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TECHNOLOGY TRACKER: Santa calls on S-band hopeful

25th December 2008 - 12:57 GMT | by The Shephard News Team


Solaris Mobile, a joint venture by terrestrial satcoms operators Eutelsat and SES Astra, has been granted preliminary approval to offer S-band satellite-delivered mobile TV services across Europe.

The news will get the full attention of aero satcoms provider Inmarsat, which earlier this year announced plans to do the same in its first ever venture out of the world of L-band spectrum.

Set up in Dublin earlier this year, Solaris Mobile plans to provide TV, video and radio plus two-way communication to a variety of handheld and vehicle-mounted mobile devices. The services are aimed primarily at broadcasters, telecoms operators, the automotive industry, and data and communications providers.

The European Commission has just confirmed the company as an “admissible candidate” for the two-stage process of applying to provide mobile satellite services across Europe. Using a new satellite to be launched next spring, Solaris plans to operate in S-band, which is reserved for satellite and terrestrial mobile services and sits alongside the UMTS frequencies already used across Europe for 3G cellular.

While Solaris says that it is the best qualified of a number of candidates, it faces competition for full operational approval from the likes of Inmarsat.

This summer the London-based operator, which is currently in the process of repositioning its fourth-generation L-band satellites to provide global coverage for the SwiftBroadband aeronautical service, caught the industry on the hop with the news that it would launch an S-band spacecraft within the next three years with the aim of providing mobile broadcast and two-way telecoms services throughout Europe. The satellite will be based on Thales Alenia Space’s established Spacebus 4000C3 platform, which has also been selected by Eutelsat and SES Americom.

In August Inmarsat applied to the European Commission for an allocation of S-band spectrum that would allow it to offer services across the whole of the European landmass. To do this the 5,700kg satellite will carry a 12m-diameter transmit antenna capable of generating nine S-band user spot-beams.

Inmarsat is also acquiring additional L-band capacity by developing and operating a spacecraft based on the European Space Agency’s Alphabus platform. This satellite, designated Inmarsat-4 X-L, is now being developed by manufacturers EADS Astrium and Thales Alenia Space for launch in 2011 and entry into service in 2012. Inmarsat plans to treat this satellite – and a possible twin – as an integral part of the existing fourth-generation constellation. The designation “X-L” stands for “extended L-band,” a reflection of the fact that the payload will operate in the additional 7MHz of spectrum released for mobile satellite services in 2003.

Compared with today’s Inmarsat-4s, X-L will be able to support 35 more SwiftBroadband-type 432kbit/sec channels per beam cluster – the I-4s generate dozens of small spot-beams to facilitate frequency re-use and maximise system capacity.

“It will also have twice the receive and transmit power of the I-4s,” Inmarsat chief technology officer Gene Jilg told the company’s aeronautical conference this year. “This could translate into smaller terminals, higher data throughput rates or lower usage costs, or a combination of all three. Existing SwiftBroadband installations will however have to be modified to make use of the newly available spectrum.”

The Shephard News Team


The Shephard News Team

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