Satellite Internet Broadband Speeds Are On the Horizon

Thanks to ESA research, the standard for next-generation satellite Internet is set

Broadband connectivity anytime and anywhere on the planet is becoming a reality thanks to two European satcom companies, STM Norway and Italy’s Space Engineering. The two companies recently unveiled their latest satellite modem prototypes that provide satellite-based Internet communications with broadband data rates — without the need for any terrestrial links.

The broadband speeds are reached through a variety of new digital signal processing technologies that originated at The European Space Agency (ESA) and were taken up by European industry. The ESA is a 20 member (State) international organization that coordinates the intellectual and financial resources of its members. It is designed to undertake programs far beyond the scope of any single European country.

The state of the art modems were presented at the Broadband Modem Technology Workshop organized by ESA in September. “Depending on satellite link budgets and other system design parameters, the modems can dynamically provide in excess of 20 Mbit/s download, and up to 5 Mbit/s or more upload,” explained Stephane Combes ESA communications engineer. “This is typically what a DSL or cable service offers, therefore the satellite service is able to match terrestrial competition, providing what end users would expect from their broadband service today, marking a significant improvement on what satellites services have offered in the past.”

The digital signal processing technologies were developed and tested over many years through TRP, ESA’s Basic Technology Research Programme — or its brainstorming unit. Experimental proof of concept was first achieved and then the ideas were taken up by ESA’s Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems (ARTES) program so they could be brought to market readiness.

“The technologies developed through these past ESA projects demonstrate far greater bandwidth efficiency, with particularly big gains on the return link — up to 250% compared to previous generations,” said Combes. “The products showcased are great examples of how our industry is delivering commercially successful products which enable the satcom industry to compete in the global communications sector.”

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