In addition to this, new High Throughput Satellite (HTS) systems also better enable Ka- and Ku- alike to overcome weather issues, as compared to traditional wide beam systems. Spot beams are ‘hotter’ than conventional wide beams which must spread their energy across a wider area, and therefore have a greater ability to cut through weather. HTS systems are also designed to dynamically adjust their characteristics, such as individual beam power, to account for atmospheric conditions in a particular sub-region.
For applications with the most demanding needs for service availability, another solution is to combine Ka- or Ku-band systems with a lower frequency backup, such as L-band. This hybrid approach is becoming increasingly popular especially for mobility in maritime applications, and enables a terminal to maintain connectivity by using a ‘backup’ frequency during periods of particularly bad weather. The goal for hybrid terminal solutions is to allow for rapid and seamless switching between the L-band and K-band services, so that connectivity is not disrupted.
Geographical availability is another important factor to consider when deciding on a Ku- or Ka- band system. As a legacy band, Ku has witnessed insatiable demand for global broadband services in recent years, and in some geographical regions the available capacity has become exhausted for particular application requirements. For those applications in areas that can’t gain access (or sufficient bandwidth) because services are saturated, Ka- band deployments unlock ‘new’ capacity. Currently, Ka-band services are not as globally available as Ku, however with the launch of new networks such as Inmarsat’s Global Xpress, the band will soon become available on a worldwide scale.
Side Note: Ka Efficiencies for Military Customers
For Military users, Ka has arguably the most benefits and offers notable efficiencies over Ku. For example, Ka-band is the only frequency where the commercial and military bands have been allocated adjacent to each other (29.0-30.0 GHz and 30.0-31.0 GHz respectively), and as a result, military end users can more easily complement their MilSatCom capacity with commercial bandwidth using a single terminal, such as with Skyware Technologies’ ATOM and SKY terminals. Ka-band advocates say that this makes terminal development easier and more affordable, since a simplified terminal design can operate flexibly across a variety of commercial and military resources.
In summary, the Ku- and Ka- frequency bands each have their merits, and it is clear there is no distinctive winner – in the end it is the application requirements and available services that should determine the appropriate band for your operations - be it military, remote office or media broadcast.
Ka-band can offer greater throughput than similar sized Ku systems. This is perfectly suited for customers on the move, and in other applications where terminal size and weight are important factors in making purchasing decisions, such as with military or media organisations.
For more dependable throughput in extreme weather conditions Ku-band wins the battle; the lower frequency range lends itself to a lesser impact by environmental factors. However, as discussed, due to the implementation of new mitigation technologies and availability of hybrid-band systems, Ka-band solutions are able to mitigate adverse weather conditions and maintain a similar level of reliability to their Ku-band counterparts.
As the more established technology platform, Ku is currently available in more regions around the world. However, today many Ku satellites are becoming saturated and so guaranteed levels of service performance may not be available where it is needed for a particular application. As a relatively new phenomenon, Ka-band service is only currently available in select regions, but the with the launch of more satellites and service offerings the situation will likely change in the coming years as Ka coverage catches up with its Ku competitor.