MIMO test environment for satellite RF links

March 17, 2014 // By Christoph Hammerschmidt
During a multi-year study with the European Space Agency (ESA), Finnish electronics and software group Elektrobit (EB) has developed a test environment for multiple antennas (MIMO) in satellite communications. This software-defined radio based environments is now available to satellite operators and infrastructure vendors, enabling them to scrutinize RF link performance.

MIMO is regarded as one of the most important techniques for radio communications — it helps to increase capacity and reliability of such radio links. While in terrestrial communication standards, MIMO is already widely accepted, in satellite communications it still has to be adopted. In the ESA study EB fathomed out if and to which extend could be beneficial in the context of satellite communications. To this end, the company carried out a literature study, followed by computer simulations and laboratory experiments with an existing satellite system.

The MIMO test environment devised in this context is based on an earlier development, also by EB: RACE, a software-defined radio platform for the development, evaluation and demonstration of wireless technologies. The RACE platform connects computer simulations to existing RF interfaces and provides a smooth transition from simulation up to real-world implementation in small, controllable steps. The test environment also includes a sophisticated radio channel emulator.

The benefits of the MIMO technology for satellite communications can be regarded as proven, said Jarno Majava who oversees EB's Wireless Segment. He added that the test environment at hand also is useful for other use cases such as studying new waveforms.