Europe's demand for high-speed broadband bandwidth has literally reached outer space. Direct broadcast, broadband multi-media, and broadband internet access requirements are driving the development of next-generation telecom satellites and are expected to be a key revenue generator.
In this context telecom satellites have entered the "multi-beam - multi-gigabit era"; satellites employ multiple beams to provide high-speed connectivity and broad coverage. Operators are pushing for a 10-fold increase in terms of broadband capability but the weight, size, and power limitations are severe bottlenecks to further increases.
It is evident that a change in technology both in terms of payload architecture and beamforming realization is necessary and the turn towards photonic technology is inevitable, showing an excellent potential to accommodate efficiently the increased capacity requirements of telecom payloads and at the same time reduce the satellite power consumption, weight and launch cost.
Within the scope of the EU project BEACON, IT was able to demonstrate the first-ever real-time photonic beamformer for processing 4 input Ka-band signals (1Gbit/s QPSK at 28GHz carrier), including an array of modulators, a multi-core optical fiber amplifier, and a silicon photonic integrated beamformer. The photonic processor developed allowed a size reduction by a factor of 5000 compared to other traditional approaches.
Rogério Nogueira (IT Aveiro)