Flat Panel Antennas (FPAs) are set to disrupt the satellite communications industry as we know it today. This innovative new technology will be the new driver of growth for the industry as it opens up newer applications and markets. It has the potential to bring satellite communication to the end user and make a strong case for mass deployment.
It can do so as it provides all the benefits of a conventional VSAT set-up while eliminating challenges such as ease of use, installation and deployment cost.
Before we get into why FPAs are the next big thing, let’s understand what they actually are. FPAs are essentially smaller, smarter antennas that consist of a dipole placed ahead of a flat panel reflector. These innovative, compact antennas have the potential to transform the satellite communications industry across the globe.
FPAs are smaller than traditional parabolic VSAT antennas. Hence, they do not need a concrete platform like the traditional antenna. FPAs, on an average, have a diameter of 80 cms as opposed to several feet of the latter.
FPAs are extremely lightweight. In addition to being small, they also do not have any moving parts. This ensures the antennas are thin and handy. This also makes them visually appealing as compared to massive conventional structures that can weigh up to 150 kgs post installation.
FPAs are easy to install and can be done by a layman in a matter of few minutes as opposed to parabolic antennas that need an expert technician spending at least 30-60 minutes to have it up and ready
Though the topic of cost is still up for debate, it is safe to say that FPAs are going to be a lot cheaper than parabolic antennas. If we have to put a figure, they can end up costing maybe only 1/10th the price of conventional antennas or even lesser
Though small in size, FPAs are power-packed. They are more accurate and provide better bandwidth efficiency. FPAs can steer electronically, which means they are more capable to maintain constant, uninterrupted satellite communication. Its newer technology can track multiple satellites such as GEO, MEO and LEO satellites, while traditional antennas mostly support GEO.
Even on fixed sites, FPAs provide flexibility and mobility options to move connections when shifting offices or homes. It small size makes it possible to uproot and install in a new space altogether without any hassle.
FPAs can be installed on moving objects such as connected cars, yachts, airplanes, ships, navy vessels and more. It hence has a prominent place in the Internet of Things (IoT) universe. In comparison, parabolic antennas are apt for fixed sites. FPAs can bring satellite communication to the end consumer where traditional antennas are more suited for enterprise customers. Its small size also means it has feasibility in the remotest corners of the world. Hence, it can be rightly said that FPAs have the potential to help the VSAT industry enter newer markets.
The industry is bullish on the transformation FPAs can bring. The potential is great with newer markets and greater reach. We have to now see how the technology evolves and which innovative products come to the market. It’s an exciting time for the satellite communications industry!
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