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COTM + SOTM—More mobility, more bandwidth — meeting government requirements
By Dwight Hunsicker, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Government Solutions, Globecomm


In the world today, there is a constant need for information, intelligence and awareness — this is particularly true for military forces who may be deployed anywhere, from large cities to the most remote locations — this is where Communications-On-The Move (COTM) and SATCOM-On-The-Move (SOTM) come into play.

Deployments may be sized from small teams to enterprise-level divisions numbering in the thousands. Satellite network technologies can provide the services, capabilities and infrastructures to furnish U.S. Government customers with connectivity services anywhere in the world in a highly secure and resilient manner.

The insatiable, global demand for broadband connectivity is increasing every day. Communication systems have taken the largest leaps in attempting to keep up with the demands new use cases are placing on the network at large.

Government regulatory commission’s and standard’s groups are working to provision communication spectrum that will support the traffic. The challenge is to support new connectivity requirements and uses of spectrum, while at the same time not diminishing the capacities or services that are currently in place (e.g., video, voice, and Internet Protocol (IP) data.)

A typical satellite network will consist of a hub or teleport with connection via satellite to Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs). The advantages of VSAT technology are clear:

• VSAT services can be deployed anywhere
• VSAT provides a wireless link completely independent of the local terrestrial / wireline infrastructure - especially important for expediency, command & control, as well as backup or disaster recovery services
• VSAT services can be deployed in hours or even minutes, especially true with auto-acquisition antennas
• VSAT enables networks to get the same speeds and SLAs at all locations across their entire network regardless of location
• VSAT systems use onboard acceleration of protocols such as TCP (“spoofing” of acknowledgement packets) and HTTP (pre-fetching of recognized HTTP objects); this delivers high-quality Internet performance and associated user experience regardless of path latency
• VSAT systems use a broadcast download scheme (such as DVB-S2) which enables them to deliver the same content to tens or thousands of locations simultaneously at no additional cost

• VSAT networks are private layer-2 networks over the air providing Corporate-grade security

Looking Forward: Satellite Space Segment
The mature Fixed Satellite System (FSS) will play an important part as a gateway connecting back-haul data using the available C-, X-, Ku- and the emerging Ka- frequency bands to link data centers supporting network management.

The FSS marketplace is also moving into the implementation of High Throughput Satellites (HTS) to increase data delivery capacities. HTS platforms will provide increased capacities and augment the ability of FSS gateways to support larger user communities.

Additional infrastructure provided are Mobile Satellite Systems (MSS) with the implementation of Medium Earth Orbit, and Low Earth Orbit (MEO, LEO) platforms using L-band frequencies and the promising newer HTS Ku and Ka-band LEO constellations coming to market in the coming years.

The MSS interface is the cross over point from the terrestrial cellular system. This interface provides the dual-mode connectivity that supports coverage gaps that are a part of the cellular infrastructure. The following table summarizes the satellite types that we estimate will be used in the future:

Satellite Orbit Types
With the diverse requirements of mobility, the solutions that are available to fit the needs of Rolling, Floating and Flying use cases do not currently have a single solution.

The solution options will require the integration of fixed radio networks (WiFi, low power/narrow band, etc...), cellular and satellite in multi-mode, hybrid connectivity scenarios, depending on the data throughputs required. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1.

Looking Forward: Implications of HTS
Also needed for consideration is the advent of high-throughput satellites (HTS) that enable network service providers to offer a new generation of communications solutions.

HTS systems combine the exceptional spectrum efficiency and performance of spot-beam antennas with ultra-wideband transponders to enable unprecedented levels of bandwidth and throughput. Each spot beam reuses frequencies in multiple carriers so that a single HTS spacecraft can provide five to ten times the capacity of traditional satellites. For the customer, this provides the potential to dramatically increase data rates, greater than 100 Mbps to a single site, and improve application performance compared to traditional satellite based communications.

The Government and its end users need to be advised of the limitations associated with HTS space segment.

• The multiple spot beam approach could limit the opportunity to provide a one to many distribution covering a wide area like we have with traditional VSAT networks. Other requirements may involve a private TDMA-type network comprised of numerous remote terminals spread across an Area of Responsibility (AoR). In order to achieve this, End Users would have to use multiple uplinks from the various hub ground stations managing the specific geographic spot beams. They are typically charged by a consumption model rather than bandwidth which will typically increase costs.

• Along this same train of thought, the HTS satellites also require ground infrastructure to manage them removing the typical bent-pipe scenario of legacy satellites; i.e. your communication must land at the satellite operators’ ground stations then be routed to you. The benefit of HTS comes in delivering a broadband signal to a geographic region within a single spot beam or delivery of broadband for mobile applications where the network will have switching capability from spot beam to spot beam. Good for communications-on-the-move, less so for other wide-area networking requirements.

Despite this tremendous potential, there is a great deal of misperception and lack of understanding about these new technologies among both customers and the industry at large. This is compounded by marketing exuberance from some satellite fleet operators with their own specific and often proprietary flavors of these emerging technologies.

Customers and satellite network service providers alike need an unbiased engineering perspective on the features, benefits and trade-offs of emerging HTS technologies.

Figure 2.

Looking Forward: Modems and Antennas
For the modem and VSAT management systems, manufacturers are rapidly developing new modems equipped with the latest technologies to support technologies like HTS as well as creating greater bandwidth efficiencies.

These technologies will help in providing a stable and secure connection between hub and remote with high throughput availability. These benefits are further highlighted in Figure 2.

For mobility use cases that require a dual-mode satellite connection to sustain their data connectivity, the emerging arena of malleable flat panel antennas offer promising benefits in terms of vehicle integration, installation flexibility, size, weight & power, and cover. These antennas offer sizing to achieve the desired signal quality for both transmit and receive of satellite signals, while at the same time allowing for conformal installation to the body of the vehicle, vessel or aircraft due to the malleable nature of the panel material.


For consumers and producers of broadband connectivity, these truly are exciting times — with the continual evolution of technology, providing more with less energizes the industry and the end user reaps the benefits.

As the evolution occurs from point-to-point voice to integrated data networks, to highly sophisticated command and control as well as surveillance networks, to the current state of the Internet of Things, the envelope must continually be pushed to expand throughput, increase connectivity and enhance the overall user experience.

Dwight R. Hunsicker has more than 28 years of experience in sales, marketing and business development activities associated with communications networks, products, and services for Government. Since joining Globecomm in 2001, he has helped build the company’s Government business base such that it represents more than 50% of the company’s revenue. He is responsible for setting the overall go-to-market strategy in terms of positioning the company’s products and services within the Government market space. He manages a team of business development and sales professionals that cover the DoD, Intel, Foreign Affairs, and Civilian sectors within the Government market.

Mr. Hunsicker came to Globecomm Systems from WorldLinks Incorporated which he co-founded to provide professional engineering / consulting services to domestic, international and US Government clients. At WorldLinks, Mr. Hunsicker and his organization were responsible for the development and implementation of numerous communications systems, focusing on terrestrial wireless and satellite communications technologies. Mr. Hunsicker personally focused on developing unique business strategies for companies and Governments advising them on how to apply information technology and communications technologies to optimize their needs.