The vibrant satellite amplifier technology market features a number of companies competing for business. Are vendors meeting customer needs, and is there enough business for such a large number of competing players?
The satellite industry is full of eco-systems of technology that make the whole industry function. With the demands for satellite capacity showing no signs of slowing, the demands for new technology and solutions is increasing. With the entrance into the markets of new high-powered Ka-band satellites, the demand on the infrastructure that powers these new systems also is increasing. One of the eco-systems within satellite is the amplifier technology market. This market is comprised of a number of players, and there is strong competition as vendors look to supply this technology to broadcasters, telcos, satellite players and others.
The advent of a new Ka-band infrastructure market is placing new demands on amplifier technology vendors. Operators like Hughes, Eutelsat, ViaSat and Inmarsat are investing heavily in Ka-band satellites and the associated infrastructure needed. The cycle of technology investment reverberates around the satellite industry.
Andy Tafler, head of CPI’s satcom division says he believes that technology players have risen to the challenge here. “We certainly feel that the success of these satellites is critical to the future of the satellite industry. Meeting the satellite system providers’ requirements for very high power and very high quality gateways has really pushed the capabilities of both Traveling Wave Tube Amplifiers (TWTA) and Solid State Power Amplifiers (SSPA) amplifiers. What they have asked from the amplifier industry and the tube vendors is to push their capabilities. Manufacturers have risen to the challenge, and these systems have been operating successfully and on time,” he says.
The Ka-band market, however, does present some unique challenges to vendors. Daniel Enns, senior vice president, business development for Comtech EF Data, says that while the Ka-band market provides definite potential, it also comes with a number of issues. “The challenge in Ka-band is that there are military bands and commercial bands,” he says. “The number of different bands raises questions: Do I have the right amplifier for the right band, and for the right application or customer requirement? So, we need to predict the right band for the right application so that we can have the right amplifiers built when there is demand. There is certainly demand in the military market. The WGS Ka-band for the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is being deployed. Many of the foreign DODs are getting on the bandwagon for the WGS, so that is driving the demand for international Ka-band. In the Middle East, there are several other satellites that have Ka-band capacity that are also looking at the enterprise market.”
The theme of more demanding customers there is apparent. “Our customers are demanding high-linearity, high-efficiency and high-power,” says Cristi Damian, vice president, operations, Advantech Wireless. “We see a migration from the traditional 30 GHz to 31 GHz market to lower 26 GHz to 30 GHz frequencies, as well as a demand for higher bandwidth SSPAs. We have been investing in Ka-band solid state technology since 2003.”
Providing products for both the commercial and military segments is key, according to Marion Van Fosson, vice president and general manager, CVG-Avtec, who says developing dual-use products is vital in accomplishing this task. “Tier I OEMs would like to have a dual-use product that can support both the commercial and military bands so amplifiers that can operate over a wide Ka-band range to satisfy both military and commercial requirements are desirable,” he says.
Miteq is another company looking to play in the Ka-band arena, and its CEO, Howard Hausman, admits that this is a key focus for the company. Hausman cites statistics about the levels of data traffic as compelling reasons why this sector is going to place heavy demands on technology vendors. “We supply nearly every major Ka-band satcom system and we expect further growth over the remainder of the year,” he says. “The projections for ever-increasing data transmission are simply staggering with Ka-band satcom being the critical transmission link to achieve these demands. To give just one example, at a recent Air Force conference it was stated that traffic will grow by a factor of 50 over the next five years.”