Industry Testing Confirms Truly Epic Gains in Satellite Performance

Recent performance testing announced by both Intelsat (NYSE: I) and Intelsat General Corporation has confirmed the dramatic performance gains of the next-generation Intelsat EpicNG high-throughput satellite (HTS) platform. Customers and ecosystem partners have documented a 165% increase to throughput using existing ground equipment and up to a 330% improvement in throughput using next generation equipment to connect to the recently launched Intelsat 29e EpicNG satellite.

Intelsat General has released data showing unprecedented performance in sending signals to and from Intelsat 29e using a small, flat-panel antenna designed for aeronautical applications by Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: GILT). The tests were performed using Gilat’s BlackRay 71 airborne terminal, with its mechanically steered 6” by 6” flat panel array.

The Gilat terminal is designed for a new generation of small Class III Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UASs) that are coming into service for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, and other non-military government and commercial applications.

Data transmitted from the small antenna to the Intelsat 29e satellite at a rate of 3.9 Mbps with an efficiency of 0.26 bits/Hz. This compares to an uplink rate of about 1.8 Mbps and efficiency of 0.09 bits/Hz achieved with a conventional Ku-band widebeam satellite. This link was effectively 2 times the rate and almost 3 times more efficient than traditional widebeam satellites.

“The outstanding test results are testimony to our successful strategy to support the growing UAS/ISR airborne market.” said Moshe (Chico) Tamir, Corporate VP and President, Strategic Initiatives, at Gilat. “The transmission of full-motion HD video at a bit-rate of 3.9Mbps using only 15.2 MHz of bandwidth, while using such small terminals, is a breakthrough, with wide-ranging implications for both military and commercial markets.”

IGC also conducted tests with antenna and modems from GATR Technologies, and its subsidiary Cubic Corporation. The tests involved the GATR-FLEX antenna and GATR’s e850 ruggedized iDirect satellite modem to maximize the throughput of the iDirect Evolution series modems. Increased bandwidth efficiencies of over 4x were exhibited.

“The combination of the extreme portability of our sub-meter GATR-FLEX terminal and Intelsat’s new high-throughput, high-performance satellite has been tested to deliver command and control (C2) in addition to full-motion video capabilities,” said Paul Gierow, president of Cubic | GATR.

These proven performance gains are a real game-changer. For example, special operations planners are increasingly interested in very small UAVs, known as Class III, for tactical ISR. These UAVs can add great flexibility to missions by not requiring a runway, and being retrievable via a net or rope. Obviously the antennas on such UAVs need to be very small. In the past, this would have severely restricted the bandwidth capabilities of such devices.

There are many other possible uses as well. Combining portability with these new performance levels, these Class III UASs could be used by federal, state and local government officials across a range of non-military applications, including search and rescue, infrastructure monitoring, traffic accident investigation, border security, anti-poaching operations, forest fire suppression and agricultural monitoring. They open a range of new capabilities to government agencies in need of real-time information for decision-making.

The digital payload technology of Intelsat EpicNG, combined with the open architecture spot beam design we’re introducing to the commercial marketplace, is what makes these test results possible,” said Skot Butler, President of Intelsat General. “From filtering out interference, to massive throughput increases for existing platforms, to enabling a whole new class of small, flat panel user antennas, we are delivering performance only dreamed about a few years ago. And the technological innovation is always advancing — each EpicNG satellite will be more capable than the previous one.”

The second EpicNG satellite, Intelsat 33e, was launched in late August and will offer coverage in Africa, Europe and Asia. Three more EpicNG satellites are due in 2017. With over 30 Intelsat customers already using Intelsat EpicNG, the three design objectives of the EpicNG platform—backwards compatibility, open architecture and optimized spectral efficiency—are yielding immediate benefits.

For more information on Intelsat EpicNG performance, see this story on the Army’s Gray Eagle ISR platform, and this one on earlier terminal testing conducted in June.

These test results and initial implementations are a potent validation of the innovation the commercial space industry can deliver for the government customer. The results are in — commercial stands ready to help bring the DoD into the next-generation of SATCOM.

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