Inmarsat to offer 50Mbps Global Ka-Band VSAT

Inmarsat has announced that it will provide a seamless, global Ka-Band VSAT service to antennas as small as 20 cm, beginning in 2014...more>
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Emerging Technologies

OneWeb | SpaceX Satellite Constellation | Kymeta Flat panel VSAT antennas with no moving parts. | Ka-Band | Spaceway | O3b - Providing backbone links to the Other 3 billion | COMMStellation |
OneWeb is a proposed global constellation of approximately 648 circular low earth orbit satellites orbiting in 18 polar orbit planes, about 750 miles(1200Km)  above the earth's surface. The network is due to begin service in 2019-2020.

The satellites will operate in Ku-band. Each sate;lite will be capable of 6 Gbps throughput.

The user terminal on the ground will be  phased array approximately 36x16cm (14x6")
SpaceX planns to launch a fleet of about 4000 small (<500Kg) satellites at an altitude of about 1100 Kilometers (680 miles).
Kymeta flat panel antennas could be a very interesting development. Flat panel antennas have been around for a while, but this uses a new metamaterials technology to stear the beams from an antenna the size of a pizza box, with no moving parts. Microsoft founder,  Bill Gates has a substantial investment in the technology and agreements are in place with O3B and with Inmarsat Global Xpress for development of antennas for both Ka-band networks. 

Metamaterials Surface Antenna Technology (MSA-T) enables wide-angle, all-electronic beam steering from a proprietary, flat, light weight, PCB-like surface that can be mass-produced using affordable existing, lithography techniques for low-cost production.


The PCB-like circuit board is composed of several thousand sub-wavelength resonators  that can be individually tuned.  As RF energy propagates through the system, individual tunable elements can be activated to scatter a portion of this RF energy out of the guided mode. It is the pattern of activated tunable elements that determines the shape and direction of the radiated wave through the formation of a reconfigurable grating. Changing the pattern of activated elements changes the shape and direction of the beam. 

In a recent demonstration, Kymeta successfully closed a link with a Ka-band DTH satellite transporting high definition TV signals using a 15" x 17" x 1cm panel, powered by only a USB cable drawing less than 3 Watts of power to drive the beamforming antenna. Closing the link with the satellite demonstrated real world high efficiency and good polarization fidelity.

The first products are scheduled to roll out in first quarter of 2015.

See for more information and developments

We have to remember that Global Xpress is still three years away and that the playing field could change considerably between now and then. By the time Inmarsat launches, there will be much other Ka band capacity available with the launch of KA-Sat, Viasat1, Yahsat 1A & 1B and others.

As Ka-band maritime terminals become a reality, it is likely that there will be several providers offering competitive, multi-regional, and quasi-global service, capitalizing on the affordable, direct-to-home, Ka-Band satellite Internet networks like Tooway,  Hughesnet, Wild Blue and Yonder.

Inmarsat's biggest challenge might be breaking out of the "most expensive" mold with their huge capital expense of building a dedicated, global system from scratch.

Whatever happens, I believe that affordable, Ka-Band to small maritime terminals is in our near future.

O3b  is a Medium Earth Orbiit (MEO) equatorial constellation of 12 Ka-band satellites designed to provide backbone links to remote parts of the world in Africa, Asia the middle East and Latin America and other neglected parts of the world. The project is backed by Google, SES and other major players.

The 16 satellites orbit around the equator, about 5000 miles above the earth using steerable spotbeams that remain pointed at certain areas as the satellite moves across the sky. Compared to the high latency of geostationary satellites at 22, 300 miles above the earth, the MEO satellites are  four times closer and should have very low latency. The system supports scalable data rates from 1Mb to 10Mb.

The $1.2B project is working toward a firm launch date of the first 8 satellites, somewhere in 2013.