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Satcom
T E C H N O L O G Y
October 2011 For the Engineer, by the Engineer

Accessing Content OntheMove Presents New Opportunities for Satellite

www.viasatellite.com

MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR

Accessing Content on-the-Move Presents New Opportunities for Satellite


hether users are on airplanes, cruise ships or trains, one thing is uniting them the demand for data communication and video services on their mobile or tablet devices. With most users utilizing data and video services as much as voice services on their mobile devices, this is presenting a new range of opportunities for satellite technology vendors as they look to supply the technology that will enable users to have connectivity pretty much wherever they are. Ampliier technology companies must raise their game to meet the next set of demands, as users are expecting quality connectivity services on-the-move. It is a challenge they are enthusiastically embracing, as many see this as a potentially lucrative opportunity for satellite companies, both on the operator side and the technology side. Certainly, Ka-band satellites will have a huge impact on enabling the next generation of communications on-the-move services. One company that aims to be at the forefront of providing the necessary technology to power these services is Wavestream. The company has high hopes for its Grid Ampliier, which it sees as becoming an integral piece of the equation for satellite operators investing aggressively into Ka-band satellites. With a number of Ka-band satellites getting ready to launch, Wavestream is conident that its ampliier technology will play a key role. However, state-of-the-art connectivity is about more than just Ka-band, although it is a key part of the debate. ITS Electronics, a company based in Greater Toronto, Canada, which also plays in the Ka-band space, is also looking to offer a wider range of solutions. Its range of Solid State Power Ampliiers (SSPAs) aim to provide compelling and eficient solutions to satellite operators delivering on-the-move services. The latest edition of Satcom Technology continues our pledge to bring you information for the engineer, by the engineer, and we are sure you will ind it informative and a great resource when considering your next moves in improving your communications infrastructure.

Director, Satellite Online Julie Blondeau Samuel Vice President and Group Publisher Via Satellite Joe Rosone Divisional President, Business Information Group Heather Farley Associate Editor Via Satellite Mark Holmes Managing Editor Via Satellite Debra Richards News Editor Satellite Today Jeff Hill Senior Graphic Designer Via Satellite Vince Lim

Production Manager Via Satellite Sophie ChanWood Chief Executive Officer Access Intelligence, LLC. Don Pazour

4 Choke Cherry Road, 2nd Floor Rockville, MD 20850 Phone: 301/354-2000, Fax: 301/340-3169 Email: jdavis@accessintel.com Web: www.viasatellite.com

Satcom Technology

October 2011

The Ka-band Revolution


Gary Echo, VP Business Development at Wavestream, gary@wavestream.com Demand for high-speed, reliable connectivity to the Internet is being driven by a worldwide expectation that platforms and applications will provide that access anytime, anywhere. Ka-band satellite services are coming online at just the right time to address this exponential growth. ack in 1968, the Beatles asked us if we wanted a Revolution. Ive spent nearly 30 years in satcom and have witnessed many technological changes in that time. Some of these changes have arguably been revolutionary, but most of these have been transparent to people outside our industry. I believe that is about to change in a dramatic, revolutionary way. The advent of high-bandwidth, Ka-band satellite services is going to bring satcom directly into the hands of a large percentage of the world population. Why now? you might ask. Kaband has been around for more than a decade. What about the attempts by Teledesic, Astrolink, Celestri, Skybridge and others? What is so different now? What is different now is that we are at a convergence of technologies both from the demand side and from the supply side. Demand for bits is increasing exponentially, not only in the amount of bits being consumed, but also in the number of individuals consuming them and reaching into their wallets to pay for them. Meanwhile, satcom technologists from many satcom ields (modem, encoder, antenna, satellite) have improved their widgets to the point where delivering bits can be done at a price that both the user is willing

to pay and at a price a service provider is willing to deliver or, in an subsidized situation, to generate incremental revenue. Indeed, smartphones, iPads and other Internet-enabled devices are becoming ubiquitous. Consumers are demanding continual access to the Internet and streaming services, and are willing to pay a sizeable portion of their discretionary income to secure that access. The average cell phone bill has been rising steadily and today, many spend more on their data plan than they do on voice. The cell phone is now more about staying connected via email, Facebook and Twitter, and much less about making phone calls. This is very true for business users. It is hard to ind, even in the nerd herd, someone with an antiquated cell phone with no keyboard. I take notice of these things. There are still some holdouts (weve had them at Wavestream) but some of these folks secretly keep a Blackberry in their briefcase, I just know it. All these users want to remain connected with high-speed, reliable service whether they are in their homes, cars, on a train, on a cruise or on a plane. Aside from the fact there is a stranger sitting next to us in 23E, on the airplane we want the same streaming Netlix experience to our iPad as we have while sitting in our living

room. Airlines are gearing up to deliver that experience and more. The demand for bits isnt just coming from consumers and business people. The military, homeland security, NGOs (FEMA, Red Cross) are all adopting technology to better perform their duties and keep us safe. These technologies require ever increasing bandwidth and timely delivery. Speciically, imagery is a signiicant bandwidth hog. Around the world, demand for connectivity is clearly visible in the vast use of social media to communicate. Aggregated, thousands of users doing text, email and social networking, is a lot of bits to get to/from the Internet from all manner of locales.

Ka-band Ready for Prime Time The challenge to the satcom industry is how to deliver high-bandwidth to users wherever they may be. For many platforms, the satcom industry alone owns this challenge. We are not going to see fiber to Flight 99. Terrestrial can provide some service to aircraft over land, but speeds are limited. Recently, a terrestrial-based service to aircraft had to block all users from uploading images to their Facebook pages. That is not going to fly, literally. If you just finished your vacation and rushed to the plane, you are going to want to upload those images. Users will
Satcom Technology 3

October 2011

demand, and will get, full connectivity by talking with their wallets either by paying for high-speed access directly or by paying extra to fly on airlines that support their lifestyles. Ku-band can deliver improved service to in-motion platforms and in fact is doing so today to a limited, but growing extent. Bandwidth, however, has become the limiting factor. Ku-band satellite slots are practically fully populated and the satellites in these slots are highly utilized today. 750 MHz of capacity in each polarization with regional or hemi beams is not a lot of capacity when you consider the aggregated demand from mobile users. Ka-band is the key to delivering to this consumer mandate. First, Ka-band has 3.5 GHz of available bandwidth per polarization vice 0.75 GHz for Ku. Ka-band further augments its basic bandwidth advantage with the use of spot beams and frequency re-use (colors as they are called). Ka-Sat is advertised at 70 Gbps throughput; ViaSat-1, at 130 Gbps. That is almost 100 times the capacity of a Ku-band bird. The space side of the industry is poised to deliver a vast amount of Ka-band bandwidth. One satellite is around 100 Gbps. Now multiply this persatellite throughput by the number of roughly 150 open orbital slots (and that just counts the GEOs), and you see a true revolution in the access to bits and the cost per bit.

other large constellation Ka-band efforts. That is the genesis of Wavestream. A couple of PhDs from Caltech set out to commercialize a technology they had been working on in the Caltech labs called quasioptical combining. They took some angel investment and boldly set out to go where no one had gone before: take a free-space configuration and condense it into WR-28 waveguide. Some might call this effort noble. Figure 1 shows an early test setup using a one-foot lens to illuminate one of their devices in the Caltech lab. The resulting technology is called the Grid ampliier. The name comes from the structure of the ampliier itself: a grid of unit cells. Each unit cell has a pair of antennas with a pair of transistors between. One set of antennas grabs its piece of the incoming signal, and the ampliied signal is put out into the waveguide by the output antennas. A grid of unit cells is mounted co-planar on a ceramic carrier, which is then mounted to a heat spreader. The unit cells are spaced closely together

such that they effectively operate in concert on an entire wave. The result is an ampliication device that takes a plane wave impinging on its backside and puts an ampliied version out its front. This device is placed inside a WR-28 waveguide as shown in Figure 2. The igure actually shows a two-stage ampliier module.

Figure2: Illuminating Early Grid Amps

Revolutionary Technology Wavestream is Born Rewind to the 1990s and the efforts of Teledesic and
4 Satcom Technology October 2011

Figure1: Illuminating Early Grid Amps

The Grid amp rotates the signal 90 degrees due to the orthogonal relationship between input and output antennas. By using two stages, the waveguide stays in the module in the same orientation as the output. Having two stages allows for biasing the irst stage for gain and second for output power. The Grid ampliier is a unique, and obviously patented, architecture that provides high-power at high frequencies. While this article is focused mainly on Ka-band, the Grid ampliier is also well suited to frequencies up to 100 GHz. Figure 3 compares the Grid to 10 individual devices currently on the market. The red dot is

Wavestreams device at 22W output power with 17 percent Power Added Eficiency (PAE). A Grid module with WR-28 output provides 15W saturated power with 8W of linear power in a 4-ounce package. When addressing challenging mobile conigurations, it is critical to mount the ampliier as close to the antenna as possible. This minimizes losses, which, at Ka-band, are signiicant even over waveguide (0.75 dB per meter). The lighter the ampliier, the easier life is for the antenna positioning system.

Figure 4: 15W Ka-band Grid Module

Figure 3: Comparison of Ka-band Devices at 25C Baseplate Temperature

As the market moves to lat panel arrays, the size of the ampliier starts to become more important, and the Grid ampliiers compact power has added beneits. An advantage of the Grid architecture is the device mounting to the heat spreader with radial transfer of heat to all surfaces. This mounting coniguration provides fairly eficient thermal transfer, which maintains lower junction temperatures and yields higher Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). Comparatively, with traditional MMIC devices the majority of the heat is in the last binary stage as depicted in Figure 5

(left). The ampliier designers using these devices are forced to get heat out of that tiny strip. In these MMIC devices, getting that heat out can be a real challenge particularly for GaN devices that have higher power densities as compared to GaAs. Another advantage of the Grid is that the signal never transits a bond wire. The only bond wires on a Grid amp are used for DC, and there are redundant bond wires from each edge. For the ampliier to lose any power it would take two bond wires to fail and they would have to be both on the same column. Even in this unlikely scenario, the ampliier would lose only 1/11th of its power. I know, remarkable.

have succeeded. Since the first delivery in 2008, Wavestream has shipped more than 4,000 Ka-band amplifiers. If we exclude amplifiers for consumer broadband (<3W RF), that total is more than all competing amplifier companies combined both tube and solid state-based. We are very proud of this result. Of the 4,000 amplifiers shipped to date, more than 3,500 are 50W amplifiers. Each amplifier meets the rigorous military standards for shock (mechanical and thermal), vibration and temperature extremes along with the MIL-STD-188-164A performance specification. This is a big deal. It is one thing to talk about designs that may meet a standard on paper, it is yet another thing to deliver a unit that is certified to these standards. And finally, an even higher bar to deliver 4000 units to these standards.

Figure 5: Comparison of a MMIC and a Grid Device

Demand to In-Hand Up to now we have talked about the science of the amplifier, but it is important to understand the application of the science. Science by nature is hard and not every good idea yields usable results. For the inventor/designer (and obviously to the investor) it is always rewarding when a good idea and all the effort pays off. In the case of the Grid amp, we believe we

Leading the Ka-band revolution, Ka-Sat, Hylas-1 and Yahsat 1A are among the new satellites recently launched bringing forward the advent of the High Throughput Satellite (HTS) generation with the promise of high available bandwidth and low costs. Before 2020, at least 30 more Kaband satellites will launch. By 2020, we wont remember the days when we didnt have high-speed, reliable connectivity anytime, anywhere.
Satcom Technology 5

October 2011

Broadband on the Move Powered by ITS Electronics CoolBUC


A high-power ampli er is a critical part of any satcom system and one of the most signi cant contributors to the system performance and cost. For many years, satcom system designers have been faced by the never-ending challenge of choosing between the solid-state solution (SSPA) and the tube solution (TWTA). By now, both solutions are conventionally concluded as having their own pros and cons. As a result, both SSPA and TWTA are operating both worldwide on Earth and in Space. But when every new Satcom system is created, the designers question lingers: which solution will t the best?

TS Electronics, a company based in Greater Toronto, Canada, offers a solid-state solution the companys CoolBUC family of products. ITS is a leading designer and manufacturer of high-reliability solid-state power amplifiers and frequency converters for fixed, ground transportable/mobile, naval and airborne applications. The High Power Ampli er (HPA) nonlinearity has detrimental effects on the receiver bit error ratio (BER). Modern satellite communication systems, such as based on DVB-S2, utilize four modulation schemes: QPSK, 8PSK, 16APSK and 32APSK. For QPSK and 8PSK modulations, all the symbols on the constellation map are at equal power, and symbol recovery is not directly affected by the amplitude distortion of the signal. Although these modulation schemes allow the HPAs to operate close to the gain compression region for the best ef ciency, the HPA must still have low AM-PM (amplitudeto-phase) distortions. With 3 bits per symbol, the 8PSK modulation is more spectral ef cient compared to QPSK with 2 bits per symbol, but each symbol on the 8PSK constellation map occupies a phase region of 22.5. Both QPSK and 8PSK signals have varying amplitude envelopes, due to the zero crossings at the center of the constellation map between symbol changes. AM-PM distortions cause a spread symbol rotation, which directly degrades the BER. A typical commerSatcom Technology

cial TWTA requires 6 dB back-off from the rated power to achieve an AM-PM distortion of 2.5 per dB. This means, that a 250 W (54 dBm) Psat TWTA can be used at or below 60W (48dBm), and the 500 W (57dBm) Psat TWTA can be used at or below 125W (51dBm). Added linearizers somewhat improve the performance, but at added cost and performance limitations. In contrast, ITSs solid-state solutions, including those for Ka-band operation, can operate at a P1dB output power with less than 2.5 per dB AM-PM distortion. Although the AM-AM compression of an HPA has a lesser impact to the BER, compared to AM-PM, it generates undesirable side lobes (spectral regrowth) that pollute the adjacent channels from other satellite transponders. For 16APSK and 32APSK modulated signals, the symbols on the constellation maps have different power levels and phases. Linear power ampli ers are required to preserve the varying phase and signal envelope of these signals. Similarly, military satellite communication systems, such as those outlined in MIL-STD-188-164A, require linear HPAs that comply with intermodulation limits at -14 dBc, -19 dBc and -25 dBc for -1.5 dB, -4.5 dB and -7.5 dB back-off levels, respectively, from the saturated power. The SSPAs from ITS are ideal choices for these applications because of their excellent linearity. In contrast, a typical TWTA needs 4 dB back-off from

its rated power to achieve -16 dBc intermodulation. This means, that a 125 W SSPA can perform as well, and more reliably than 250 W or 500 W TWTA. Mobile Satcom terminals enable ubiquitous communications, anywhere anytime, operating in harsh environments. For Figure 1: ITS airborne Ku-band these applicaHigh Power Amplifier modules, tions, the HPAs 16-Watt, 25-Watt and 40-Watt must withstand shock and vibrations routinely during normal operation. In a TWTA, the signal ampli cation is achieved along a relatively large helix coil hinged in a vacuum tube, and the helix coil is susceptible to mechanical vibrations. On the other hand, the signal ampli cation in an SSPA is enabled by submicron transistors. RF interconnects either in the form of microstrip lines or waveguides are mechanically supported or fastened by rigid dielectrics and aluminum metal parts. Having a thorough understanding of the requirements speci c to mobile equipment, ITS has successfully produced products that are compliant to MILSTD-810F, RTCA/DO-160F, RTCA/DO178B and applicable manufacturers standards. ITS offers a variety of both off-the-shelf and customized products for multitude applications. Satcom equipments are often located adjacent to, and share the

October 2011

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power supply with, other instruments on one platform. As a result, the HPA is required to have low conducted and radiated emissions for electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) with other Figure 2: ITS 90W 29.1-29.3 equipment. The GHz SSPA replacement of TWTA in IRIDIUM Gateways, demand on year 1999 system EMC affects the choice of TWTA or SSPA. A TWTA requires very high voltage DC sources, ranging from 10 kV to 18 kV, to bias the cathode and the helix coil. It requires a power converter that steps up the AC line voltage to the kilovolt range, and rectiies it with high breakdown switching circuits. In contrast, SSPAs utilize GaAs or GaN transistor technologies that operate at low voltages, e.g. 6 V for Kaband 0.15 m pHEMT transistors, 10 V for X-band GaAs FETs and up to 50 V DC for GaN. It is a challenge to suppress the high voltage ripples present in the TWTA power converters. Furthermore, the choice of large capacitors and ilters that can withstand tens of kilovolts breakdown is limited. On the other hand, EMI ilters in SSPAs can be designed using a wide variety of components, such as electrolytic, tantalum and ceramic capacitors, together with common-mode chokes to suppress the ripples. As a result, the TWTAs generally have inferior EMC compared to SSPAs. Finally, the high voltages in TWTAs cause more stresses to the circuit components. Therefore, the power supplies used in SSPAs generally enjoy higher MTBFs than those in TWTAs. Many ITSs SSPAs are designed to comply with EMC standards such as EN55022 and MIL-STD-461E for military applications. These SSPAs utilizes EMC certiied AC-to-DC step-down converters or DC-to-DC step-down converters to provide the bias voltages to the transistors. Linear regulators are
8 Satcom Technology

utilized to enhance the line regulation (immunity to the power supply ripple) and the load regulation of critical bias circuits for the power transistors. To achieve high availability for a satellite communication link, SSPAs, which have graceful degradation characteristics, are the preferred choice over TWTAs. When a TWTA fails, the tube is usually damaged beyond meaningful usage. Building a 2-to-1 redundant HPA with TWTA also doubles the cost and size because two TWTAs are required instead of one. Therefore, redundancy may not be feasible in highly mobile (i.e. portable) SATCOM terminals. The redundancy implementation also imposes additional loss to the output power of the TWTA. The repair is also costly, because the entire travelling wave tube must be replaced. The above problems can be mitigated by using SSPAs instead of TWTAs. Although the output power of a transistor is clearly inferior to one mighty TWTA, numerous solid-state ampliier modules can be combined together to achieve graceful degradation. For a SSPA comprising N ampliier modules, the power drop due to one failed module is 20*log10((N-1)/N). For example, if a high-power SSPA comprises eight ampliier modules and one module fails, the output power will only drop by 1.2 dB. The failure of the SSPA is graceful not only in the minor output power degradation, but the remaining seven modules continuously and faithfully transmit every single RF cycle of the symbols before, during and after the module failure. Since no IF symbol are missed during symbol recovery by the receiver, the satellite link is not disrupted by the missing data. As mentioned previously, the minor power drop does not readily degrade the BER of QPSK or 8PSK demodulation. ITS Electronics SSPAs have the beneit of graceful degradation because they utilize multiple transistors for power

ampliication. The companys patented innovative solutions in high-frequency high-power combining techniques make its products attractively scalable, thanks to high-eficiency, and small size and weight. ITS high-power SSPA technology utilizes ampliier modules that are compact and often hot-swappable. A power module, which is attractively priced at a fraction of the overall SSPA, provides an economic option for in-situ repair. For example, a warship patrolling on open sea can be equipped with extra low-cost ampliier modules. In the unlikely event of a SSPA module failure, it is unacceptable that the satellite link is down until the ship must be returned to port for the repair. Instead, the repair can be performed right on the Figure 3: ITS 40- to sea. The on-ship 60-Watt Ka-band crews can replace Satcom Block Up the SSPA module Converter within 15 minutes, while the satellite link is uninterrupted during the entire mission. The redundancy advantages can be extended by using hot-swappable power supply modules and fan modules for costeffective maintenance. ITS Electronics products serve the government, defense and commercial communication markets in the L, X, Ku/K/Ka and Q/V frequency bands. ITS equipment has been designed and certiied compliant to MIL-STD-188-164A to operate with the Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellites. The companys equipment powers gateways for Ka-Sat, Figure 4: ITS airborne Spaceway, IPSTAR, Ku-band 20-Watt HPA, WINDS, Viasat-1 High IP3 LNA and Low among others. Loss Diplexer

October 2011