This project will develop a new type of Low Noise Block (LNB) receiver, a so called Multi-Input Element Low Noise Block MLNB, which can replace a conventional LNB. This new MLNB allows signal reception with a small antenna where otherwise a larger dish would be needed with a conventional LNB. In addition to allowing smaller antennas, this new LNB will facilitate the antenna pointing (less sensitive to pointing errors) and allow reception of multiple satellites.
In the context of direct-to-home (DTH) satellite reception, a compact and small antenna dish + LNB that is easy to install is a key element to spread-out dissemination of DTH reception in the cities.
This can be achieved through interference mitigation using flexibility in the antenna gain pattern.
The MLNB project consists in developing a Multi-Input Element Low Noise Block (LNB) or MLNB, mounted on a small parabolic reflector. This MLNB will reduce the impact of interferers from adjacent satellites. The MLNB is thus an innovative technology which enables robustness against interferences and thus smaller size receiving antennas as well as pointing tolerance during installation.
The project aims to verify the functionality and practicality of the targeted next generation Dish + MLNB DTH reception product. The system design is realized with existing components with limited attention to the production (cost) aspect.
With the proposed demonstrator setup the technical functionalities of the targeted next generation DTH reception device are well defined, implemented and can be tested thoroughly. Remaining conceptual problems are revealed with the demonstrator setup and technical specification related risks or uncertainties can largely be mitigated via this intermediate demonstrator development.
The major pros of the future MLNB product can be summarized as follows:
The advantages and benefits of the MLNB product are tangible and we think that these features are widely understood by end-users and thus will be valued accordingly so as to accept the incremental cost from the product. From the satellite operator perspective, this could address spectrum scarcity and lead to OPEX reduction.
The demonstrator for the MLNB setup consists of the following elements:
The core functionality is the manipulation of the coherent signals from the input elements. A chipset working in L-band (500MHz-1500MHz) for this purpose is available in the demonstrator setup. It is the 8 step beam former solution developed for ASTRONs EMBRACE (Electronic Multi-Beam Radio Astronomy ConcEpt) in NXP's Qubic4G technology. Each of the LNBs feeds provides an L-band signal to the signal paths. The HEX-board can adjust 12 different paths but only to a limited range. To increase the dynamic range, 4 paths are combined. The resulting signals are recombined into one signal provided as input to the STB and PC (DVB-S2 PCI card).
The HEX-board (VCU demonstrator) is then controlled by an external PC.
The recombined signal is used in the PC (and later on during the project in the set top box) to measure the signal quality and amplitude and to provide measurement points to the recombination algorithm running on the PC.
This project is split in two phases. Phase 1 is a demonstrator development. The goal of phase 1 is to analyse the implementation aspects and mitigate the technical risks related to a compact DTH reception device.
The phase 2 proposal is a chipset development resulting from the demonstrator setup activity realized under an ARTES 3/4 framework. The goal of phase 2 is to develop a consumer grade chipset as well as MLNB quad prototypes.
The Final Review of the MLNB Project has been done in October 2012 at SES premises (Luxembourg).
The MLNB demonstrator setup presented during the final Review has been developed jointly by SES, FTA/Inverto and using an ASTRON HEX-board for beamforming with a potentially low cost L-band beamforming chipset based on the QUBiC-4G NXP SiGe chipset technology.
The demonstrator has consisted of a Ku-band antenna prototype conceived by FTA/Inverto for coherent reception of 3 feeds and a beamforming chipset from ASTRON operating in L-band and based on an NXP SiGe technology and chipset processes as well as beamforming control software from SES TechCom.
The feasibility of the low cost design meeting the reference specification for the antenna and beamforming system has been demonstrated through compact antenna test range (CATR) tests as well as live air satellite reception tests showing the achievable reception gain re-configurability permits to adapt the broadcast antenna front end to different reception scenarios.
The demonstrated benefits to satellite broadcast reception have been to first provide an antenna system to mitigate adjacent satellite interference via reconfigure antenna gain nulling, second provide an antenna system for reception of any desired satellite signal within a given azimuth opening angle as well as third provide assistance at installation via an auto-fine-pointing procedure.
With these tests, illustrating the feasibility of the proposed reception system concept, this ESA project has concluded on its first phase 1 of a proof-of-concept and demonstration phase. The preparations for a subsequent product development focusing phase 2 are on-going.