singapore (elevation angle = 20) [6]

1IJ-2 I




I 102


Figure 1. Total Zenith Attenuation due to Gases, as a Function of Frequency (a = range of values. Curve A dry atmosphere. Curve B: exponential water-vapor atmosphere of 7.5 g/m3 at ground level. Scale height = 2 km) [4]











Figure 4. ITU-R Rain Zones [7]

- .
o 20 40 60



I 00 80 -


Figure 2. Gaseous Absorption as a Function of Relative Humidity bath elevation angle = 20, surface temperature = 20C) [4]

60 401 20< n -0.1

global systems operating at these frequencies becomes especially challenging. To achieve an availability of 99.5 percent in all regions requires an excess margin of approximately 55 dB on the uplink. Since such large amounts of excess link margin are economically impractical, the actual availability will vary with climate. In addition, provision of some services may be unacceptable once availability



Figure 5. Rain Attenuation Cumulative Distributions in Different ITU Rain Zones at the Uplink Frequency (50 GHz) Using the DAH Model (elevation angle= 20) [61

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drops below a certain level, so that marketing of the systems capabilities may have to be carried out at a regional level.
2.3 Total Attenuation

Figure 6 provides model calculations for the combined effects of all of the impairments cited in Table 4 at Ka-, Q-, and V-bands for two locations, according to a methodology proposed by Dissanayake et al. [6]. Clarksburg, Maryland, is a mid-latitude station with a moderate rainfall climate (K in Figure 4), while Singapore has a tropical climate (P in Figure 4) and represents a worst case. Also, the elevation angle of 20 used in these calculations represents the worst situation likely to be encountered in any of the designs. 3. SYSTEM DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS Section 1 described a wide range of approaches taken in designing the Q/V-band systems that were filed with the FCC. For the 14 global systems, there are seven system designs that employ GEO satellites, three LEO, one MEO, one Molniya, and two combinations of GEO and MEO.

Three designs employ fixed antenna beams, but two allow beams to be selected (from a larger number of possible choices) after launch. Five systems employ scanning or steered beams, and six have beams of two different types. The choice among routing schemes is equally varied. Six systems employ frequency-selective routing (i.e., using a static switch matrix), while five intend to switch at baseband. TWOof the systems will employ time-division multiple access (TDMA) and use satellite-switched TDMA (SSTDMA) for routing (i.e., briefly connect each receiving beam to some, or all, of the transmit beams in a cyclical fashion). l%o systems employ two of these schemes for routing. This spread of design approaches reflects the fact that all of the systems represent fairly radical departures from current GEO bent-pipe satellite practice, and a new universally recognized optimum approach to serving the data/ multimedia market has yet to emerge. All of the systems share a few common design themes. Achieving adequate link margins is of paramount importance in view of the propagation impairments discussed above. The subsections that follow discuss some of the pros and cons of the design choices that were made. 3.1 Choice of Rain Fade Mitigation Scheme Most of the designs incorporate features to mitigate rain fade. To reduce the link margin required for good bit error ratio (BER) performance, satellite links are currently designed with forward error correction protection. The best practice involves the use of concatenated coding [8]. Figure 7 shows the performance improvement achieved by using rate 3/4 convolutional coding/Viterbi decoding, and when such coding is concatenated with an outer (ReedSolomon 208,188) block code. It can be seen that the signal-to-noise ratio required to achieve a BER of 10-10has been decreased from about 13 dB to 5 dB. This approach will be a necessity for Q/V-band. A second approach that is contemplated for many of the designs is uplink power control. This entails raising the power of the uplink earth station during rain. The decision to go to high power can be made by command from the satellite, or autonomously by observing the strength of the received (40-GHz) signals. Because of the onboard processing employed in some systems, it may not be necessary to maintain the signal arriving at the satellite at a prescribed level, since no one carrier can steal all o-fthe transponder power, and a simple switch to high power may suftice. However, high power may require an increase of 10 dB or moreperhaps requiring switching from a solid-state amplifier to a traveling wave tube-and is likely to be very expensive.







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90 I 60 < 30 -

n i).1

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Figure 6. Predicted Cumulative Distribution of Totat Attenuation (elevation angle = 20)

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high power, Given that for most of these systems the earth station equipment cost is likely to exceed the space segment cost, this seems a particularly poor compromise. Approach 3 appears to be the only credible approach where


K ~ 10-6


1o-8 :


the number of beams, n, is large (creating n2possible routes); however, it exacts severe cost and weight penalties. It also forces users to operate at one of the few standard rates and modulation methods the onboard processor is designed to support. 3.3 Earth Terminal Technology Considerations


5 Eb/No (dB)



Figure 7. Theoretical Performance of QPSK Modulation (a) With No Coding, (b) For Coding With Rate 3/4 Convolutional Coding and Viterbi Decoding, and (c) For Reed-Solomon (RS208,188) Coding Concatenated With Convolutional Coding

Satellite systems intended to serve a consumer market must be designed to operate with inexpensive terminals if they are to be commercially successful. Unfortunately, at present there appears to be no such thing as an inexpensive Q/Vband terminal, and this could be the most significant drawback in all of the systems proposed. While the indoor portion of the terminal can largely be constructed of application-specific integrated circuits (ASICS) at low cost, this is not true of the outdoor unit. Currently, the only practical solid-state devices operating at 40 and 50 GHz are pseudomorphic high-electronmobility transistors (P-HEMTs). Single devices are capable of generating up to approximately 200 mW of power and, by combining devices, an amplifier of approximately 1 W can be constructed. Above this level, the losses in the combining networks make further paralleling of amplifiers unattractive and it becomes more sensible to combine in space, using a phased array. For receive applications, P-HEMTs must again be used in the low-noise amplifiers and are capable of providing a noise figure of approximately 3 dB. Absent a very large demand (in the millions), the cost of these devices will remain high. 4. CONCLUDING REMARKS It is tempting to dismiss all of these systems as paper satellites that will never be built, but that would be a mistake. The telecommunications satellite industry has been transformed by the decisions of four major U. S. manufacturers to enter the service business. First to take this step was Hughes, and Loral has since followed suit. Lockheed Martin and Motorola intend to join them. The intentions of TRW and Boeing remain to be determined. These large companies have the financial wherewithal and the technical ability to propose, develop, and launch systems qpite beyond the scale of the more cautious intergovernmental organizations (INTELSAT and Irunarsat) or regional investors. Despite these advantages, the absence of components for Q/V-band systemscombined with the severity of the rain

3.2 Choice of Onboard Routing Approach All 14 of the global multimedia/data distribution systems discussed herein employ some form of onboard routing. This is necessary in order to route traffic from beam to beam, and in many cases from satellite to satellite, via the intersatellite links. Onboard routing can be implemented in one of three ways:
1. Subdivide the traffic in each beam into several (e.g.,

10) channels, using filters, and employ a static switch matrix in the IF stages of the transponders to crossstrap traffic streams in various beams.
2. Employ SSTDMA, in which each uplink beam is con-

nected for a brief period, cyclically, to a large number of the dowrdink beams.
3. Demultiplex (i.e., separate in frequency) each of the

arriving carriers, demodulate them, remove any coding, and then route the packets (according to a header containing an address) via a baseband digital switch (in some filings called an ATM switch) to the appropriate port, where the packets can be re-encoded and modulated onto a single carrier that serves the desired downlink beam. Each approach has both advantages and disadvantages. Approach 1 is easiest to implement but not very flexible,
and results in the saturation of some pathways through the satellite, often while others are greatly underutilized.

Approach 2 forces users to employ TDMA and drives up the cost of the earth station equipment, which now requires

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fade and atmospheric attenuation problemsare expected to delay the introduction of nearly all of the systems described here until the Ka-band spectrum is saturated. That is, the orderly progression of C- to Ku- and Ku-to Ka-band is likely to continue, with few companies venturing into Q~-bmd any time soon. REFERENCES [1] FCC Filings, U.S. Federal Communications Commission, 1997. Denali Telecom, LLC - Pentriad System (NGSO) File No. 160-SAT-P/LA-97(13) GE American Communications, Inc. GE*StarPlus System (GSO) File Nos. 139 through 147-SAT-P/LA-97 File Nos. 157/158-SAT-P/LA-97
Hughes Communications, Inc. Expressway Systems


M. A. Sturza, Architectureof the TeledesicSatellite System, InternatiomdMobile Satellite Conference, Ottawa, 1995, Proc., pp. 212-218.
diction Method That Combines Rain Attenuation and Ckher Propagation Impairments Along Earth-Satellite Paths, IEEE TransactionsonAntennas andPropagation,Vol. AP45, No. 10, October 1997, pp. 1546-1558.

[6] A. W. Dissanayake, J. E. Allnutt, and F. Haidara, A Pre-


ITU Recommendation ITU-R P.837, International lrelecommunication Union - Radio Sector, Geneva, 1997.


G. C. Clark, Jr., and J. B. Cain, Error-CorrectionCoding for Digital CommunicationsSystems, New York: Plenum,

Globalstar, L.P. GS-40 System (80 NGSO satellites)

(GSO) File Nos. 90-SAT-P/LA-97 (A) and 119 through 127SAT-PLA-97

Hughes Communications,

Inc. SpaceCast System (GSO) File Nos. 148 through 15l-SAT-P/LA-97 NGSO) File Nos. 157/158-SAT-P/LA-97 and 159-SAT-P/LA97(20) Motorola Global Communications, Inc. M-Star Systems (NGSO) File Nos. 157-SAT-P/LA-96(72), 29-SAT-AMEND-97, and 128-SAT-AMEND-97

Hughes Communications, Inc. - StarLynx System (GSO/

ORBLINKLLC NGSO System File No. 138-SAT-P/LA-97(7)

File Nos. 162 through 172-SAT-P/LA-97 Spectrum Astro, Inc. - Aster Satellite System (GSO) File Nos. 173 through 177-SAT-P/LA-97

PanAmSat Corporation - VSTREAM System (GSO)

Teledesic File No. 178-SAT-P/LA-97 File Nos. 112 through 116-SAT-P/LA-97

TRW-EHF Satellite Network


J. E. Allnutt, Satellite-to-GroundRadiowavePropagation, London: Peregrinus, 1989.

[31 R. K. Crane, ElectromagneticWavePropagationThrough Rain, New York: John Wiley, 1996.

[4] ITU Recommendation ITU-R P.676, International Telecommunication Union - Radio Sector, Geneva, 1997.

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