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Satellite Uplinks For the Masses 49

Posted by timothy
from the let's-see-the-pricetag-for-the-masses dept.
kgeiger writes "Intellectual Ventures has spun out Kymeta to develop and mass-produce their mTenna product line. mTennas are based on metamaterials like the invisibility cloaks discussed on Slashdot and elsewhere. Metamaterials enable beam-steering that ensures an mTenna remains in contact with satellites even during motion. Kymeta will use 'established lithographic techniques' to make them. IMHO, these antennas may be as big a leap for mobile computing and remote communications as the invention of fractal antennas was for mobile phones."
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Satellite Uplinks For the Masses

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  • This is a great idea, and I hope trains/planes/etc start using things like this. Building beam forming devices is something of a hobby for me. (I built a simple microphone array for "steering" audio recording.)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    IMHO, these antennas may be as big a leap for mobile computing and remote communications as the invention of fractal antennas was for mobile phones.

    Sorry to be brash, but IMHO, you shouldn't be talking about things of which you have no knowledge. There's nothing new here. Phased array stripline antennas have been done to death. To death.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    News at 11.

  • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @01:19PM (#41097897)

    Is this the same notorious patent troll owned by former microsoft bazillionaire Nathan Myhrvold? The company that makes nothing but taxes just about everybody in the tech world and claims to be doing God's Work [techdirt.com] by not actually selling a mosquito-killing laser gun?

    • by kybur (1002682)

      I thought of the mosquito killing laser gun years before they did.

      I'm sure the reason they are not actually selling it, is that it occasionally sets nearby trees on fire when it misses a shot. My version won't start fires, but I'd be crazy to try to bring it to market knowing that the product would be in I.V.'s sights from the get go.

      Way to kill innovation guys!

      • by Jeng (926980)

        Anonymously put the plans online for free.

        It might not make you money, but it won't make them any money either.

  • by rgbe (310525) <simonwerner.gmail@com> on Thursday August 23, 2012 @01:26PM (#41098007)

    This is just a phased array antenna (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phased_array). The applications of a phased array allow you to have a direct "beam" to the transmitting tower, which means that you can use significantly less power, and possibly transmit over a larger distance. The idea has been around for a long time, almost 100 years.

    It will be interesting if they get this to work, especially for mobile devices like laptops and mobile phones, because when you move your phone you need to immediately redirect the signal "beam" towards the transmitter / receiver. If you miss, you lose your signal. Not only that, calculating the direction of the beam and requires you to regulate frequency and intensity of hundreds of the transmitters on the phased array, this calculation will create a superposition of waves in one direction and cancellation of the waves in the other in the other directions. Hence a "beam" in one direction. The calculation of direction of the "beam" is computationally intensive, but I presume it could be optimised using a lot of hard coding.

  • For the masses? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by element-o.p. (939033) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @01:45PM (#41098221) Homepage
    From TFS:

    IMHO, these antennas may be as big a leap for mobile computing and remote communications as the invention of fractal antennas was for mobile phones.

    I suspect not, actually.

    There are certainly cases where this could be a useful technology, especially in rural or remote areas. I happen to live in a state (Alaska) that has far more area NOT covered by cellular or WiFi hot spots than IS covered by them, so I can certainly see niche use-cases for this tech. Yet I'm still skeptical that this is going to be a game-changer for mobile computing.

    I rather suspect the author of TFS has never actually *USED* satellite links for any kind of Internet activity. About two years ago, the company I work for used satellite Internet to connect to a number of remote field sites. As a network administrator, I got the dubious pleasure (hah!) of trying to maintain routers, switches and even a couple of servers on the far side of that satellite link. CLI connections, like SSH, were slow...sometimes painfully so. GUI connections, like remote desktop or VNC required large doses of valium to even be tolerable (I kid, but not by much). Just to show that I'm not a high-bandwidth prima donna, I was using -- and reasonably happy with -- a 768k x 320k DSL line for my home Internet connection at the time.

    Trust me -- if you have 3G, 4G or WiFi connectivity, I guarantee you will use it rather than satellite Internet. You won't save money by using satellite, and you will be very, very disappointed with your throughput.

    • I've been very disappointed with 3G and 4G connectivity in many places... Even with excellent radio signal, I've had similar experiences trying to perform remote administration. Congestion on cellular can be crazy these days. A 1G link without congestion would be preferable to this...

      There are locations that my employer is considering having a point-of-presence with a need for access to email and a couple of Citrix XenApp applications. The only thing apparently available is satellite, and I loathe the th

    • by finity (535067)
      Well, if you were talking to a geosat satellite, those are way out there in orbit. Fast electrically steerable antennas may allow comms with low earth orbit satellites, which would lower latency.
  • by Mister Whirly (964219) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @01:47PM (#41098239) Homepage
    Invisibility cloak? I'll believe it when I see it...
  • by Lumpy (12016) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @02:22PM (#41098797) Homepage

    Ham radio operators have been working satellites for decades with cheap TV antenna rotors. you can EASILY build an X/Y tracker out of two used antenna rotors and build the simple Helical antennas and talk to the guys on the ISS or work several of the ham radio satellites that are up in the sky and have been there for a long time now.

    This antenna tech is neat, but it's not going to make any differences. Mobile computing will stay terrestrial or Geosync. Having owned and used an iridium phone, you do not need a special tracking antenna to have phone service anywhere on the planet, what you need is for the craptastic satellites to be replaced with something that can handle more than 56K of bandwidth per connection.

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      This antenna tech is neat, but it's not going to make any differences. Mobile computing will stay terrestrial or Geosync. Having owned and used an iridium phone, you do not need a special tracking antenna to have phone service anywhere on the planet, what you need is for the craptastic satellites to be replaced with something that can handle more than 56K of bandwidth per connection.

      There is a significant difference between using a pair of ten pound rotators to follow a satellite in a known orbit from a fixed loclation, and trying to follow a fixed satellite from a moving platform. One allows for pre-calculation of the aim; the other requires constant adjustment and fast reaction.

      Part of the issue of the "craptastic" sattelites is that the bandwidth you can get over a radio link depends on the noise on that link. You might notice that the high-bandwidth connections use something larg

      • And no, you can't just move the antenna up to the satellite end of the system because the more directional the antenna up there, the smaller the footprint it can cover.

        What some operators have started doing is putting phases arrays on the sattelites allowing them to produce loads of narrow beams. This both improves the radio performance of the link to any individual user and allows frequency reuse across the sattelites footprint.

  • This works the problem from the wrong end. Are they going to invent FTL communications too in order to deal with speed of light lag over the 22,000 miles out to geostationary orbit?

    If you want decent 2-way satellite communications (i.e. Internet via satellite) the way to do it is with a low earth orbit constellation. If you're only shooting a few hundred miles your antenna problems basically go away: 10 watts and a 120 degree beam get you there. Better: you don't compete for bandwidth with the rest of the c

  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday August 23, 2012 @03:07PM (#41099557) Homepage

    This is actually rather neat. It's a steerable phased array antenna without the phase shifters or delay lines.

    If this technology could be adapted to millimeter and submillimeter radar for automotive collision avoidance, it could accelerate the adoption of automatic driving technology. This is a technology that allows conformal antennas, so antennas can be placed behind plastic body parts. For automatic driving to be acceptable automotive design, the sensor suite has to be almost invisible. The Velodyne rotating scanner on the roof is not going to be acceptable. But if the forward looking long range gear was behind the rear view mirror, and the side and rear looking sensors were conformal arrays under body panels, the technology would be almost invisible.

    Meanwhile, the technology can be used to replace those mechanically steered TV satellite dishes found on top of RVs.

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