Dish farms are massive arrays of uplink and downlink parabolic dishes in a teleport which communicate with orbiting geostationary satellites. The dishes are huge, typically measuring 7-10 metres across, and very expensive. Moreover, even the specifically designed tracking antennas (usually of about 3 metres across) are of limited use for handling signals to or from low-orbiting satellites moving across the sky at high speed.
A California company, ThinKom Solutions, believes it has the patented technology to replace these dishes with its multi-beam phased-array gateway antenna. It describes the concept as ‘an array of arrays’ which look passive but in fact have independently steerable and reconfigurable beams to simultaneously.
Moreover, their technology allows multiple beams to be used in different directions at the same time.
The benefits are significant. Their systems have no complex drive mechanisms, or heavy reflectors and claim to need “far less” maintenance than parabolic dishes. ThinKom says that one of their 37-element arrays is roughly equivalent to four 2.4m parabolic dishes.
ThinKom is already supply aircraft and maritime variations of its arrays with 1200 systems installed with more than a dozen airlines.