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Ka-Band Communications: A Satellite Perspective

Key Takeaways

  • Ka-band satellite communication has increased bandwidth, which is double that of the Ku-band and five times that of the C-band.

  • The wider Ka-bandwidth offers improved anti-interference properties. 

  • Small terminal antennas are used with Ka-band communication and the adjacent satellite interference becomes strong, limiting the maximum power transfer.

Ka-band communication

Currently, there is a rapid increase in the number of satellite applications in the fields of television, broadcasting, internet services, earth observation, and remote sensing. Satellite communication is crucial in military applications as well as in the study of weather and other atmospheric conditions.

The proliferation of satellite applications has contributed to spectrum congestion, which is a major constraint limiting further satellite deployment in these bands. The frequency spectrum bands with the highest usage are the C and Ku bands. Since the lower satellite frequency bands are crowded, Ka-band communication has gained popularity. Satellite applications utilizing Ka-bands have several advantages over traditional C and Ku bands. 

How Does Satellite Communication Work?

In satellite communication, an exchange of data takes place between ground-based stations through a satellite. Artificial satellites launched into space are used to fulfill communication requirements. Satellite communication supports both digital and analog communication and enables quick communication by sending and receiving signals. It is important that satellite communication can transfer any form of communication signal (audio signal, video signal, data, or voice) to different regions on earth.

Frequency Selection in Satellite Communication

In satellite communication, the satellite placed in space receives the signal transmitted from the ground station on earth. The signal is retransmitted from the satellite after amplification and the necessary signal processing. The signal sent by satellite is received by one or multiple earth stations. A carrier frequency is mixed with the original signal in satellite communication.

The selection of carrier frequencies in satellite communication is of great importance. A low-frequency carrier signal faces challenges while penetrating the ionosphere, whereas a high-frequency carrier encounters an attenuation problem. Attenuation can result from signal amplitude reduction, depolarization of radio waves, or increased thermal noise in the communication system. Even though attenuation due to rain, tropospheric scintillation, or gas absorption can be present in Ka-band satellite communication, it is still favored over other spectrum bands.

Ka-Band Communication Using Satellite Systems

There are several advantages to Ka-band satellite communication that make it more advantageous than  Ku or C-band communication.

  1. Larger bandwidth utilization (3.5GHz) - Ka-band satellite communication has increased bandwidth: double that of the Ku-band and five times that of the C-band.
  2. Higher throughput in data transfer - Since there is an expansion of bandwidth, the throughput of Ka-band satellite communication is high, reaching up to 100-500M bits/sec.
  3. Low bandwidth cost - The efficiency of Ka-band satellites is so high that it ultimately leads to communication with lowered bandwidth costs.
  4. Smaller antennas and ground equipment - As Ka-band frequencies have smaller wavelengths, the antenna and ground equipment are also smaller in Ka-band communication. The suitability of realizing phased-array, multi-beam, and wide-bandwidth satellite systems increases with the usage of Ka-band frequency.
  5. Higher system integration - In the era of 5G technology, interoperability between satellite and 5G systems is essential. This requires higher system integration to withstand increased data rates.
  6. Inherent anti-interference property - The wider Ka-bandwidth offers improved anti-interference properties.  The interference margin of Ka-band communication is better compared to C or Ku-band satellite systems. 

Challenges in Ka-Band Satellite Communication

Adjacent Satellite Interference

Regulatory bodies governing satellite communication have foreseen the problem of adjacent satellite interference due to the high number of satellites getting deployed into the Ka-band spectrum. As small terminal antennas are being used with Ka-band communication, adjacent satellite interference becomes strong and limits the maximum power transfer.

Not only does Ka-band communication have adjacent satellite interference problems, but it also has the shortcomings of signal fading due to rain. 

Rain Attenuation in Ka-Band Communication 

Ka-band signals are vulnerable to degradation by rain, clouds, gas, snow, ice, hail, and tropospheric scintillation. The attenuation per unit length is high in Ka-band signals, as the Ka-band has an electromagnetic wave absorption component. Providing additional margin to ensure the availability of the Ka-band communication system under weather conditions is necessary, especially for rain.

Mitigating Rain Attenuation 

Rain attenuation hinders the extensive use of Ka-band communication in tropic regions, so there are several integration techniques employed to retrieve the signal under such atmospheric conditions. The hub-site diversity method, the adaptive coding and modulation method, and the automatic uplink power control method are three techniques that can be used.

Develop Ka-Band Communication Systems With Cadence Tools

Cadence’s suite of design and analysis tools can assist you in developing Ka-band communication systems as well as support various mitigation techniques for achieving reliability. Cadence offers highly efficient design tools that ensure the development of efficient Ka-band communication systems.

Leading electronics providers rely on Cadence products to optimize power, space, and energy needs for a wide variety of market applications. If you’re looking to learn more about our innovative solutions, talk to our team of experts or subscribe to our YouTube channel.