A new satellite terminal the size of a pizza box could allow remote users to connect to high-speed internet – at speeds up to 10 times faster than they currently have.
High-speed internet in remote areas of Australia – and the rest of the world – is usually the stuff of dreams. Even regular internet access can be notoriously bad, with residents relying on poor satellite connections to get online.
But a University of Queensland researcher, in collaboration with Brisbane-based company EM Solutions, is developing a new satellite terminal technology that could allow users to connect at speeds up to 10 times faster.
Dr Yifan Wang, from the University of Queensland’s School of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, is developing a compact, low-profile, low cost Ka-band antenna to communicate with a low Earth orbit satellite.
Currently, residents need to use ground terminals to help connect to the internet, which can be hit and miss. But Wang’s project uses a more accessible flat panel antennae.
The antenna terminal is small enough to be installed on the roof of a house or even on top of a car or an unmanned aerial vehicle to provide mobile access.
The antenna terminal would work by connecting with low orbiting satellites. As the satellites are relatively close to Earth – as little as 160 km away – faster data speeds can be achieved.
This could be a big win for remote areas, with many residents currently relying on satellite communication, which has its challenges.
“A geo-stationary satellite is very far from the earth, which requires a very large antenna dish to be installed,” Wang said.
He has looked at several different options, such as using a parabolic dish and reflectarray design. However, both these approaches are generally rejected by communities because of the weight, size and cost of the antennas. The other option was a reconfigurable flat panel antenna.
“That means the antenna itself is fixed and stationary – it’s not rotated entirely by mechanical arms – but the beam-forming capability is realised by the internal reconfiguration of the antenna,” Wang said.