Archives: October 2012

Ka-Band: The Future of Satellite Technology

Posted on Saturday, October 27

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One of the most recent and important trends in the satellite industry is the development of Ka-band.  As the C and Ku bandwidths grow increasingly congested, interest in Ka band for commercial satellite communications has increased globally, and at Norsat we’ve been staying ahead of the trend with new Ka-band product development.

A Bit of Ka-Band History

Early Ka research started in the 1970’s, followed by NASA (ACTS) in 1993. However, development of Ka-band satellites slowed and by 2003 there only a few in orbit.  In 1990’s, as part of a Department of Communications initiative to investigate Ka-band satellite communications in Canada, a small group of engineers and scientists recommended the development of a satellite communications system based upon Multi-Frequency, Time Division Multiple Access (MF TDMA).  The Canadian Space Agency sponsored a joint government/industry initiative,  AdvSat program, which evolved into a major hardware development program lasting from 1997 until 2000.  Norsat was involved in the development of the MF TDMA concept, concentrating mainly on the complex Ka-band RF and antenna technologies emerging with the first to market products in that area.   

In 1996, SES issued an RFP for the development of a commercial DVB-RCS hub and  Norsat was the supplier of the terminal Outdoor Unit (ODU). A commercial contract was signed in 1998 and the full commercial hub was deployed in 2001.  Around that same time EMS Technologies also secured the world’s first production sale of DVB-RCS terminals using Ka-band ODUs supplied by Norsat.

Back to the Future

Ka is now firmly in place with 419 satellites operating in this orbit (as of Jan 2012), covering the frequencies of 26.5–40 GHz, with LNB frequencies banded about varying from the 17.3 to 24.0 KHz ranges.  Norsat chose to “standardize” the 18.2-21.2 GHz range in the LNBs and offer both the 29-30 and 30-31 range in BUCs, although we also do a lot of custom frequencies in LNBs, BDCs and LNAs below, above and within those ranges.  With Wideband Global SatCom System (WGS),  Norsat is currently working on LNBs & BUCs to fill in some of the blanks in specification requirements and frequencies and will offer a full range of products in the low power range, available in 2013.  Don’t touch that dial!

Apart from our COTS and custom products, Norsat is currently working with several companies on special projects involving both BUCs and LNBs with very non-standard frequencies.  One of these projects includes prototypes of the 5W & 10W BUCs and Duo PLL/External Reference LNBs.

Ka-band has several advantages, with perhaps the most significant being the 2-3 GHz increase in bandwidth, which is double available in Ku band and five times more than C band.   Due to the smaller wavelength this also means that Ka-band components are typically smaller, leading to smaller antennas on the same-sized platform. The footprints for Ka-band spot beams can also be made smaller,  facilitating frequency and re-use.

HCS Spot Beam with Frequency and Polarization Re-Use

Coverage & spot beams of Ka-Sat52

For your reference, Microwave frequency bands, as defined by the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB), are shown in the table below:

L band

1 to 2 GHz

S band

2 to 4 GHz

C band

4 to 8 GHz

X band

8 to 12 GHz

Ku band

12 to 18 GHz

K band

18 to 26.5 GHz

Ka band

26.5 to 40 GHz

Q band

30 to 50 GHz

U band

40 to 60 GHz

V band

50 to 75 GHz

E band

60 to 90 GHz

W band

75 to 110 GHz

F band

90 to 140 GHz

D band

110 to 170 GHz

Norsat Operator Training

Posted on Monday, October 22

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Norsat offers a variety of customized training sessions to ensure our customers are completely comfortable setting up, operating and maintaining their satellite terminals and accessories.  Recently we hosted a 7 day DVIDS Technical Maintenance Course in our Vancouver office for a group from the US Marine Corps.  The course provided attendees with the skills and knowledge needed to troubleshoot, perform repairs and properly maintain their DVIDS transmitter systems. As usual, we included a combination of classroom training and hands on experience to ensure trainees left with both technical know-how and practical skills to operate their equipment with success.

The DVIDS team members were excellent students, asking great questions and keeping us on our toes.  They left the training session equipped with new skills and expertise and we wish them all the best as they deploy and use their equipment.  

We also offer on site training courses, like this recent session with the 129th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment.  For more information about Norsat’s onsite or in office training programs and schedule, please contact us

Welcome Director of Operations, Frank So

Posted on Tuesday, October 2

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Norsat recently added a new member to the team: we are delighted to introduce our new Director of Operations, Frank So.  Frank’s education in Engineering and his extensive experience in operations management make him a great fit for Norsat’s busy Operations and Customer service teams and we look forward to his contributions.  To get to know him a little better, we asked him a few questions and welcomed him with a rather unusual Norsat ritual.

What was your first job?
I had a paper route when I was in elementary school.  That was when it was still OK for kids to ride around on their bikes after school and deliver newspaper door-to-door.  After that, I had a job at McDonald’s making big bucks at $3.00/hr.  McDonald’s had a great system in place and the company really evolved with the times and the market.  I learned a lot working for them.

What are you most proud of in your career so far?
One of the bigger accomplishments happened when I was working for Moli Energy in Maple Ridge.  The company had a long history as a R&D center that was losing money through manufacturing.  During the years that I was Operations Manager, I was able to work with the team to turn the business around; part of it was due to good timing in the market and there was a shortage of supply.  The end result was that the company made over $10M CDN over the last 1-1/2 years prior to the recession in late 2008.

What are you most looking forward to working on at Norsat?
I see a lot of opportunities for positive change and I look forward to working with the group to make some strides forward.  Operations has great hard-working team and I’m eager to get the chance to work more closely with them.

How do you think Customer Service fits into the Operations umbrella?
Customer service serves as a gauge to tell us how well our product/service is performing out in the field.  The group can provide great feedback towards continuous improvement.  I know that Norsat is known for it’s great customer service, so I look forward to working with this strength.

What do you think of the state of the communications industry and its future?
I’m far from being an expert in this area, however, like any other industry, customers want things quicker, better and cheaper.  To get out of this circle of somewhat conflicting goals, we need to stay innovative to bring new products and ideas into the market.

Norsat is implementing Lean production practices.   How does this fit into your Operations management philosophy?
I strongly believe in a systematic approach towards management.  With a proper system in place, standardizing processes should become second nature to the entire team with higher efficiency being the end result.  Once a working system is in place, we can work on continuous improvement.  I’m very happy to see the management team at Norsat has full buy-in to the Lean culture.

What are you reading right now?
Recently I just read all three books of the Hunger Game Trilogy – the books are always better than the movies.  I’ll read anything that captures my attention but I’ve had pretty good luck with Oprah’s Picks.

You need to go on holiday tomorrow- where would you go?
I’ll pick some place featured in the National Geographic.

Last week Frank received a traditional Norsat welcome in the form of a surprise Nerf Gun attack.  We’re pleased to report that he survived the attack, and we’re looking forward to his operational expertise.  Welcome!

Welcome Director of Operations, Frank So


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