Satellite Technology – Satellite Internet access is Internet access provided through communications satellites. Modern consumer grade satellite Internet service is typically provided to individual users through geostationary satellites that can offer relatively high data speeds, with newer satellites using Ka band to achieve downstream data speeds up to 506 Mbps.
Satellite Internet | Inception
Following the launch of the first satellite, Sputnik 1, by the Soviet Union in October 1957, the US successfully launched the Explorer 1 satellite in 1958. The first commercial communications satellite was Telstar 1, built by Bell Labs and launched in July 1962.
The idea of a geosynchronous satellite—one that could orbit the Earth above the equator and remain fixed by following the Earth’s rotation—was first proposed by Herman Potočnik in 1928 and popularised by the science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke in a paper in Wireless World in 1945.The first satellite to successfully reach geostationary orbit was Syncom3, built by Hughes Aircraft for NASA and launched on August 19, 1963. Succeeding generations of communications satellites featuring larger capacities and improved performance characteristics were adopted for use in television delivery, military applications and telecommunications purposes. Following the invention of the Internet and the World Wide Web, geostationary satellites attracted interest as a potential means of providing Internet access.
Satellite Bands | Frequencies
A significant enabler of satellite-delivered Internet has been the opening up of the Ka band for satellites. In December 1993, Hughes Aircraft Co. filed with the Federal Communications Commission for a license to launch the first Ka-band satellite, Spaceway. In 1995, the FCC issued a call for more Ka-band satellite applications, attracting applications from 15 companies. Among those were EchoStar, Lockheed Martin, GE-Americom, Motorola and KaStar Satellite, which later became WildBlue.
Among prominent aspirants in the early-stage satellite Internet sector was Teledesic, an ambitious and ultimately failed project funded in part by Microsoft that ended up costing more than $9 billion. Teledesic’s idea was to create a broadband satellite constellation of hundreds of low-orbiting satellites in the Ka-band frequency, providing inexpensive Internet access with download speeds of up to 720 Mbit/s. The project was abandoned in 2003. Teledesic’s failure, coupled with the bankruptcy filings of the satellite communications providers Iridium Communications Inc. and Globalstar, dampened marketplace enthusiasm for satellite Internet development. It wasn’t until September 2003 when the first Internet-ready satellite for consumers was launched by Eutelsat.
Throughput | Satellite Internet
In 2004, with the launch of Anik F2, the first high throughput satellite, a class of next-generation satellites providing improved capacity and bandwidth became operational. More recently, high throughput satellites such as ViaSat’s ViaSat-1 satellite in 2011 and HughesNet’s Jupiter in 2012 have achieved further improvements, elevating downstream data rates from 1–3 Mbit/s up to 12–15Mbit/s and beyond. Internet access services tied to these satellites are targeted largely to rural residents as an alternative to Internet service via dial-up, ADSL or classic FSSes.
Since 2014, a rising number of companies announced working on internet access using satellite constellations in low Earth orbit. SpaceX, OneWeb and Boeing all plan to launch more than 1000 satellites each. OneWeb alone raised $1.7 billion by February 2017 for the project and SpaceX expected more than $30 billion in revenue by 2025 from its satellite constellation. Many planned constellations employ laser communication for inter-satellite links to effectively create a space-based internet backbone.
Satellite Technology | Satellite Internet generally relies on three primary components: a satellite, typically in geostationary orbit (sometimes referred to as a geosynchronous Earth orbit, or GEO), a number of ground stations known as gateways that relay Internet data to and from the satellite via radio waves (microwave), and a small antenna at the subscriber’s location, often a VSAT (very-small-aperture terminal) dish antenna with a transceiver. Other components of a satellite Internet system include a modem at the user end which links the user’s network with the transceiver, and a centralized network operations centre (NOC) for monitoring the entire system. Working in concert with a broadband gateway, the satellite operates a Star network topology where all network communication passes through the network’s hub processor, which is at the centre of the star. With this configuration, the number of remote VSATs that can be connected to the hub is virtually limitless.
Satellite | Satellite Technology
Marketed as the centre of the new broadband satellite networks are a new generation of high-powered GEO satellites positioned 35,786 kilometres (22,236 mi) above the equator, operating in Ka-band (18.3–30 GHz) mode. These new purpose-built satellites are designed and optimized for broadband applications, employing many narrow spot beams, which target a much smaller area than the broad beams used by earlier communication satellites. This spot beam technology allows satellites to reuse assigned bandwidth multiple times which can enable them to achieve much higher overall capacity than conventional broad beam satellites. The spot beams can also increase performance and consequential capacity by focusing more power and increased receiver sensitivity into defined concentrated areas. Spot beams are designated as one of two types: subscriber spot beams, which transmit to and from the subscriber-side terminal, and gateway spot beams, which transmit to/from a service provider ground station. Note that moving off the tight footprint of a spotbeam can degrade performance significantly. Also, spotbeams can make impossible the use of other significant new technologies including ‘Carrier in Carrier’ modulation.
In conjunction with the satellite’s spot-beam technology, a bent-pipe architecture has traditionally been employed in the network in which the satellite functions as a bridge in space, connecting two communication points on the ground. The term “bent-pipe” is used to describe the shape of the data path between sending and receiving antennas, with the satellite positioned at the point of the bend. Simply put, the satellite’s role in this network arrangement is to relay signals from the end user’s terminal to the ISP’s gateways, and back again without processing the signal at the satellite. The satellite receives, amplifies, and redirects a carrier on a specific radio frequency through a signal path called a transponder. Stay online, stay connected with our VSAT satellite internet packages your business transactions will never be abrupt.