Project: Creation of an innovative shaped (non-planar) Phased Array Antenna for Mobile Broadband Communications.

An important factor in attracting future passengers to aircraft, high speed trains and other automotive passenger carrier services will be the provision of reliable, wireless broadband Internet (communication and entertainment) services throughout the journey. The best way to provide such services is via a single satellite transceiver shared by all of the passengers, rather than each passenger establishing a 3G telephony connection and then relying on the high speed hand-over between a succession of mobile phone base stations. Indeed, for aircraft, the use of mobile phones in not allowed and any mobile system will only work when flying over land. Phasor Solutions Ltd (PSL), are currently working to provide wireless Broadband Internet and Entertainment service solutions to leading European railway companies for train passengers. A number of broadband internet systems for ground-based and air transportation are currently being developed and brought to the global market._x000D__x000D_The World Airline Entertainment Association forecasts that the market for in-flight communications and live entertainment will grow from $50 million today to $9.6 billion by 2016, fuelled by wider use and the growth of air passenger traffic. The market is currently only at its starting point, with massive potential to expand. However, this market expanse can only be achieved if technologies such as Phasor’s are brought to the market. The estimated global market for train-based broadband systems will be ~€ 1.5 billion by 2012 and € 2.6 billion in 2015._x000D__x000D_Recently there have been a number of companies bringing systems to the market including Row 44 (USA) (a mobile phone based system which is only useful over land and has limited speed). Newer satellite based systems are now being brought to market such as Onair (SITA and Airbus), Inmarsat SwiftBroadBand and Aircell (USA). _x000D__x000D_These two-way satellite communication systems require high gain antenna to operate. Currently most of these systems are based on relatively flat parabolic reflector antennae. However, there are a number of critical limitations to the use of parabolic reflectors that prevent their widespread usage across the EU in terms of: mechanical beam alignment and tracking, reliability, weight, robustness and shape (in terms of aerodynamic profile and clearance). Phased array antennae are being proposed as viable alternatives. Phased array antennae have significant benefits in comparison to mechanically driven parabolic dish antennas, including; higher reliability (no moving parts), flat low profile (minimal aerodynamic and space constraints), and robustness (far less susceptible to bird strikes). Phased array antennas are thus able to overcome the limitations of the parabolic reflector systems. However, they have only found very limited applications for mobile communications due to their excessive cost. Using current technology, the cost of the phased array antenna (typically based on Gallium Arsenide, GaAs) system can easily be in excess of €1 million, which is prohibitively expensive._x000D__x000D_PSL are in the process of developing non-planar phased array antennae by implementing novel high frequency process technology on Silicon-Germanium (SiGe), to replace the use of expensive Gallium-Arsenide (GaA). Initial research work has shown that these systems have the potential to achieve a similar performance to existing phased arrays but at a fraction of the cost (€20k - €100k per system). If this could be achieved, then this would allow us to offer cheap and reliable broadband systems to aircraft, train and other mobile transport operators._x000D_The Eurostars consortium consists of 6 organisations:_x000D_1. Phasor Solutions Ltd (SME, UK) – Design and integration of the phased antenna arrays._x000D_2. Dyconnex (SME, Switzerland) – Board design and integration._x000D_3. BitSim (SME, Sweden) – Connector supplier and sub-system integration._x000D_4. CSEM (Research Provider, Switzerland) – Creation, testing and validation of the ASICs._x000D_5. Acreo (Research Provider, Sweden) – Design and manufacture of the antenna top-board._x000D__x000D_The target revenues for the consortium are € 47.1 million in 2012 and €127.0 in 2015. Our initial route to market for the train sector will be through Phasor who will supply the antenna as a part of the 21Net broadband solution already on the market and which as been installed on Société Nationale des Chemins de fer Français (SNCF) and Thalys trains in Europe. SNCF have agreed that they will provide a train for the purpose of validating the proposed non-planar phased array antenna. Exploitation of the commercial aircraft market will be achieved through Ping with in-flight broadband providers after the solution has been adopted in the train market.

Acronym PhasedCom (Reference Number: 5518)
Duration 01/10/2010 - 30/11/2012
Project Topic The development of an innovative shaped (non-planar) antenna based on novel, low cost, phased array technology providing high speed broadband internet connections for aircraft, trains and other mobile communication platforms such as automotive applications.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
At Acreo we supported SME Phasor Solutions with a novel patch antenna design for their phased array communications system. The design was made by utilizing EM field simulation software which showed that the nominal performance could meet the requirements of the system. To achieve sufficiently high bandwidth (1.8GHz) with a radiating planar patch requires bandwidth enhancing techniques. Acreo employed the use of a multi-layer L-probe feeding mechanism and a carefully engineered substrate stackup to achieve a 2.25GHz (19%) RX bandwidth according to simulations. To achieve low cost, low-cost FR4 materials were used to design, fabricate and characterize the performance of the antenna design. Measurement results showed that bandwidth requirements could be met, however more work is required to optimize the design for production. The design has been incorporated into Phasor Solutions top board in array format with 512 radiating elements which will constitute the phased array antennas for the system.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 4

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
5 CSEM SA Partner Switzerland
5 Phasor Solutions Ltd Coordinator United Kingdom
5 BitSim AB Partner Sweden
5 DYCONEX AG Partner Switzerland
5 Acreo AB Partner Sweden