Is HTS Similar to PlayStation 4? What I Learned from 30 Days of MILSATCOM

Thursday 19 December 2013
Is HTS Similar to PlayStation 4? What I Learned from 30 Days of MILSATCOM
Newtec Government and Defense Seminar in October 2013


November is not a good month if you seek the combination to invest in upgrading your family life and want to follow up on all the government and defense events around the globe. It ‘almost’ seems like a coincidence that all main Gov&Def events are planned in a span of 30 days: Milipol (Paris), Global MilSatCom (London), Milcom (San Diego), Satcon (NY), Airtec (Frankfurt) and NIDV (Rotterdam). Next to the fact that Newtec was present on all of these shows through a booth or a speaking slot, we thought it wise to organize our own little Newtec event in Brussels on the same topic as well … with success.

Operational Efficiency over Satellite in Austere Times

The Newtec Gov&Def event in Brussels gathered more than 70 MILSATCOM experts, from end-users to service providers, integrators and satellite operators. The headline topics during the event were:

  • the announcement that Newtec entered the WGS (Wideband Global Satcom) registration process for its modems,
  • the different use cases and satcom projects in the government and defense market presented by our business partners, featuring Sniperhill (MWR for US & NATO Troops), Intelsat (MWR, EPIC), SES (Elections in Burkina Faso) and HiTEC (Disaster Recovery Solutions),
  • current technologies for the MILSATCOM market in order to overcome higher throughputs, to increase mission availability and improve operational efficiency over satellite… even considering today’s budget cuts.
I Like to Move It

Attending the MILSATCOM events in November gave me the opportunity to collect requirements and talk to end-users, service providers and integrators. The main trends filtered out of the conversations touched upon mobility and increasing data rates.

When talking mobility and satellite communications, there are still many hurdles to overcome to maximize link efficiency. The form factor of the antenna has an impact on the size, aerodynamics and maneuverability of the vehicle (airborne, land & maritime), but also on the data rates. Spreading the signal when operating in Ku-band (due to the small antenna and to avoid adjacent satellite interference) for example is quite contradictory to efficiency.

In order to compensate for the antenna imperfections new generation modems already house innovative technology to counter these shadowing, fading, interference and banking effects by introducing technologies such as Newtec’s S2 Extensions, FlexACM and predictive ACM solution, ThiMM.

Still, a lot of work needs to be put in place in order to get the desired +250Mbps from the moving vehicle in ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) operations at maximum availability to increase the operational success factor.

How to Mitigate Growing Data Rates in MILSATCOM?

Or let me rephrase the question: 'How to mitigate growing data rates in MILSATCOM without disrupting defense budgets?' Nobody active in MILSATCOM operations nowadays can deny the fact that data rates are increasing and the VSAT systems from yesteryear do not longer meet the requirements.

Hereby some examples:

  • More HD video and bandwidth hungry sensor technology are used in order to gather better intelligence and increase situational awareness. The higher the resolution, the better the decision-making and mission planning process.
  • Video supports complex medical surgery in theatre
  • Increasing welfare programs for troops (in order to attract more young recruits and meet union demands) with internet cafés, training videos, leisure content and TV/radio broadcast

Launching more High Throughput Satellites (HTS) into orbit to increase the MILSATCOM bandwidth capacity is a good first step. But surely not enough. Having brand new HTS constellations in the air without ground equipment adapted to the new satellites is like buying the new PlayStation 4 without an adapted controller.

If you have the PlayStation terminal without the adapted controller, it will be difficult to connect and play. Moreover you will not be able to get the full performance out of the system. In comparison, you need satcom ground equipment with technology that is capable to cope with HTS environment (fading, smaller spots in Ka-band etc.).

A small advise when you face the choice to acquire C-band, Ka-band or Ku-band for your operation. Comparing the technical spec sheets for each HTS frequency can be quite confusing. A better approach is to look at your application first, on the availability of bandwidth above certain regions and the real requirements from the end-user. I learned it the hard way when I was Christmas shopping and had the choice between the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Wii U.

Newtec customers nowadays are already equipped to face the HTS challenges when they install their modem equipment and technology. Even better, they will get the full potential out of the HTS constellation, whilst still respecting the tight DoD budgets and get more data through the same bandwidth.

Finally I wish you joyful winter holiday break with friends and family as well as a prosperous 2014.

Warm Regards,

Koen Willems