The only constant thing in life is change, as the expression goes. Today the pace of change seems to be constantly accelerating. With technology, change often manifests itself in two specific ways: things once static become mobile, and things once large become much smaller.
So it is with satellite communications (SATCOM). Satellite antennas used to be very large, and very stationary. Commercial satellites using the higher frequency of Ku-band have allowed antenna sizes to be reduced, and hence they can be made transportable or even mobile. These Ku-band satellites, however, only cover certain geographic areas of the globe. These limitations are becoming old news for government users, thanks in part to commercial SATCOM services using the X-band frequency, a band on the spectrum reserved for government users.
To help explain why, let me share some brief SATCOM 101 background. Typically a high satellite frequency (for example Ku band, used for DirecTV) provides faster one-way data rates and is able to use smaller antennas on the ground. The down-side is that the beam from these satellites is more concentrated and covers a smaller area of the Earth. Ku-band is also more susceptible to rain interference.
For two-way communications, the use of the smaller antennas is also an issue. The guideline is, the smaller the antenna, the larger its beam of its radiation. In addition to transmitting to the target satellite, transmissions from these small antennas interfere with the signals of adjacent satellites. And since the spacing between satellites has been minimized to accommodate high volumes of traffic in space, small transmitting antennas must minimize the interference they cause with neighboring satellites. This, however, minimizes the data rates they can achieve.
Commercially available X-band SATCOM provides all the benefits of Ku – the speed and the small antenna size – plus huge additional benefits. Unlike the higher frequencies of Ku-band or the even higher Ka-band, X-band can cover entire continent-sized regions of the globe, and is much more resistant to rain interference. X-band can support high speed communications using small 1 to 1.2m antennas over multi-continent areas. The smaller zone beams of the X-band satellites can support speeds of up to 2 Mbps transmitting from antennas as small as 18-inches (45 cms) without interfering with adjacent satellites.
X-band basically provides real broadband in the sky, anytime and anywhere a customer needs it using one small, easily deployed terminal. This makes X-band perfect for government and military customers who need to support rapid deployments over a large geographic area or need high speed transmissions from small land, sea, or airborne terminals.
With the launch of additional satellite capacity next year, Intelsat General will be able to provide a greatly increased capacity for X-band services, through its long-standing relationship with Paradigm and its Skynet 5 satellite constellation.
Things change, but the need to stay connected is a constant today. With X-band, SATCOM services are there for government users, wherever and whenever they need them.