The Gatehouse Satcom Developed BGAN Protocol Stack Now Supports Carrier Aggregation 

Carrier aggregation is a technology that significantly enhances the speed of connections by optimizing how data traffic is managed across the network. This approach is particularly valuable for the L-Band frequency, which is extensively used in mobile satellite communications. Carrier aggregation allows the Viasat network, operating on the L-Band, to handle multiple data streams simultaneously, increasing bandwidth dramatically. This setup supports both sending (uplink) and receiving (downlink) data applying multiple channels at the same time, resulting in some of the fastest data connections available for L-Band systems. 

The Significance of Carrier Aggregation

Carrier aggregation serves several vital functions: 

  • Enhanced Data Speeds: By combining multiple frequency bands, the network can deliver higher data speeds to its users. This is crucial for applications requiring real-time data transfer and high-bandwidth operations, such as video streaming, ‘office in the sky’, and secure government communications. 
  • Improved Spectrum Efficiency: Satellite spectrum is a scarce resource. Carrier aggregation makes it possible to use this spectrum more efficiently, thereby supporting more users and data traffic without requiring additional spectrum allocation. 
  • Greater Coverage and Reliability: Carrier aggregation can help in improving the signal quality and coverage, especially in remote areas. This is particularly important for a network which aims to provide consistent and reliable global service. 
  • Flexibility and Scalability: With carrier aggregation, bandwidth allocations can be adjusted dynamically, based on current demand and conditions. This flexibility is vital for adapting to varying user needs and traffic patterns across different regions and times. 

Implementation Challenges 

The introduction of carrier aggregation has added more complexity to the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service. Now, devices using this service must be capable of managing multiple channels simultaneously. These channels are dynamic, meaning they can be added, removed, and adjusted as necessary. Devices must compile data received from different channels into a single stream and distribute outgoing data across several channels. Additionally, the presence of multiple channels increases the complexity of switching connections (handover) between network beams and satellites. To address this increased complexity and new functionality, Gatehouse Satcom has updated its BGAN Protocol Stack to support BGAN Carrier Aggregation. 

Off-Air Testing of Carrier Aggregation  

Given the intricacies involved, off-air testing (testing devices without connecting to the live network) is more crucial than ever. Testing of Carrier Aggregation is therefore also on the roadmap to be supported in the BGAN Application Tester and BGAN Network Emulator, to be released ultimo 2024. This ensures that both manufacturers and users can verify device capabilities in handling these advanced features. By integrating carrier aggregation into the BGAN protocol stack and corresponding test suite, Gatehouse Satcom ensures that the BGAN products are aligned with the latest specifications and facilitates thorough testing of the enhanced and dynamic bandwidth capabilities. 

Authored by

Søren Rønnest
VP Satcom Technology

Connect with Søren on LinkedIn

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