For most people, satellites probably bring things like weather forecasts, GPS or satellite TV. Other common satellite applications, such as expanding cellular coverage, connecting ATM machines and rapidly restoring the communications infrastructure, among others, often remain unnoticed as they are not visible to users.
But with it The FCC recently awarded SpaceX, and OneWeb before that, a license to launch thousands of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites into space to provide online consumer services, as well as Confirm Facebook from its own plans to provide broadband access to LEO, satellites on each track – including the Middle Earth satellites (MEO) and the Geostationary Orbit (GEO) – are now upgrading their attention to being able to shape the upcoming digital era and unite people around the world with broadband connection gigabit … from space.
While broadband needs have traditionally met technologies such as fiber, copper, microwave and 2G / 3G / 4G, satellites can now provide connectivity with similar performance, including multi-gigabit and low-latency speeds. It can work in parallel and, in some cases, completely replace these traditional methods of transporting the internet. This "new space" industry feeds strong market demand along with innovation in ecosystems and technology, leading venture capital investors to invest more than $ 1.8 billion in 2015, more than the previous 15 years together.
Whether you are a service provider, a government service, a business or a consumer – an entire multi-track satellite ecosystem opens up on us, driving new opportunities for gigabit and broadband connectivity. Here's what you need to know about each track and its role in the emerging satellite universe.
GEO – Distance from Earth: 22,000 miles
The basics – GEO satellites have been in orbit for more than 50 years, the first to be launched in the 1960s. These high-speed satellites move at the same angular speed as Earth, staying motionless over the same point (hence the name geostationary). Therefore, a satellite antenna on the ground can face a fixed point in the sky.
There are hundreds of GEO satellites today, providing services ranging from weather and mapping data to the distribution of digital video on demand, streaming and satellite TV channels worldwide.
Advantages – Because the ground antenna does not need to monitor the GEO satellite in the sky, its design can be quite simple. And due to geostrategic altitude, broadband can only be launched with a single satellite, as it can cover one-third of the planet.
GEO satellites can provide global coverage with far fewer satellites than MEO or LEO as their distance from Earth allows them to drop a broader beam. As a result, only about three GEO satellites are needed to provide coverage covering the Earth.
Disadvantages – While their distance from the Earth offers coverage advantages, it can come at the cost of the delay. GEO satellite satellites travel the longest distance from their destination, rendering them less ideal for applications where low latency is critical – such as native 4G networks.
The higher trajectory also means greater signal power losses during transmission compared to a lower track. something to be included in the design of the system equipment.
MEO – Distance from Earth: 1,200-22,000 miles
The basics – Historically, MEO constellations have been used for GPS and navigation applications, but over the past five years, MEO satellites have been developed to provide broadband connectivity to service providers, government agencies and businesses – eventually linking millions of end-users.
Current applications include the provision of 4G LTE and broadband connections in rural, remote and underdeveloped areas, where fiber planting is either impossible or not cost effective – such as cruise ships or merchant ships, offshore drilling platforms, backhaul for cellular towers, humanitarian aid camps and military installations, among others. In addition, service providers use managed data services from these MEO satellites to quickly restore connectivity to areas where services have been lost due to underwater cable cuts or where significant storms have occurred.
Advantages – Their close distance allows low-latency wide bandwidth, with levels comparable to fiber transmission performance. This kind of fiber-like performance will become even more important as the increase in satellite capacity is is increasingly being fueled by high performance and data-based data such as broadband – instead of traditional video-based applications. In addition, satellite constellations MEO can cover the majority of the Earth with about eight satellites.
Disadvantages – While the MEO satellites already have a very low latency compared to the GEO, their larger trajectory means that they can not reach the same levels as planned by the new LEO operators, although the difference may be negligible depending on the application .
Also, because the MEO (and LEO) satellites are not stable, a constellation of satellites is required to provide continuous service. This means that the antennas on the ground must monitor the satellite in the sky, which requires a starter infrastructure that is more complex than GEO.
LEON – Distance from Earth: 120-1,200 miles
The basics – While there are several LEO constellations currently operated by companies such as Iridium, Globalstar and Orbcomm, they primarily serve low-performance voice and data applications. The forthcoming wave of LEO satellites intends to serve different markets, especially those requiring high-speed connectivity, such as consumer broadband, mobile backhaul and VSAT for connecting remote locations and employees. Because these satellites are closer to the Earth than other orbits, their coverage is shorter.
This is why emerging LEO operators are planning to launch hundreds – or in some cases thousands – of these orbiting satellites to achieve global and continuous coverage. The LEO constellations will continuously transmit communication signals and traffic over their huge satellite network to provide broad and seamless geographical coverage to users. Since this generation of LEO satellites has not yet begun, see a quick look at what is being planned and discussed.
Advantages – LEO satellites focus on providing online coverage that can cover the globe and their proximity to the Earth, operators expect to offer the lowest latency levels in any satellite orbit. This proximity also means that it is cheaper and requires far less fuel to launch a satellite to a LEO than to start at MEO or GEO.
Disadvantages – Due to the large number of satellites required in the LEO constellations, there are expected to have high initial manufacturing and launch costs and more expensive ground material than GEO. Since the LEO constellations have not yet begun, the availability of the satellite spectrum for many satellites and the coordination of traffic to these without the addition of latency are also questions.
Gigabit from space: The final boundaries
There have been days when satellites were simply a "last resort option" for connecting remote areas. Like traditional terrestrial connections, satellites are rapidly becoming a standardized and conventional connection solution for providing high-speed broadband services to people all over the world, regardless of location – whether land or sea or air – and geographic conditions.
And as this new satellite ecosystem is modeled, potential applications will not be limited to a trajectory. The constellations are already operating on the entire track today, and as we move forward, we will see even greater value than optimized routing of traffic on multi-track networks.
For example, MEO constellations using software-defined networking have the ability to automatically fail on GEO satellites for back-up broadband services. And we are likely to see the convergence of LEO, MEO, GEO, and even ground-based technologies to meet the low latency and gigabit connection requirements of 5G local networks.
One thing is clear – the expanding multi-track satellite universe will play an important role in providing broadband access to connect the world and allow the digital age.