A broadband satcom modem technologies workshop, organised by ESA this month, provided insight into ARTES activities recently completed in the field of satellite modem and broadband hub development.
The ARTES programme has supported a number of projects developing the next generation of broadband technology and products. The workshop included final presentations of some of these activities, demonstrating novel technologies and their benefits, as well as some of the latest commercial products being released to the market.
Two companies, Space Engineering and STM Norway, presented advanced modem prototypes at the workshop. These products were developed in the frame of two parallel ARTES 5.1 projects. STM subsequently developed a broadband hub and a range of VSAT modems through the ARTES 3-4 program. This technology is now deployed across 30 satellite beams worldwide.
VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) equipment, like the STM modems, provides a low cost solution for highly dynamic, demand-assigned transmission capacity for residential, commercial or institutional users. The modems provide the equivalent of an ADSL or cable Internet connection data rates, without the need for local terrestrial infrastructure.
Depending on satellite link budgets and other system design parameters, the modems can dynamically provide in excess of 20 Mbit/s to each terminal on the outbound link, and up to 5 Mbit/s or more from each terminal on the inbound link. This is typically what a DSL or cable service offers, therefore the satellite service is able to match terrestrial competition, providing what end users would expect from their broadband service today. It is also significantly more than what satellite services have offered in the past.
Many technical features of these new modems are directly derived from past TRP and ARTES activities, including: higher order modulations (see figure 1), advanced Forward Error Correction schemes, Adaptive Coding and Modulation on both inbound and outbound (see figure 2), Internet Protocol-friendly link layer encapsulation and efficient framing.
These developments pave the way for a new generation of broadband satcom systems. The technology developed through these projects demonstrates far greater bandwidth efficiency, with particularly big gains on the return link, up to 250% compared to previous generation. This should result in decreased satellite bandwidth operating costs for the customer.
The DVB (Digital Video Broadcasting) Forum has included most of these new technologies in the second generation of the DVB-RCS (DVB-Return Channel Satellite) standard. DVB-RCS2 has now been published by the European Telecommunications Standard Institute (EN 301 545 specifications).
Some engineering tools, developed with the support of ARTES 5.1, were also displayed at the workshop. These tools are available to companies in ESA Member States in order to support their own technology developments.
VeriSat presented a test bed that implements DVB-RCS2 link and higher layers. It will be used as a test tool for implementations and as a reference design for R&D.
Space Engineering also presented a range of prototype modems and a testbed demonstrating the benefit of the mobile extensions to DVB-RCS. These allow more efficient performance while meeting regulatory constraints for both LOS (Line-Of-Sight) and NLOS (non-LOS) conditions. This means the prototypes have potential for aeronautical, maritime and land-based (railway and vehicular) applications.
Stephane Combes, from ESA’s Technical and Quality Management Directorate, who organized the workshop, said “ The products and prototypes showcased at the Broadband Satcom Modem Technology Workshop demonstrate how extremely innovative solutions, developed through successive ESA projects, can reach the market. They also showed significant promises for future products and services, as these prototypes and test beds are now available to our industry for further development.”
Michele Le Saux, Head of Ground Segment Product and Technology Section in ESA’s Telecom and Integrated Applications Directorate, stated “The workshop was a great opportunity for service providers and product manufacturers to see how satellite broadband technology is advancing and developing, with support from the ARTES programme. The products showcased are great examples of how our industry is delivering commercially successful products which enable the satcom industry to compete in the global communications sector.”
The presentations can be downloaded in the right-hand column.