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Unlocking the Potential of 5G Satellite Spectrum Monitoring

 

In our current digital landscape, the electromagnetic spectrum stands out as an invaluable yet increasingly crowded resource.

 

The escalating demand for bandwidth-intensive services underscores the urgency of maximizing spectrum efficiency while minimising interference. This is where spectrum monitoring and management step in, allowing operators and regulators to monitor signal performance and optimise spectrum utilization. Satellite operators have strategically adopted Q band (33 – 50 GHz) and V band (40 – 75 GHz) links for two key purposes: deploying Very High Throughput Satellites (VHTS) and bolstering cellular broadband networks. VHTS systems, specifically tailored for direct-to-home (DTH) internet access, make efficient use of the Q/V bands for feeder uplink and downlink communications. This reserved utilisation of the Ka band is geared toward serving end users, with the ultimate aim of substantially boosting user bandwidth, potentially by a factor of ten. The mounting congestion in traditional lower-frequency bands, combined with concerns about regulatory spectrum reallocation for 5G, has prompted a migration to higher-frequency bands like Q/V. These bands offer not only available spectrum but also significantly enhanced data throughput, presenting a promising opportunity.

 

   Figure 1Figure 1: Satellite earth station

 

Spectrum management has a clear goal: to maximize spectrum efficiency, minimize interference, and eliminate unauthorised spectrum use. Spectrum monitoring acts as a key enabler in this process.

 

Key Objectives of Satellite Spectrum Monitoring

Satellite monitoring primarily serves two critical objectives:

 

(a) Evaluating Satellite Resource Utilization: By monitoring and analysing resource usage, satellite operators can identify opportunities for optimising their spectral efficiency, minimising interference, and ensuring the best possible service quality for end-users.

 

(ii) Detection and Resolution of Interference: Whether it’s intentional or unintentional radio frequency interference (RFI), identifying and locating problematic sources is vital in improving the reliability of satellite communications.

 

For years, satellite communications predominantly relied on Ku/Ka frequency bands, which are now saturated. This saturation, coupled with the complexities of frequency coordination and the insatiable need for communication capacity and bandwidth, has prompted satellite operators to venture into higher-frequency bands. The Q/V bands, in particular, provide a breath of fresh air, potentially offering more than double the available bandwidth compared to Ka-band resources. Additionally, Q/V bands present alternative gateway frequencies, relieving the pressure on existing Ka-band arrays.

The satellite industry has a history of spectrum sharing, but the surging demand for broadband connectivity has magnified the challenges associated with interference mitigation and spectrum monitoring.

 

Empowering Spectrum Monitoring with Farran

 

To meet the demands of commercial operations in the Q and V bands, mm-wave spectrum monitoring solutions are essential. Enter Farran, a reputable Irish provider of standard and custom systems, sub-systems, and components for Test & Measurement and Research Applications. Farran’s expertise in Test & Measurement frequency extension systems, including the spectrum/signal analyser (SAE) frequency extension solutions and harmonic mixers, is invaluable for businesses operating in the satellite spectrum monitoring and management industry, whether they are in the early developmental stages or fully operational.

As we navigate the complex landscape of spectrum management, satellite spectrum monitoring supported by cutting-edge technology from companies like Farran, becomes the linchpin in the quest to optimise spectrum usage, reduce interference and ensure a seamless experience for users of bandwidth-intensive services.

 

  1. Farran’s Spectrum Analyser Frequency Extension Solution (SAE)

 

Farran’s SAE is a family of frequency extension modules used for extending the range of RF/Microwave spectrum and signal analysers such as PXA, MXA, UXA and EXA equipped with external mixing option, to frequencies ranging from 50 GHz to 500 GHz, in waveguide bands from WR-15 to WR-2.2. These extender modules offer a full band coverage and a very low system conversion loss, as well as an exceptional sensitivity. Depending on the type of the spectrum/signal analyser used, the SAE modules can be configured to operate with low or high LO frequency signals supplied by the analyser in an IF range of 10 to 2200 MHz Farran’s SAE come with a dedicated AC/DC power supply that provides the required voltage and meets the maximum current requirements of each extender in the SAE family. Fig 2 depicts a typical satellite monitoring system with Farran’s SAE.

 

Figure 2   Figure 2: Typical satellite monitoring system block diagram

 

SAE Modes of Operation

Farran’s Spectrum Analyser frequency extension modules can also be configured to operate as block up- and down-converters. Figure 3 summarises the SAE-XX modes of operation.

 

Figure 3Figure 3: Farran’s SAE modes of operation

 

  • In this mode, similar to a standard harmonic mixer but with much improved performance, the module is used to extend the operational range of commercially available spectrum/signal analysers. The analyser’s swept internal LO source is used to drive the extension module while the spectral data analysis is performed at a fixed IF frequency by the analyser.
  • In this mode, the module requires an additional swept LO signal source that allows for down-conversion of a block of the RF signal spectrum to an intermediate frequency range within the IF bandwidth of the module. Such signal is supplied to the RF input of the analyser that performs data processing. By varying the LO signal frequency different blocks of frequencies of the RF operational bandwidth can be analysed.
  • In this mode the unit up-converts the block of intermediate frequency IF signals to the block of RF signals in the RF operational frequency of the SAE module. The external LO synthesiser is used to drive the SAE module. The up-converted frequency block is generated at both lower- and upper-sidebands of the effective LO frequency, and external filters and amplifiers can be further used to condition such generated RF signals.

 

  1. mm-Wave Harmonic Mixers (WHMB)

Harmonic mixing stands as the predominant technique for extending frequency coverage beyond 40 GHz in mm-Wave spectrum analysis. Most spectrum analyser manufacturers have tailored their instruments to seamlessly incorporate external mm-Wave harmonic mixers. These mixers excel at upconverting the signal by generating higher harmonics, thereby enabling the analysis of frequencies in the Q/V bands and beyond. By harnessing the capabilities of harmonic mixers, spectrum analysers can effectively evaluate the performance of Q/V band satellite transponders, gauge signal quality, and pinpoint issues like interference or signal degradation. This capacity is pivotal in upholding the reliability and quality of satellite communication services.

Farran’s WHMB is a family of harmonic mixer components used for general frequency down-conversion purposes as well as for extending the range of microwave spectrum and signal analysers to frequencies ranging from 26.5 GHz to 500 GHz, in waveguide bands from WR-28 to WR-2.2. These components operate at even harmonic numbers of LO signal and require no bias. They offer full band coverage and low conversion loss, and are available in 2- as well as 3-port configuration.

 

Figure 4Figure 4: Farran’s WHMB-19-0001 (40 – 60 GHz) harmonic mixer

 

Closing Remarks

The utilisation of mm-Wave spectrum/signal analyser frequency extension solutions in 5G satellite spectrum monitoring is indispensable for the maintenance and success of satellite communication systems. By expanding the frequency range of spectrum/signal analysers, satellite operators and regulatory bodies can effectively manage satellite services, detect interference, ensure compliance, and maintain the integrity of satellite communication. These tools are instrumental in the fast-paced and ever-evolving world of satellite technology, ensuring that we stay connected through satellite services with optimal efficiency and reliability.

At Farran, we are committed to providing our customers with cost-effective, application-specific standard products, and customized mm-Wave solutions tailored to meet customer requirements in terms of cost, test time, and measurement reliability.

 

Contact us today to explore how we can assist you in selecting the ideal product or solution that perfectly aligns with your needs.

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