ThinKom Proves Its Phased Array Antenna On LEO Constellation

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California based ThinKom Solutions has successfully completed a series of antenna interoperability demonstrations using its Ku3030 phased-array antenna system. The antenna was tested on the Ku-band low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation and demonstrated handovers between this and the GEO network too.

ThinKom 2Ku
ThinKom’s tests on the LEO Ku-band have been a success. Photo: APEX

ThinKom’s LEO success

Leading broadband antenna developer ThinKom Solutions has reached a new milestone with its antenna technology. The company performed a series of tests in the first quarter of this year, using a range of certified airborne hardware, including the Ku3030 phased array antenna.

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The ThinKom Ku3030 antenna was used in conjunction with a Gogo radome, adaptor plate and power amplifiers, which together form the basis of the 2Ku satcom terminal. In the tests, the 2Ku terminal proved itself capable of rapidly acquiring signal from low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites and robust tracking of the signal.

The results of the tests proved continuous connectivity over a range of elevation angles and a switch time between satellite beams of less than 100 milliseconds. The handoffs from one satellite to another were completed in less than a second and switches between LEO and GEO satellites had largely similar results.

Ku3030
The Ku3030 antenna performed well in all tests. Photo: ThinKom

Bill Milroy, CTO of ThinKom Solutions, shared a statement with Simple Flying, saying,

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“LEO satellite networks have the potential to be transformative to the in-flight connectivity experience, but also place new stringent demands on the antenna systems used to track and connect with the rapidly moving satellites. This important demonstration is another milestone verifying that our antenna technology operates effectively in the LEO environment, which is a key requirement for airlines in terms of enhanced network resiliency and flexibility.”

It’s a promising result for ThinKom and proves the potential of this low-profile antenna for the future of inflight connectivity. Throughput rate of more than 350 Mbps and latency of less than 50 milliseconds bodes awfully well for a better-connected inflight experience.

Fit for the future

This latest milestone comes following last month’s successful demonstration of the antenna’s compliance with rules on interference threats. This followed the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the 2019 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC19) adoption of standards to prevent interference between satellites in GSO and NGSO orbits, as well as between 5G terrestrial services and aeronautical connections using shared frequencies.

At the time, Milroy said,

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“Our VICTS phased-array technology ensures full compliance with ITU Article 22 by eliminating elevated sidelobes when operating on NGSOs, thereby protecting against interference in the GSO plane. We have successfully completed numerous trials to demonstrate interoperability between NGSO and GSO satellites with no interference.”

This interoperability confirmation will be key moving forward, as more nations launch 5G terrestrial services. In the USA, Canada, Japan and Korea, plans are firmly in place to use the Ka-band spectrum for 5G deployment, and antennas for future aviation networks need to remain compliant.

Bill Milroy, CTO of ThinKom Solutions (left), accepts the Satellite Technology of the Year Award from Scott Chase, publisher emeritus of Via Satellite. Photo: ThinKom

ThinKom was last year awarded top honors for “Satellite Technology of the Year” by Via Satellite magazine. It was also named the company one of the top 10 hottest businesses in the satellite industry and is clearly on the path to a successful future.

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