Antenna technology company ReQuTech, together with a research team from Linköping University of Technology and satellite router technology provider Forsway, have announced a collaboration to develop a new phased array antenna solution aimed at enhancing SATCOM applications on mobile platforms.
This cooperation project is supported by the strategic innovation program “Smarter Electronic Systems” – a joint venture by Swedish innovation agency Vinnova, Formas and the Swedish Energy Agency to promote Swedish technology. This program is a part of a pivotal development initiative by ReQuTech within Phased array antennas. The company aims to market the completed solution to the global market within the near future.
Where over 3.4 billion people still lack broadband internet access in the areas outside high-speed networks, the joint initiative aims to leverage broadband coverage and mobility to areas where cellular network infrastructure is not available and for high-end applications such as connected vehicles. The project plans to deploy the newly developed flexible, phased Array Antennas on moving platforms for satellite communication (SATCOM), Communication-On-The-Move (COTM), in combination with the next generation of LEO and MEO satellites. Market indicators predict that communication between LEO satellites and different moving platforms will be a growing market, positioning the companies for future business opportunities.
The Vinnova-backed initiative combines expertise from three well-known players in their respective fields: ReQuTech, for its niche expertise within antenna and antenna architecture and SATCIN antenna supplier, hybrid SATCOM modem technology and equipment supplier Forsway, and Linköping University of Technology (LiU) Dept. of Electrical Engineering advanced signal processing specialists.
The proposed concept aims to create a new SATCOM product with low production and maintenance cost that will deliver high data rates in areas, where mobile cellular infrastructure is not available. The partners are combining expertise, components and target:
- Hybrid antenna of mechanical and electrical steering from ReQuTech
- Smart signal processing for handoff between satellites in a MIMO multi-beam scenario and for beam steering, channel estimation and optimized use of available transceivers (LiU)
- Hybrid satellite/terrestrial network terminal solution from Forsway
- Making a product that is less expensive than existing solutions and an offering widely available for many more users
While array antenna solutions have traditionally been used for high end, complex applications such as military and radar, the use of hundreds to thousands of transceiver chips leads to a very costly solution, and until now not realistic for commercial use. A phased array antenna could meet all requirements from HTS communication with LEO satellites, however, no mature products suitable for low-cost commercial markets have been available until now.
Dr. Omid Sotoudeh, the CEO at ReQuTech, said that since 2009, the company has developed antenna solutions for SATCOM within Ka-, Ku-, X- and C band. For that last two years, the firm has conducted development within phased arrays and the company's team of antenna engineers and hardware developer believe a smart solution will reach the market in time for LEO an MEO service launch. The phased array antenna is a complex solution which needs a careful design of antenna elements and distribution network to meet the requirements on bandwidth and low losses.
Edvin Lindkvist, CTO at Forsway, added that a clear trend in the satellite community is a big interest in the connected vehicle market. This exciting project together with experts from ReQuTech and LiU will take the firm's work to the next step, as a critical component for offering an affordable solution for connected vehicles lies in the antenna. Forsway and ReQuTech have also embarked on a project co-funded by the European Space Agency to optimize solution for connected vehicles. The Vinnova array antenna project will put this last component in place by creating an affordable antenna optimized for Forsway’s hybrid connected vehicles solution.