From house to all over the place: new Ka-band transceiver guarantees to attach distant areas


In many remote regions of the world, people can’t just jump to a Zoom meeting or browse social media because they don’t have the internet coverage to do so. However, now there may be a way to connect to the Internet through satellites carrying signals from Earth orbit.

Ka-band satellite communication frequencies (SATCOM) offer new opportunities to meet high bandwidth requirements, especially for small air and mobile land platforms. Image courtesy of Socionext

Socionext and researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have developed a Ka-band transceiver that enables seamless communication between earth platforms and satellites in lower, medium and geostationary orbits of the earth.

This advancement promises to bring the internet to remote locations like rural areas or the open sea that could otherwise be a dark zone for connectivity.

A brief history of SATCOM

While many of us can easily access the internet because of the nearby cell phone towers, we often resort to technologies that already rely on satellite communications, such as: B. GPS (Global Positioning Systems). GPS sends information down from orbiting satellites using a special transmitter (TX) and receiver (RX) to locate your device and create a map of your travels.

Satellite communication (SATCOM) is used for television, telephone, radio, Internet, and military applications. This method is an attractive option for providing data connections to well connected and remote locations. However, for SATCOM to be effective, the right equipment must be in place both in space and here on Earth.

The Ka band roll call

For years, scientists at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have been developing various types of state-of-the-art transceivers for next-generation technologies, including 5G applications, Internet of Things enabled devices, and low-power Bluetooth communications.

The SATCOM transceiver device developed in this study uses the Ka-band frequency, a microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum with a range from 27 to 31 GHz. The Ka-band is a desirable location in the spectrum because it is less congested when compared to areas with thousands of satellites sending and receiving signals in other frequency ranges.

NASA has been interested in the Ka-band in such designs for years and provides an overview of their Ka-band transceiver architecture in 2016:

Ka-band transceiver design that includes an RF front end and a digital back end. Image courtesy of NASA

In an article on three new ASICS for 5G, we discuss how one company, Ensilica, is also developing a Ka-band transceiver. Ensilica’s specific design is geared towards combining SATCOM technology with 5G to connect vehicles on the road as well as marine and aviation vehicles.

Tokyo Tech and Socionext release a Ka-band transceiver

Socionext and Tokyo Tech’s Ka-band transceiver is unique in that it is implemented using standard CMOS technology.

It has a high quality factor transformer to achieve efficient power consumption and high linearity in transmission, resulting in less distortion during transmission. On the receiving end, the device has a two-channel architecture.

The goal is seamless communication with satellites that are almost 2,000 km away from a 3 x 3 mm chip. Image courtesy of Socionext

These signals are received in parallel with either two independent polarization modes or two different frequencies. In addition, the proposed design can perform adjacent channel interference suppression. Any unwarranted signals received in one channel from another signal in an adjacent frequency band are eliminated using information received on the other channel.

This strategy increases the dynamic range of the system and thus enables proper operation even in non-ideal scenarios with high levels of noise and interference.

From space to anywhere in the world

This latest transceiver is a potential solution to widespread networking.

Professor Kenichi Okada from the Tokyo Institute of Technology expressed how his research team makes a statement with this new development: “In our article, the first Ka-band SATCOM transceiver is presented, which was implemented with standard CMOS technology and for a Earth platform communications with geostationary and low earth orbit satellites. ”

SATCOM orbits the earth at a distance of 200 to 2,000 km, which makes communicating when sending Ka-band signals a challenge. Further developments in Ka-band transceiver technology could very well bring us closer to the geostationary region.

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