APEX: ThinKom showcases Ku- and Ka-band antennas for IFC

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Bill Milroy, ThinKom Chairman and CTO.
Bill Milroy, ThinKom Chairman and CTO.

ThinKom is keen to demonstrate its ThinAir Ka2517 Ka-band and Ku3030 Ku-band antennas.

Perhaps best known as the manufacturer of Gogo’s 2Ku Ku-band satellite antenna for inflight connectivity, ThinKom says its product portfolio and expertise go way beyond.

ThinKom antennas are currently flying on nearly 750 aircraft on more than 3,000 flights per day, having accrued more than 2,500,000 flight hours.

The company says their low-profile design minimises aerodynamic drag and fuel costs with a radome height of typically less than eight inches.

Bill Milroy, ThinKom Chairman and CEO said leading global satcom providers and mobility customers (including dozens of airlines) consistently choose ThinKom phased arrays for their “industry-leading performance, reliability, efficiency and low-profile form factor”.

“ThinKom’s patented phased-array architecture provides rapid switching speeds without the limitations of electronic scanning antennas in terms of instantaneous bandwidth, low-look-angle performance, power consumption and aperture efficiency,” said Milroy.

“Get Connected” readers may also be surprised to read that a ThinKom KA2517 phased array antenna is even being used by the US Government to access Inmarsat’s GX Aviation Ka-band network.

Commercial GX Aviation users traditionally all use the Honeywell JetWave Ka-band hardware, but Milroy is keen to show that its antennas are compatible with a wide range of platforms.

“We are pretty agnostic when it comes to whether people should choose Ka- or Ku-band,” Milroy said. “I think both are viable and neither systems are going away anytime soon.”

Milroy said that its platforms can also be used with newer low-Earth orbiting (LEO) or mid-Earth orbiting (MEO) satellites.

“Our production-ready antennas operating on GEO services today are also ready now to support future LEO and MEO constellations.”

“For example, the 2Ku-type antenna can be upgraded to work with the OneWeb satellites,” Milroy said. “They are extremely agile systems and can typically switch from one satellite to another in less than one second.

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“People may be surprised by that, but the antennas can easily switch through hundreds of degrees per second.”

“They are also very efficient, typically being two to eight times more efficient than similar sized parabolic dish-type antennas.”

ThinKom has announced the successful completion of the first ground test of its ThinAir Ka2517 Ka‐band phased‐array satellite antenna with the SES’ O3b constellation of medium‐Earth orbit (MEO) satellites.

The test was conducted in August 2018 at ThinKom’s facility in Hawthorne, California, in collaboration with SES Networks.

For the ground test, a vehicle‐mounted ThinKom Ka2517 aeronautical antenna acquired successive O3b MEO satellites at 13‐degree elevation and successfully tracked them for 30‐minute periods while the satellites traversed from west to east.

Milroy said that this flexibility will become more important in a few years when there are a host of LEO and MEO constellations in orbit.

“It would be dangerous to adopt a LEO-only capable system. Airlines need to know that their antenna will work with both LEO, MEO and geostationary satellites,” he said.

“It is good to give airlines more comfort with this compatibility, knowing that two or three years down the line they won’t find they made the wrong decision.”

But what about the relative performance of the flat-panel type antenna? Milroy said that they are capable of “closing links” with a Ka-band or Ku-band satellite that is only eight degrees above the horizon.

“That means they will still work well at high latitudes,” Milroy concluded.

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