By Warren Ferster
High Throughout Satellite (HTS) systems have brought unprecedented flexibility and bandwidth to the marketplace, but the new capability comes at a price: increased network complexity that will require innovation on the ground to manage effectively without breaking the bank.
HTS satellites, which have been deployed in increasing numbers in recent years, feature multiple spot beams that can be created, removed, or redirected at any time by commands from the ground, enabling highly efficient use and reuse of bandwidth. While this allows operators to respond quickly to shifting demand and better serve emerging markets such as mobility, it vastly complicates the job of network managers responsible for everything from satellite control and signal monitoring, to service tracking and customer billing.
Compounding the HTS challenge is the arrival of large constellations of satellites in lower orbits, which can complement traditional Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellites, but have their own unique set of operating requirements. Some of the world’s major satellite operators are looking to more closely integrate the two types of systems in the years ahead.
At a recent user conference sponsored by Kratos, industry officials welcomed the full-scale arrival of HTS as a boon to the industry. But these officials also said that, based on experience to date, the ground has some catching up to do.
“If you’re having to manage bigger and more complex networks, what you can’t do is allow your operations costs to grow proportionally with the size of your networks,” said Stuart Daughtridge, vice president of advanced technology at Kratos. “The bottom line is you’ve got to be able to … manage more networks for less money than you had in the past.”
Operators are adapting by introducing more automation, virtualizing ground stations and shifting more functionality to cloud-based servers, according to Daughtridge and other speakers at the conference. One of the more basic challenges is allocating limited uplink resources between commands to the satellite and to its dynamic payload.