Phasor is planning to test flat panel antennas on vessels and Kymeta has already successfully its technology over Intelsat’s satellites
Flat-panel and electronically-steered antennas will have an impact on marine VSAT when the technology can be fully proven. There are two main developers of these technologies, which are radically different from conventional mechanically-steered, parabolic-dish antennas.
Phasor and Kymeta Corp both appear to be close to developing their flat panel antenna technology commercially. Phasor secured US$16M of finance from banks to test its electronically steered antenna (ESA) on vessels in maritime conditions, said chief executive Dave Helfgott. Phasor intends to release the first maritime ESA products if these field tests are successful.
“Our mission is to empower mobile broadband access across all commercial-use cases and markets and we are on track for releasing our commercial products,” Mr Helfgott told Marine Electronics & Communications.
One of the drivers to developing flat panel antennas is the expectation that new constellations of non-geostationary satellites will be launched by companies such as OneWeb, LeoSat and Telesat. These will enable ESAs to continue satellite links for broadband connectivity across oceans.
Mr Helfgott said mobile broadband connectivity “is poised to take off as a second wave of wideband non-geostationary satellites constellations come online.” These will improve latency, global coverage and the user-economics of mobile connectivity, he said.
Phasor ESAs will be able to communicate with any kind of satellite system, whether it is geostationary, medium Earth orbit or low Earth orbit. “They will be interoperable between them from a single aperture,” explained Mr Helfgott. “This is currently impossible with mechanically-steered satellite communications antennas” unless they have multi-band capabilities with two radio frequency feeds, or apertures.
“Phasor antennas will be available in multiple iterations and frequency bands but are all designed around the same core technology”
“Phasor antennas will be available in multiple iterations and frequency bands but are all designed around the same core technology,” Mr Helfgott said. “There are some customers that want receive-only and some who have requested transmit-only,” he said. “There are many more that want a fully duplex [receive and transmit] ESA system.”
Testing will involve Version One of the ESA products. However, Phasor is already considering Version Two of these products, which Mr Helfgott said would “demonstrate even more functionality.” He is expecting more development, testing and commercial milestones to be reached in 2018.
Kymeta started field testing its KyWay marine terminals on workboats used by the US government in December 2017. This uses Kymeta Kalo internet services, which can deliver up to 4 Mbps of bandwidth using the IntelsatOne Flex network. Trials last year involved vessels operating in US inland waterways and then out to around 100 miles offshore, where antennas could be tested in varying sea states and weather conditions.
In September 2017, KyWay terminals were successfully tested on the 89 m sailing yacht Maltese Falcon using Kalo connectivity and distribution partner e3 Systems. This vessel used capacity on Intelsat’s satellites IS-29e in the Caribbean, IS-32e in the Atlantic and IS-905 in Europe. The crew of the Maltese Falcon worked with Kymeta and e3 to adapt the installed KyWay panel throughout the trial period.
Other satellite operators – Telesat, Eutelsat, SES and Hispasat – certified that KyWay terminals can connect with their spacecraft during land tests in 2017 and Q1 2018. These terminals can operate across a broad range of satellites, switching between them automatically without signal loss. Kymeta did not say whether these approvals were for antennas that would be applied to marine uses.