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Samsung backs broadband mini satellites

The head of Samsung Research America (SRA) is firmly backing the idea of a constellation of small satellites to girdle the Earth, and provide low-cost Internet for the planet’s underserved consumers. Samsung’s idea is to have 4600 small satellites circling the planet.

As well as the already existing O3b twelve-satellite constellation that’s up and working, and backed in part by satellite giant SES, other recent giant constellation proposals have come from a consortium including Sir Richard Branson while another is being researched by billionaire (and co-founder of PayPal) Elon Musk.

Farook Khan, head of SRA, has published a research paper suggesting that such a constellation, using millimetre wave technology – and already backed by his South Korean parent company for 5G cellular phones – could have huge benefits.  It is generally thought that millimetre wave technology could be the future ‘standard’ for 5th Generation cellular (5G).

SRA is based in the heart of ‘Silicon Valley’ at Samsung’s Mountain View R&D centre, but Mr Khan works out of Samsung’s SRA-Dallas centre, and says that using this 5G cellular technology on satellites would simply Internet and broadband-by-satellite access and reduce the costs of the constellation.

Samsung reckons that there could be as much as 100 GHz of millimetre wave spectrum available, which is around 200 times what mobile cellular networks use today. This would permit a huge increase in data traffic.  But – as always – there’s a problem: millimetre waves don’t like solid walls, or even glass, which is not good news for cell-phones being used indoors. The solution says Samsung’s engineers sis to overcome these challenges by using an array of multiple antennas to concentrate radio energy in a narrow, directional beam, thereby increasing gain without upping transmission power. Such beam-forming arrays, long used for radar and space communications, are now being used in more diverse ways, and include matchbook-sized devices that act like a powerful searchlight, focusing the signal to where it is needed.

Khan and his team filed their first patent covering aspects of the technology back in 2010.

SRA-Dallas researches aspects of life concerning the Internet of Things, advanced wireless signal processing and wireless communications in general.

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