Satellite Modem Manufacturers Insure Future Growth by Innovating Today

By | October 12, 2009 | Telecom

By Honey Berman

With the global economy poised for a rebound, satellite modem manufacturers are responding with new products and services, capable of supporting a wide array of business and government applications. Among today’s fastest growing sectors is the commercial machine-to-machine (M2M) asset tracking and data communications market.  Transmitting short bursts of data to satellites, companies can monitor remote assets in the field, at sea or in dangerous environments where it does not make sense to run cables. 

San Diego-based Quake Global Inc. manufactures satellite data modems for tracking, monitoring, and controlling heavy equipment, trucks, ships, fishing boats, pipelines, trains, and utility meters, around the globe. “People don’t want to be bound by the limits of geographical borders, roaming agreements or situations where they are limited in their ability to communicate by a lack of cellular” connectivity, Ken Conner, Quake Global’s director of sales, said. Quake Global’s recent agreement with Globalstar Inc., the world’s largest provider of mobile satellite voice and data services, will expand Quake Global’s global footprint and, for the first time, enable it to offer satellite voice capability alongside its well-established data transmittal services. Later this year, the new line of integrated multimode data modems, as well as a next-generation satellite data and voice module, will join the satellite communicators Quake Global manufacturers for Orbcomm, Iridium and GPS technologies.

Germany’s ND SatCom has unveiled its the newest addition to its SkyWAN modem line, the Xwarp, which based on MF-TDMA VSAT technology.  “Overcoming latency is one of the hottest topics among our customers and in the satellite communications industry in general,” said Markus Vogl, ND SatCom’s director, product and solution management.  “During the show, we demonstrated that database usage via satellite link works faster than in your office, using a local network.” The company targets enterprise customers with branch offices and remote production/logistics facilities that need equipment to run business critical and time sensitive applications. By sharing the satellite bandwidth dynamically between the SkyWAN network nodes, the Xwarp solution guarantees seamless network operation even in the event of a node failure, said Vogl. 

Paradise Datacom LLC, a subsidiary of Britain’s Intelek plc, also supports an array of market sectors, including cellular backhaul, government/military, broadcasters and teleports. The company’s Quantum modem brings the benefits of DVB-S2 to single channel per carrier (SCPC) markets such as cellular backhaul. “We’ve broken the myth that DVB-S2 is expensive and only for video,” said Colin Mackay, vice president of engineering.  The Quantum allows traditional SCPC services built on different standards and features such as IBS, IDR, drop and insert, AUPC, overhead channels, etc., to be used together [with DVB-S2]” he said.

The company also sees continued opportunity supporting IP and plans to improve bandwidth reduction with two new technologies, Mackay said. Paired Carrier, based on licensed PCMA technology from ViaSat, uses echo cancellation techniques that allow the space segment to be reused by overlapping carriers, reducing bandwidth requirements by half.  And for the GSM market, Sat-Abis integrates voice compression technology directly into satellite modems. By eliminating periods of silence and “idle data” (bandwidth consumed even when a circuit is not actively allocated to a call), up to 50 percent of bandwidth can be saved, he said.

Canada’s Advantech AMT satellite modems are used for broadcast, data networking, telecommunications and military applications. Advantech offers a full range of closed network and open standards modems through its two product lines, and Arnaud Barthelemy, Advantech’s vice president, business and product development, sees a future that include, “more integrated features and operation modes, on IP in particular.” He lists IP file transfer and encapsulation, IP backbones, and distribution to ISPs among the top level modem applications..

With everyone seeing a return to growth, the focus seems to be on designing versatile hardware platforms that will allow for greater modem integration.  Multiplexing of different terrestrial interfaces and data streams is an expected growth area, which makes the ability to cope with higher data rates essential. “With the huge increase in complexity of the underlying technology, it is essential that we focus on ease of use and keep the user interfaces as simple as possible,” Vogl said.

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