Satixfy prepares release of flat panel antennas this year

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WASHINGTON — British and Israeli satellite antenna developer Satixfy says it is nearing the release of flat-panel products designed first for connecting internet of things devices, with variants for other markets following shortly.

Rajanik Mark, Satixfy’s chief operating officer, said the company has created its own chipsets that it can build in-house to bring down the cost of antenna modules for implementation in full user terminals.

Satixfy debuted its core electronically steered antenna in February. In an interview, Mark said Satixfy plans to release a Ku-band terminal based on that antenna this fall optimized for connecting sensors and other internet of things devices, followed by an aeronautical terminal in 2020.

Satixfy is one of around two dozen companies working on flat panel antennas capable of connecting with two or more satellites simultaneously — a feature widely viewed as critical for proposed large constellations of broadband satellites that  would orbit too fast for most if not all dish antennas.

Terminals based on flat panel antennas have historically been too expensive for commercial satellite operators to use, though several companies — Isotropic Systems, ThinKom, Alcan Systems, C-Com and others — are working on models with target prices ranging from around $10,000 to under $1,000 based on application. Wafer, a company backed by OneWeb founder Greg Wyler, is also developing a low-cost terminal.

Satixfy considers itself to have an advantage, Mark said, by building not only the core antenna module, but also modems necessary to build a complete user terminal. By using its own chipsets, Satixfy will be able to offer competitively priced terminals, he said.

“We develop our own silicate, so for us the actual cost of production is not the issue,” he said. “It’s all the development costs that go into it. The price is based on what we feel the market can handle.”

For traditional dish terminals, having one company make antennas and another modems is normal, but that approach is less routine among flat panel developers, Dallas Kasaboski, a senior analyst at Northern Sky Research, said.

“While not unique, SatixFy’s process is a strong one, insofar as they can control the entire process, adapt (theoretically) more quickly to changes necessary, and their chipset approach seems to be allowing them to make highly-efficient systems,” he said by email. 

Mark said Satixfy will be able to offer enterprise-grade terminals — the kind used for connecting large groups of users like computers in an office building — for $10,000, if not less. Those terminals will be available in the fourth quarter of this year, according to the company. Satixfy is not planning to address the consumer broadband market, Mark said, having concluded that competing with dish antennas there will be too difficult.

Satixfy formed a joint venture last year with ST Electronics called JetTalk to develop and market antenna products to the aviation market. Mark said all of Satixfy’s aviation products will be marketed through the joint venture.

Satixfy terminals will use electronic steering instead of mechanical systems to track satellites. Mark said a Satixfy terminal can connect to as many as 32 satellites at once.

“You don’t have a case of make-before-break,” he said, describing a situation unique to non-geosynchronous satellites where an antenna needs to switch links from one spacecraft to another as they rise and set over the horizon. “You would have the signal on all the time. And you could have situations where you may not have [low Earth orbit] coverage … we could in that situation talk to a LEO as well as a GEO simultaneously if they are operating in the same frequency band.”

Mark said Satixfy also plans to develop terminals that support Ka-band satellites, but declined to give a timeline for those products.