European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results
CORDIS

The World's first cost effective, electronically steerable, digital, low profile, phased array antenna to enable high speed satellite communications on the move

Article Category

Article available in the following languages:

A new antenna for a mobile world

The EU-funded PHASOR project is disrupting the mobile communications market with the world’s first cost-effective, electronically steerable, digital, low-profile phased antenna.

Digital Economy icon Digital Economy

Today’s communications infrastructure is incapable of keeping up with society’s demand for faster, more mobile data traffic. To help, the EU-funded PHASOR project has developed the world’s first cost-effective, electronically steerable, digital, low-profile phased antenna to provide high-speed satellite communications on the move. ‘By using innovative alternatives to standard microchip technologies, PHASOR has radically rethought the very idea of the antenna, enabling almost any vehicle surface to send and receive satellite signals,’ says project coordinator David Garrood. ‘As a result, high-bandwidth communications-on-the-move are now faster, cheaper, more reliable and – most importantly – available everywhere.’ Evolving technology Satellite communications requires that a narrow Radio Frequency (RF) beam be focused at the satellite. This is usually accomplished using the iconic satellite dish. However, when either the user or the satellite is moving, keeping the RF beam focused on the satellite becomes extremely difficult. To compensate, standard communications-on-the-move systems use a motorised gimbal that keep the dish pointed at the satellite regardless of how or where the user moves. The problem with this method, however, is that these moving parts require regular maintenance. Enter the use of Phased Arrays Phased Arrays create this pointing, or beam-steering, from an array of tiny fixed antennas. By electronically changing the relative phase for the signal that each element transmits, the combination of all these small signals creates a larger, more focused beam in a particular direction. ‘Because this process is fully electronic, the resulting beam direction can be controlled and directed instantaneously in any direction,’ explains Garrood. ‘It can therefore track the movement of any satellite in the sky regardless of how or where you move and without the need for any mechanical moving parts.’ The challenge with the Phased Arrays solution is that the system is big and expensive. What is needed is a way to miniaturise the technology while maintaining – if not improving – its performance, all while keeping costs down. Redefining the antenna The compact PHASOR antenna system has no moving parts. Instead, it consists of a number of smaller, repeated modules, each of which fits onto two printed circuit boards (PCBs). The upper PCB hosts the array of patch antennas on the front and PHASOR’s patented ASIC microchip on the back. A second back-board provides the system’s power, control and communications. Stacked together, the entire system is less than one inch thick. Because the technology is digital and modular, the antennas can be scaled up without any decrease in performance – all one needs to do is add more modules to the antenna. ‘The more modules that are connected, the larger the antenna area and thus the higher the connection data-rate,’ explains Garrood. Due to its very-low profile and ability to conform, any surface can have the antenna built in – from cars to ships and trains to planes. ‘Since the PHASOR antenna can cover enough area without the downside of drag, weight or visual impact, it meets the multi-megabit connectivity demands of multiple use cases and markets,’ says Garrood. In fact, Garrood believes the PHASOR antenna will gain a substantial share of the EUR 1.185 billion broadband satellite communications-on-the-move market. ‘We predict that we can achieve a 2.5 % market share by 2020, generating EUR 134 million in revenue and creating nearly 800 jobs,’ he says.

Keywords

PHASOR, antenna, mobile communications, phased arrays

Discover other articles in the same domain of application