Isotropic Systems will be competing against Kymeta Corp and Phasor to develop flat panel and electronic-steered antennas for maritime satellite communications
Agreements and technical developments this year have shown there is potential for flat panel antennas to be used in maritime for broadband communications. Electronically steered flat panel antennas are intended to replace the existing parabolic receiver/transceiver antennas widely used for VSAT on commercial ships, offshore support vessels, yachts and passenger ships.
Two main flat panel technology developers, Kymeta Corp and Phasor, are testing these in marine environments and have signed agreements with service providers. A third player, Isotropic Systems, has arisen in this market and has also signed agreements with satellite providers and technology groups.
Flat panel antenna technology has already been tested for onshore applications, particularly road vehicles and is now being trialled in the marine industry over the next 12 months. Satellite operators, such as Inmarsat, SES Networks, Intelsat, OneWeb and LeoSat, and service providers have tied up with the technology developers.
Speedcast International announced a partnership with Kymeta in late June to develop and roll-out product offerings featuring the Kymeta KyWay terminal, which integrates the mTenna flat panel Ku-band antenna.
Speedcast executive vice president for products, marketing and business development Tim Bailey said KyWay “will bring game-changing technology to many of the market segments” that Speedcast serves, including yachts, passenger ships and onshore mobility markets.
Kymeta also has an affiliation with Intelsat for developing the VSAT terminals of the future. Intelsat director of mobility solutions Andrew Faiola said these terminals would be required to operate over both its geostationary orbiting satellites and the low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites Intelsat affiliate OneWeb is investing in.
Phasor continues to test its electronically steered antenna technology in marine conditions. It has also focused this technology on aviation applications and onshore mobility. In March this year, Phasor started working with LeoSat to develop Ka-band antenna capable of transmitting and receiving over a LEO satellite constellation.
Isotropic Systems has also struck deals with satellite operators and technology providers for its optic-array flat panel antennas. Its terminal includes a microwave refractive beamformer that can be electrically steered to control radio wave propagation in Ku and Ka-bands. Isotropic believes these devices could be installed on ferries, cruise ships, fishing vessels, yachts and offshore support vessels.
In March Isotropic reached agreement with OneWeb, Inmarsat and SES Networks to further develop its technology. Inmarsat is considering this technology to support its Ka-band Global Xpress constellation.
It wants Isotropic to develop electronic tracking terminals that will enable Inmarsat to reach new market segments. Isotropic will ensure these terminals operate over multiple beams with seamless motion between beams and satellites with low power consumption, which Isotropic claims is just 10% of conventional terminals.
OneWeb is looking to Isotropic for terminals that operate using its LEO constellation of satellites, scheduled to come into service from 2019, which is when Isotropic plans to release its first commercial terminal. OneWeb founder and executive chairman Greg Wyler said these electronic tracking terminals will “make it possible for OneWeb to provide affordable broadband services to people around the world”.
LEO constellations will incorporate hundreds of small satellites travelling around the globe in multiple orbits providing complete broadband coverage. Antennas designed to operate with these constellations will need to seamlessly and rapidly transfer between beams and satellites.
SES Networks signed a partnership with Isotropic to jointly develop electronic scanning terminals to operate over the O3b mPower Ka-band network, including a constellation of satellites operating in a medium Earth orbit.
Isotropic also signed an agreement with VT iDirect to create terminals with integrated modem technology. Isotropic intends to have two slots for modems within its terminals to reduce costs for broadband in mobility markets.