Skip to main content

Satellite Frequency Allocation and the Band Spectrum

Key Takeaways

  • Satellite frequency allocation and band spectrum usage are coordinated by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

  • Spectrum efficiency indicates the amount of data transfer possible over a specific bandwidth.

  • Satellite operators share or reuse frequencies to increase the capacity without actually increasing the spectrum bandwidth.

Satellite Frequency Allocation and Band Spectrum

Satellite communication uses a band of frequencies for uplink and downlink services

In satellite wireless communication infrastructure, the orbit and spectrum are two valuable resources. Satellite communication systems transfer data using frequencies that are present in the electromagnetic spectrum to the satellite in the orbit (uplink). From the satellite, the data is sent to the ground station (downlink).

Satellite communication uses a band of frequencies for uplink and downlink services. Satellite frequency allocation and band spectrum usage are coordinated by an organization called the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The ITU is an institution under the United Nations that allocates part of the electromagnetic spectrum for specific services. In this article, we will explore satellite frequency allocation by the ITU.

Satellite Coverage 

We know that satellite coverage is global, as it transmits data across the length and breadth of the Earth. In the electromagnetic spectrum, certain bands of frequencies are allocated exclusively for satellite transmission. To establish global coverage, satellite-allocated frequencies should be simultaneously available across the satellite footprint; this is how satellite communication guarantees the same service regardless of geographic location.

Satellite communication systems depend on various frequency bands from the electromagnetic spectrum, based on the market and climatic conditions. 

Satellite Frequency Allocation and the Band Spectrum

Satellite communication systems are not only used in telecommunication, but also in astronomy, weather forecasting, metrological services, and mapping. There are bands of frequencies from the electromagnetic spectrum dedicated to satellite communication.  Lower as well as higher bands of frequency are equally employed for satellite communications.

ITU is the global coordinator in satellite frequency allocation, and they have allocated specific bands for satellite communication: L Band, S band, C band, etc. Some frequency bands are shared between satellite and terrestrial communication services. 

Satellite Frequency Band Applications

Band spectrum

Frequency range

Type of satellite service


L Band

1.518-1.675 GHz

MSS (Mobile Satellite Service)

Civilian mobile communication services and global positioning systems (GPS)

Example: Inmarsat utilizes this band for communication across air, water, and land weather radar

S Band

1.97 - 2.69 GHz


Satellite television, mobile broadband services, radio broadcasting, and inflight connectivity

Example: Communication between IS.S and the space shuttle

C Band

3.4GHz - 7.025 GHz

FSS (Fixed Satellite Service)

Data services, raw satellite feeds, and satellite TV networks

Example: Telstar satellites use this frequency for operating transportation

X Band

7.25 - 8.44 GHz


Military services, pulsed radar, synthetic operative radars, continuous wave radar, weather monitoring, air traffic control, maritime traffic control, defense tracking, and vehicle speed detection

Ku Band

10.7 - 14.5 GHz

FSS, BSS (Broadband Satellite Service)

Fixed satellite television data services

Ka Band

17.3 - 30 GHz


Mobile and fixed two-way broadband services, fixed satellite television, close-range targeting radars in military systems

Q/V Band

37.5 - 51.4 GHz


High-speed broadband services (fixed and mobile) and in-flight connectivity

Satellite Spectrum Efficiency

By ensuring reliable access to the satellite spectrum bands, we can increase the reach of satellite communication. However, the frequency specification related to a satellite cannot be modified once it is built and launched. It is important to increase the spectrum efficiency of satellite communication for the given spectrum allocation.

Generally, spectrum efficiency indicates the amount of data transfer possible over a specific bandwidth. As satellite communication is allocated with fixed frequency bands for uplink and downlink, it is important to improve the spectrum efficiency to maximize throughput. 

Techniques to Improve Satellite Spectrum Efficiency

  1. Enhance transmission capacity with transponders.

  2. Achieve higher spectrum efficiency with digital data transmission.

  3. Share or reuse frequencies to increase capacity without actually increasing the  spectrum bandwidth.

  4. Reuse the spot beams of a satellite to increase spectrum efficiency.

  5. Lease or contract use of the orbital position and spectrum to increase spectrum efficiency.

The satellite frequency allocation and band spectrum division carried out by ITU focuses on ensuring the global availability of satellite communication. Each operator can make use of various techniques while using the allocated satellite band to increase spectrum efficiency. Cadence’s suite of design and analysis tools can help you develop satellite systems that utilize electromagnetic frequency bands.

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.