UCLA Extension

Broadband Mobile Satellite Communications: Systems and Installations Across the MSS and FSS Spectrum

A 3-Day Short Course

The growing demand for broadband/wideband satellite communications (satcom) for mobile and temporary locations has motivated the introduction of technology solutions and network architectures that provide bidirectional connectivity at hundreds of kbps to many Mbps data rates. Current commercial and military applications under highly-dynamic conditions utilize a variety of fixed and transportable satcom terminals as well as newly developed mobile satcom terminals being deployed on aircraft, including jets, helicopters, Unmanned Aeronautical Vehicles (UAVs), and light aircraft; vessels, such as ships and yachts; and many types of land vehicles, including trucks, armored transports, and SUVs.

Complete Details

More than a basic introduction, this course presents details on specific approaches for designing broadband mobile satcom networks at L, C, X, Ku, and Ka bands, and should allow participants to specify and configure major space and ground network elements; evaluate sources of antenna technology, RF electronics, and modem equipment; and select the most appropriate satellite architecture, coverage, and bandwidth. Instruction covers how satellite systems and user terminal equipment can be used to deliver broadband services for a wide range of commercial, civil, and defense applications, including rapid replacement of lost infrastructure after disasters.

Detailed case studies of broadband communications systems at L and C bands for vehicular, aeronautical, and maritime platforms are provided and Ku/Ka-band satcom systems for manned aircraft, as well as UAVs, are examined. The course addresses the delivery of broadband communications on-the-move (COTM) and the integration of COTM satellite terminals with wireless access points and cellular base stations to provide connectivity to portable hand-held devices for disaster recovery and other short-term needs. How satellite systems can interoperate and share spectrum with ground-based cellular infrastructure via the Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) also is described.

Detailed topics include:

  • Design of broadband satellite links at 1.5 GHz and above, including radio wave propagation (based on free-space propagation at L, C, and X bands, and influenced heavily by rain attenuation above 10 GHz); link budget principles; and system-level approaches, such as advanced forward error correction (turbo codes and LDPC), automatic uplink power control, and Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM)
  • Architecture of the space segment, star/mesh networking, multi-beam antenna systems, frequency reuse, narrowband and wideband transponders, regenerative payloads, satellite and ground-based digital signal processing, modems and software defined radios (SDRs), and solid-state microwave electronics
  • Commercial standards for compression, protocol enhancement (for high latency and impaired links), and multiple access methods (TDMA and CDMA)
  • Selection of suitable satellite coverage and RF properties, including transponders in the case of bent-pipe designs, considering coverage, performance, reliability, and cost
  • Configuration of the ground segment using L, C, X, Ku, and Ka frequencies, taking into account the unique aspects of high-transportability, rapid installation, and mobility
  • Special characteristics of mobile platforms on aircraft, ships, and vehicles, including methods of antenna tracking; Doppler compensation and network mobility solutions
  • Typical examples of mobile and temporary broadband networks at L, Ku, and Ka bands

The course is intended for technical professionals, satellite network operators, and emergency managers in the public and private sectors who are exploring the capabilities of satellite networks for mobile and temporary applications. Communications engineers involved with the development and use of all broadband telecommunications media (wired and wireless) should understand the capabilities that modern satellite systems may offer. (Most of these applications involve broadband services, such as multichannel voice and data, digital content distribution, interactive and multimedia networks, and highly secure and controlled communications to a mobile or temporary user community.) Some previous familiarity with microwave and/or satellite communications is desirable.

The lectures are based on the instructors’ many years of experience in the satellite communications field, augmented with current research in the design of space and ground mobile systems that make these bands and locations accessible.

Course Materials

Lecture notes are distributed on the first day of the course. These notes are for participants only and are not for sale.

Coordinator and Lecturer

Bruce R. Elbert, MSEE, MBA, President, Application Technology Strategy, Inc., Thousand Oaks, California; and Adjunct Professor, College of Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison. Mr. Elbert is a recognized satellite communications expert and has been involved in the satellite and telecommunications industries for 40 years. He founded ATSI to assist major private and public sector organizations that develop and operate cutting-edge networks using satellite and other wireless technologies and services. During 25 years with Hughes Space and Communications (now Boeing Satellite Systems), he directed communications engineering of several major satellite projects, including Palapa A, Indonesia’s original satellite system; the Galaxy follow-on system (one of the most successful satellite TV systems in the world); and the development of the first GEO mobile satellite system capable of serving handheld user terminals. Mr. Elbert also worked as a communications engineer for the INTELSAT system and developed link analysis tools while a radio officer in the U.S. Army. He has written seven books on telecommunications and IT, including The Satellite Communication Applications Handbook, Second Edition (Artech House, 2004); The Satellite Communication Ground Segment and Earth Station Handbook (Artech House, 2001); and Introduction to Satellite Communication, Third Edition (Artech House, 2008).


Michael de La Chapelle, MSEE
, Senior Technical Fellow, The Boeing Company, Seattle, Washington. Mr. de La Chapelle has 28 years of experience, including six years as lead system architect for the Connexion by Boeing broadband mobile satcom network. He is currently engaged in designing and architecting broadband mobile satcom networks for government and civil users. He has developed wideband satcom solutions for a wide range of mobile platforms, including commercial jets, business jets, helicopters, UAVs, HMMVWs, Stryker vehicles, yachts, and ships. Mr. de La Chapelle also has designed communication satellite payloads and entire satellite networks with user terminals and ground infrastructure. He is an expert on mobile satellite communication and has published numerous papers, received many patents, and taught classes on the subject. He holds MS and BS degrees from Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, in electrical engineering and applied physics.

Daily Schedule

Day 1

Systems Engineering for Broadband Satellite Communications (Elbert)

  • Current experience with broadband satellite systems
    — Development of Ku and Ka band bent-pipe satellites and applications: DBS (DirecTV) and VSAT networks; services to remote disaster sites, aircraft, and ships
    — Recent Ka-band systems: Anik F2, Astrolink, and Spaceway
    — Government and military systems at X and Ka band: GBS, WGS
  • Frequency allocations and uses
    — X band: specific application for military and government, now addressed by commercial operators (X-star)
    — Ku band: concentrated in developed regions with high demand for broadband services, small antenna terminals (VSATs)
    — Ka band: bandwidth availability, multiple beams to service small antennas and high bandwidths, bent-pipe and on-board processing systems
  • Propagation at higher frequencies: basic link characteristics and link budgets, rain fade, ITU DAH and Crane rain modeling, assessing rain margin and link availability on a global basis
  • Advancements in multiple access, modulation, and forward error correction coding
    — Tradeoffs among TDMA, CDMA, and FDMA; dynamic bandwidth assignment
    — Advanced coding principles (turbo codes, low-density parity check codes)
    — Bandwidth-efficient modulation (8PSK, 16QAM, 32APSK)
    — DVB-S2 specification and applicability
  • Application of currently-operating satellites
    — Satellites available from various operators: SES, Intelsat, Telesat, NewSkies, JSAT, Eutelsat, etc.
    — Criteria for evaluating satellite coverage and performance
    — Issues related to costs, reliability, and transponder loading
  • Overcoming link rain outage: uplink and onboard power control, space and angle diversity, adaptive coding and modulation

Day 2

Earth Stations and Land-Based User Terminals (Elbert)

  • System design methodology
    — Ground antenna systems for major hub and teleport earth stations
    — Power amplification at X, Ku, and Ka bands: TWT, Klystron, and solid state
    — Baseband systems: video, voice, and data
    — Cost and functionality issues when integrating satellite with terrestrial services
  • State of the art in broadband user terminals: standardized architecture and capabilities
    — RF terminals: low noise and power amplifiers
    — Indoor electronics: application requirements, use of the Internet protocol and ATM
    — Star topology using Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs): major suppliers (iDirect, Gilat, Hughes, and ViaSat)
    — Mesh networks: access and bandwidth control; proper transponder utilization; and application integration (video, voice, data)
    — Design of two-way terminals at temporary sites: experience at Ku and Ka bands
  • Vehicular mobile
    — Highly transportable terminals used for temporary and emergency communications
    — Satellite news gathering vehicles
    — “Point-and-shoot” antennas
    — Communication “on-the-move”: systems for military and civilian vehicles
    — Mobile base stations

Aeronautical and Maritime Mobile Satcom Architectures (de La Chapelle)

  • Mobile satcom platforms and network architectures
  • Mobile satellite services and applications
  • Spectrum allocations for mobile satcom services
  • Satellite infrastructure availability (C, Ku, and Ka)
  • Satellite spot beams and frequency reuse
  • Comparison of existing broadband mobile satellite services (data rates, coverage, capacity)
  • Important standards for broadband mobile satcom, including DVB
  • Challenges of low elevation angle operation
  • High-latitude GSO geometry, flight routes, and operational methods
  • Traffic distribution vs. latitude and flight density data

Day 3

Aeronautical and Maritime Mobile Networks and Terminals (de La Chapelle)

  • Link budgets for small mobile terminals
  • Adjacent satellite interference models and calculation methods
  • Modeling platform movement
  • Satellite spatial and polarization acquisition/tracking from mobile platforms
  • Doppler compensation
  • Receiver signal acquisition (frequency/timing synchronization)
  • Transmit power control
  • Regulatory requirements for broadband mobile satcom
  • Ku-band forward link PSD limits
  • PSD reduction methods and spread-spectrum modulation
  • Sharing spectrum with other services
  • Management of ASI from small mobile terminals
  • Satellite resource management and on-demand bandwidth sharing
  • Satcom antennas for aeronautical, terrestrial, and maritime mobile platforms
  • Antenna radomes, feeds, and gimbals
  • Antenna diversity and satellite hand-off to mitigate superstructure blockage
  • Seamless satellite/gateway hand-offs for wide-area mobility
  • Network mobility solutions: packet addressing and routing
  • Protocol Enhancement Proxies (PEPs) and TCP acceleration
  • Radiation safety regulations and compliance methods for mobile platforms
  • Integration of mobile satcom terminals with wireless LANs and cellular base stations for connectivity to users’ inside and outside mobile platforms
  • Waveforms, modems, and Software Defined Radios (SDRs)
  • Case study: Connexion by Boeing broadband mobile satellite network

For more information contact the Short Course Program Office:
shortcourses@uclaextension.edu | (310) 825-3344 | fax (310) 206-2815