CNES To Fund Design of Satellite Broadband Chipsets

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TORONTO — The French space agency, CNES, on Oct. 1 said it had contracted with computer-chip builder STMicroelectronics and Thales Alenia Space to design a chipset for use in future satellite consumer broadband terminals.

Under the 18-month contract, valued at around 7.5 million euros ($9.8 million), STMicroelectronics and Thales will co-invest between 20 million and 30 million euros in a chip to facilitate introduction of France’s THD-Sat project to extend broadband to regions beyond the terrestrial grid.

The CNES investment was made through France’s Program for Investing in the Future (PIA) public bond fund, which among other areas is also investing in new-generation launcher and on-board satellite telecommunications research.

French officials have long expressed frustration that Europe has, up to now, not made as much of an entry into the satellite broadband market as ViaSat Inc. and Hughes Network Systems of the United States.

Satellite fleet operator Eutelsat of Paris uses ViaSat’s technology for its consumer satellite broadband terminals.

“The fact that we are investing such a relatively small portion of the total committed sum gives you an indication that industry believes in the potential” of the Astragan chipset, whose intellectual property rights will remain with STMicroelectronics, a CNES official said.

The Astragan chipset will employ the DVB-S2x transmission standard, with the return path — from the consumer terminal to the satellite — using the DVB-RCS2 standard. Astragan is compatible with Ku- and Ka-band broadcast frequencies, both of which are being used by satellite operators to expand broadband penetration.

The chipsets will permit users video and data-reception speeds of 10 megabits per second uplink and 200 megabits per second downlink, CNES said.