Microwave Journal

Satellite 2008 Wrap-up

March 14, 2008

Dedicated microwave conferences such as IMS or European Microwave Week are among the best opportunities for RF engineers to come together and share information on the latest technology and techniques. In addition to these events, engineers and business managers should regularly attend certain broader conferences, which offer an excellent alternative opportunity to experience the greater RF/microwave food chain.

For the telecommunications market, one such conference is the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which was held this past February in Barcelona, Spain (see the MWC show wrap-up report by MWJ European editor, Richard Mumford). For satellite communication this opportunity is undoubtedly the Satellite 2008 conference and exhibition held February 25-28, 2008, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC.


The theme of this year’s show, “The Sixth Decade,” looked ahead to the next 10 years while simultaneously honoring the industry’s accomplishments over the past 50 years since the launch of Sputnik ushered in the satellite communications age. This is the largest conference and exhibition for satellite-enabled communications, attracting more than 9,000 attendees who came to learn the latest innovations in satellite-enabled communications. Attendees could participate in educational sessions and panel discussions that addressed mobile satellite, broadcast, enterprise, teleport, emerging regions and finance, and/or visit the extensive exhibition floor highlighting satellite technology-end users within the enterprise, military and broadcast markets.

From global broadcasting and telephony to satellite-based backup networks for corporate, government and other telecom grids, satellite solutions are reinforcing their importance in traditional services while innovating in others. Mobile voice and video communications, satellite services across continents, decreasing costs for hardware and equipment, creative strategic alliances between space segment providers and terrestrial networks all point to a robust commercial, military, enterprise and new uses space-based architecture poised for robust and profitable expansion since the advent of satellite communications. The conference was sub-divided into a number of forums including Broadcast, Enterprise, Military, Energing Regions, Mobile Satellite Services and Finance.

Pre-conference Program

In the pre-conference sessions, subjects presented included IP Networking Over Satellite, Space Principles for Satellite Professionals, Vertical SatCom Markets and Communications Via Satellite: The Basics. Each of these sessions ran a full day (8:30 to 5:30).

The Communications Via Satellite session was a convenient one-day format, serving as a starting point for the non-technical manager working within the global satellite industry. Seminar leader Mark R. Chartrand presented a comprehensive program offering a study of the technology and issues surrounding satellites. Details on how satellites fit into the total telecommunications industry; who is doing what in satellite communications; major issues and trends in satellite delivered services; and what the ambiguous terms, jargon and acronyms used in the satellite business mean were presented.

In the IP Networking over Satellite session, attendees learned how military, government and commercial enterprises are increasing their use of Internet Protocols (IP) via satellite to support mission-critical applications in locations that are not well served by the terrestrial infrastructure. These satellite-enabled networks must provide timely, reliable and secure information to users in remote locations. This seminar addressed the major issues involved in building satellite-enabled networks and how users can benefit from their application. Attendees learned the fundamentals of IP-based packet switching, how the protocols work over satellite and how satellite systems interface with terrestrial Internets. Quality of service and security issues and how to build networks that can support converged voice, video and data applications was also discussed.

Broadcast Forum

The Opening General session, moderated by Satellite 2008 Chairman Scott Chase, was entitled “Expanding Market Growth and Driving Applications.” Starting from the position that global systems are the backbone of satellite-enabled communications, this session examined how the CEOs who run these businesses establish the pace for expansion of market growth and development of new applications by setting priorities and, ultimately, create opportunities. This session also presented how many of these CEOs approach the challenge of increasing profitability and managing costs in ways that define how satellite will build its share of the global telecommunications marketplace.

Satellites, Broadcasting © Cable TV: Still the Ones: With broadcast and cable TV contribution and distribution services being the backbone of the satellite industry, representing the largest users of capacity worldwide, this session examined how changing technologies such as IPTV, HD and MPEG-4 will change this business. This session also examined what the broadcasters and satellite operators are doing to plan for these changes and what the equipment vendors are doing to help them with the process?

Looking across the Atlantic, moderator Gerry Oberst from Hogan & Hartson LLP led a session entitled Europe: Setting a Pace for Continued Expansion. This session reviewed Europe’s role as an innovator throughout the continent while increasingly becoming a true global player. Service providers are populating the region with new broadband, direct broadcast, pay TV and other offerings while expanding core applications at a rapid pace. This session looked at the future role European pacesetters will play in the globalization of satellite services, which companies and services will increase their market shares in region as well as around the world, and what the opportunities are for participation across the board.

Enterprise Forum

WiMAX and Broadband Wireless Networks: Opportunity or Threat for Satellite Communications, moderated by Jose del Rosario, Senior Analyst & Regional Director of Asia-Pacific NSR, looked at how WiMAX and other broadband wireless networks present both opportunities and threats to satellite communications. The seminar discussed how the debate and analysis on the interplay of these technologies has largely centered on the controversy on spectrum as a number of countries have reportedly already identified the satellite downlink frequencies in the C- and extended C-bands for BWA. The Global VSAT Forum (GVF) was likewise quoted as stating that significant in-band and out-of-band interference problems and service interruptions have been identified as having occurred. This session scrutinized the regulatory and technical issues surrounding these technologies. But equally and just as importantly, the panel examined the demand aspects that present opportunities for satellite platforms to service BWA and WiMAX for services such as backhaul, terrestrial integration and redundancy.

Christopher Baugh, president of NSR, moderated The Satellite Ground Segment CEO Session: The Terrestrial Connection seminar and featured CEO speakers from Hughes, ViaSat, Gilat Satellite Networks and iDirect. The satellite ground segment sector is unquestionably on a growth path, as technical advances, emerging markets and new applications have all served to generate increasing sales for satellite ground segment providers. Broadband satellite networks, enterprise applications and government demand have all fostered growth for ground segment solutions in all regions. In addition, advanced coding and modulation, DVB-S2, MPEG-4 and mesh networks are only a sampling of the technical features now fostering growth. With the industry becoming more entrenched in the broader telecom landscape, this session asked: where will growth come from in the next two to three years, what technical requirements are driving the business, and how do satellite ground segment providers position themselves in an increasingly hybrid world? This panel of ground segment CEOs were on-hand to answer these questions and more in this far-reaching session.

The Satellite Broadband: Is Ka-band the Way to Grow? session moderated by D.K. Sachev, President of SpaceTel, included high-level representatives from Boeing, Hughes, Thales, Loral and others as guest speakers. This session began by portraying a landscape where, after years of struggles, innovative approaches and challenges, satellite broadband has found market success. This success was highlighted in several examples including the large-capacity Ku/Ka-band satellite now operating in Asia, the current "beam saturation" in North America, and the Spaceway 3 delivery of broadband for homes and businesses. Innovative and cost-effective user equipment is being shipped all over the world to meet broadband needs of both commercial and government customers. After a long time coming, this session asks if the industry has found the right mix of technology and business solutions, can the industry climb out of the low single-digit market share in this critical part of telecommunications? In this session, leading entrepreneurs and market experts in this critical field addressed all aspects of this question.

The Satellite SWOT: Challenges and Opportunities for Satellite-enabled Communications session examined the business of satellite communications. Most industry observers today agree that the outlook for satellite-enabled communications has brightened over the past few years. Industry old-timers counter that the global satellite marketplace has seen its share of business cycles and technology threats. Session organizers discussed how satellites would define a competitive edge against aggressive terrestrial alternatives, where the impulse and the funding would come from to keep space-based solutions from becoming increasingly niche solutions, and what impact the continuing emergence of potential global players from China, India, Brazil and other countries will have on established businesses. Finally, what will be the "next big thing" that sustains momentum for satellite-enabled connectivity solutions throughout The Sixth Decade?

The session Mobile Satellite Services: MSS Industry Leaders Stake Their Claims, moderated by Tim Farrar, President of MSUA, looked at how MSS operators in 2008 will have to deliver on their promises of innovative new capabilities, which can address a much wider market than the niches MSS has served to date. With the launch of ICO and TerreStar’s new satellites, this session ponders whether ATC (Ancillary Terrestrial Component) really is the magic bullet worthy of all the attention that has attracted Wall Street. Virtually all players need to raise more financing to fund their business plans. Will the markets cooperate, or is the cycle of bankruptcies that occured in late 1990s doomed to repeat itself? Attendees came to hear what the CEOs had to say about their plans, and why they believe in the future of MSS.

Military Forum

The Commercial Military SatCom 2008: Buy, Sell or Hold? session, moderated by Maj. Gen. James Armor, Jr., USAF (retired), with opening remarks from Jennifer Manner, Board Chairperson, SIA, discussed how commercial satellite industry sales to the government have been strong for the last five years. This panel examined the fundamental changes currently taking place in the DoD commercial SATCOM marketplace. Panelists examined how a wide range of issues, including possible troop redeployments, introduction of the WGS satellite system, the 2008 election, and a challenging budget environment, will effect DoD’s acquisition of commercial satellite bandwidth and services. This session also asked the following: Will commercial satellite sales to the military continue to grow or is the boom about to go bust?

The Comms on the Move (COTM): Defining the Military Requirement session moderated by Jose del Rosario looked at how the military has been a key customer and arguably the single most important technology innovator in satellite communications with initiatives sponsored by the US-based DARPA as well as other government agencies around the globe. For current and future implementations of “Netcentric Warfare” as well as the expected rise in intelligence gathering and reconnaissance missions in many of the globe’s hotspots and emerging flashpoints, COTM solutions for air, land and sea will become integral components of the network architecture. This session examined the requirements for bandwidth, security protocols, terminal equipment, antenna systems, frequency bands, encryption and other emerging requirements the military will demand to implement a coherent and highly secure network umbrella for use by the future war fighter and other mobile assets.

The ITAR Impact: What Does the Future Hold? session moderated by John Ordway of Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe, LLP discussed how the US Department of State’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) continues to present a significant hurdle for the US commercial satellite industry, while conversely opening up opportunities for aggressive non-US vendors. The progressive evolution of manufacturing and launch capabilities in China, India and other countries, and already well-developed consulting expertise outside of the US, is increasing pressure on the competitiveness and profitability of the US commercial satellite industry. While the US industry does not question the paramount importance of US national security, this session asks whether ITAR, and its current administration, enhance US national security or, paradoxically, does the ITAR and its current administration actually harm US national security?

The European MilSatCom: Trends for the Sixth Decade session moderated by Nat Chabert, CTO of the London Satellite Exchange, presented updates on the current and forecast future trends in the European and Middle Eastern Military Satellite Communications market, including undersupply in commercial markets and progress on alternate frequencies such as X-, Ka- and S-band. Speakers touched on end-user requirements such as the surge in requirements for UAV satellite data links and Comms on the Move (COTM) and Pause for Ground Forces.

Exhibition

The SATELLITE 2008 show floor showcased more than 54,000 square feet of new products and services required to ensure cost-effective, mobile, global, seamless and secure satellite communications. Attendees were able to get up-close and hands-on with new products and innovative technology solutions, presented by more than 280 leading manufacturers, integrators and suppliers. Among the exhibitors were a number of familiar RF/microwave component manufacturers showing the following products and services.

Advanced Microwave Components (AMC) is a waveguide components manufacturer based in Largo, Fla. AMC was demonstrating an assortment of components including: cross-guide couplers, loop couplers, rotary joints, custom waveguide runs, adapters, flex waveguide, w/g windows, power samplers, terminations and the patented quick disconnects.

Advanced Switch Technology is a Canadian company that has manufactured waveguide, coaxial and dual switches for the telecom industry for over 15 years. AST’s patented "Quadrant Driver" uses high magnetic density magnets and linear coils for better switching efficiency. Each switch is Geneva latched to eliminate bounce at the end of travel and maintain accurate waveguide paths.

Advantech, a provider of customer-focused satellite and terrestrial wireless communication solutions, is the preferred choice of ISPs, wireless and broadcast operators, system integrators and military organizations around the globe. Products: complete VSAT networks, high-power amplifiers, frequency converters, satellite modems, antenna control systems, wireless ethernet (IP) and terrestrial microwave radios.

Aeroflex, which designs, develops, manufactures and markets a diverse range of microelectronic and test and measurement products, was featuring their broadband signal generators and analyzers and 3280 Series Spectrum Analyzer at Satellite 2008.

Apollo Microwaves Ltd. is a supplier of passive microwave components and subsystems for the global telecommunications market. The company develops and manufactures a wide range of standard and custom-engineered terrestrial microwave components and sub-systems operating from 900 MHz to 60 GHz.

Bliley Technologies, a designer/manufacturer of quartz oscillators and crystals, was exhibiting its products. Bliley has over 75 years of experience in designing/manufacturing frequency control products used in VSAT, frequency converter modems, satellites, timing/navigation, telecommunications and instrumentation. Crystals range from general purpose to radiation hardened/high reliability.

Cross Technologies Inc. manufactures products for satellite and microwave communications from IF through Ka-band, including upconverters, downconverters, loop test converters, redundancy switches (RF and digital), L-band splitters/combiners, precision frequency sources and other digital and analog products. The company specializes in fast response, economical, custom products for specific IF to RF needs.

CrossPoint Technologies was on-hand to discuss its equipment operating in systems around the world, providing switching systems for analog and digital signals. The company’s redundancy switches assure high reliability communication links while minimizing the costs of redundant equipment. Crosspoints’ products cover the frequency range of DC to 18 GHz, and are used in teleports, earth stations, base stations and government systems. Applications include satellite earth stations, signal exploitation, ELINT COMINT, SIGINT, TT&C and test applications.

dBm manufactures satellite Link Emulator for Satellite and Ground Station (VSAT) RF channel testing (delay, Doppler, fading, phase-shift) plus tunable multi-channel RF up/down converters. Range of Precision AWGN Carrier/Noise generators for BER testing covering 1 MHz to 6 GHz. At Satellite 2008, dBm was highlighting its new low cost 4 GHz synthesized signal generator, costing less then $5K.

Dow-Key Microwave Corp. manufactures and custom designs switches and systems for the commercial, military, wireless and HI-REL space industries. The company was displaying its products that are specialized for a broad range of RF coaxial relays operating from DC to 40 GHz, waveguide switches (operating to 70 GHz), T-switches, RF coaxial and solid state matrices, PXI modules, and L-band duplex switching systems.

EM Solutions supplies telecommunications products and design services to commercial and military customers. EM Solutions is a market leader in the supply of Ka-band products to defense and enterprise customers with products that include LNB, BUC and SSPAs. EMS also provides design services for specialized Satcom requirements

Emerson Network Power was at Satellite 2008 showcasing its connectivity products that serve the needs of wireless and satellite communications, telephony and data networks, CATV, defense, security systems, health care and industrial customers globally with a broad range of radio frequency, microwave and fiber optic interconnect components and assemblies.

FEI-Zyfer Inc. engineers, designs and manufactures GPS-aided precision time and frequency generation and synchronization products for commercial and government users worldwide. As an ISO 9001:2000 certified company, FEI-Zyfer offers customers high-performance, cost-effective and reliable solutions for a variety of commercial and secure communications applications including special non-standard frequencies and systems.

Filtel Microwave Inc. specializes in the design and manufacture of high-performance cavity filters, diplexers, couplers/combiners and high-power dummy loads. The company’s representatives were exhibiting products from its two facilities in Montreal, Canada and Suzhou, China. Filtel Microwave focuses on point-to-point radio and satellite communications up to 50 GHz.

Flann Microwave was displaying its rectangular and double ridge components & sub-assemblies for ground based fixed & mobile Satcom systems. The company’s products include high power terminations, switches & switching networks, filters, diplexers, filter combiners, passive combiners, HPA combiner/redundancy units with automatic or manual switching with command/control & monitoring, OMT's antenna components and test & measurement systems.

Linearizer Technology Inc. and its associated companies, Linear Photonics LLC and Linear Space LLC, have helped customers meet linearity requirements for over 15 years. LTI produces linearizers operating from L-band through Q-band. Dual-, tri- and quad-band linearizers are available. LTI provides linearizers for any frequency and bandwidth.

Locus Microwave designs and manufactures LNAs, SSPAs, BUCs and other custom amplifier products. They also offer a 30-512 MHz booster amplifier for use with Manpack systems and its X-band BUC/SSPA,LNAs & LNBs are widely used in various military and commercial applications.

Logus Microwave Corp. offers the worlds most extensive product line of RF/microwave switching devices and systems. Utilizing Logus coaxial, ridgeguide and waveguide switches as building blocks, the company’s matrices and controllers provide superior performance and reliability.

M2 Global Technology Ltd., a specialist in the design and manufacture of high performance isolators, circulators, power dividers, filters, diplexers, waveguide products and sub-assemblies for the satellite, radar, aerospace, defense and telecommunications industries, was exhibiting its latest products.

Micro-Ant specializes in antenna design and manufacturing. With significant expertise in its field and several strategic patents, this company has developed intellectual property for various applications including two-way SATCOM, SDARS, DVB and GPS. Products include phased arrays, patches and feeds. Low profile active antenna assemblies are one of its claimed specialties.

Micronetics provides accurate and stable noise and Eb/No testing solutions. The company’s CNG instruments are designed to automatically add noise to a signal to a precise settable Eb/No or C/N for testing bit error rate (BER) and other parameters of satellite modems, digital radios and cellular or WLL base stations and handsets.

Millitech is a supplier of millimeter-wave products, technology and manufacturing Services with a 25-year legacy supplying a broad range of products. Millitech also offers space-qualified components, assemblies and subsystems, shipboard & ground antenna pedestal assemblies, military up/down converters, MMW radars and a world-class antenna design team for advanced applications.

Mitec Telecom is a trusted supplier of passive radio frequency products and solutions used in the Satcom and point-to-point radio industries for nearly 35 years. As a result of acquisitions within the past 10 years, this company has expanded its active radio frequency products to power mission-critical infrastructure in wireless communications, satellite and broadcast networks.

MITEQ designs and manufactures subsystems and components for satellite and microwave communications from IF through Ka-band, including upconverters, downconverters, translators, redundant switchover units, redundant amplifier systems, INMARSAT equipment, TWTA power amplifiers and components including a wide range of amplifiers, IF and microwave signal processing modules, mixers and frequency sources.

Noise Com was exhibiting its offering of innovative products used by major commercial and military contractors worldwide. Noise Com designs and produces noise diodes, noise sources, analog and digital noise generators, noise standards and HD radio test. Many of the company’s products are recognized as the industry standard for applications including wireless, SATCOM, noise figure measurement, cable TV, cable DATACOM, wireless LAN, digital TV, and military applications. Noise Com's customers are among the most reputable commercial electronic equipment manufacturers, telecommunications providers, defense contractors, cellular and PCS equipment manufacturers and operators, and computer companies.

RaySat Antenna Systems (RAS) develops, manufactures and sells low profile, in-motion satellite antennas and related equipment. RAS’s products suite — the StealthRay Antenna Systems — are dramatically different than the conventional parabolic dishes that are the standard satellite antenna technology. RAS makes use of arrays and phased arrays that enable low cost, flat antennas.

Rogers Corp., a provider of high performance printed circuit materials for use in high frequency circuit applications, was exhibiting its wide range of materials for applications including satellite, aerospace, defense and other high reliability markets. Rogers manufacturers RO4000®, RO3000®, TMM® and RT/duroid® 5000 & 6000 series high frequency materials.

Sector Microwave Industries (SMI) serves the microwave and RF community by supplying high-quality microwave switches for communication, military and satellite application. SMI proudly offers a complete line of electromechanical waveguide and coaxial switches in SPDT, DPDT, transfer configurations as well as relay switches, dual waveguide and coax switches and switch assemblies for use in satellite, military and commercial ground station applications.

Sophia Wireless Inc. offers Ku-band BUCs and SSPAs with excellent efficiencies (e.g. >25 W output at 125 W power consumption in the fully featured UE-BUC2-1315). This efficiency advantage allows a remarkably small and inexpensive package, helping customers reduce weight and solve difficult heat and power consumption problems.

Suncoast Microwave Inc. has over 20 years of experience serving the satellite and communications industry with quality waveguide components, including custom assemblies, coax/waveguide adapters, terminations, pressure windows, twistflex, couplers and most waveguide components.

Tampa Microwave designs and manufactures block up and down converter products, test loop translators, a family of satellite simulators, sigint receivers and carrier monitoring systems for government and commercial markets. Tampa Microwave is on GSA schedule and has an IDIQ contract for various simulator products.

TECOM is a manufacturer of antenna systems and was exhibiting its products, which include ground data terminals for military applications, antennas for voice and data transmission using satellite phones, phased arrays for airborne satellite connectivity and Ku-band antenna systems for on the move applications covering a frequency range from 1 to 26 GHz.

TRAK Microwave provides mission-critical solutions electronic warfare, homeland security, radar, C4ISR and space providers worldwide. TRAK is a supplier of high reliability RF and microwave subsystems for the world’s most demanding applications and environments. The company’s products include integrated microwave assemblies, frequency sources, and time and frequency systems.

XFTP by Trilithic provides a line of field technical products selected specifically for contractors and technicians installing broadband television services in the home. Featuring satellite installation and alignment meters perfect for installers and contractors.