TNO is working with industry on data communication via the optical spectrum
Data traffic is growing exponentially; the need for bandwidth is constantly requiring huge investments in networks, but by no means all areas can be covered worldwide. What is needed is an unconventional, smart solution. TNO has taken the initiative to redesign satellite communication technology.
Satellite communication is still expensive, relatively narrow-banded and the security of the data traffic is often insufficient. Such drawbacks are inextricably linked to the current technology of the radio frequency spectrum (RF). TNO, in cooperation with industry and other partners, wants to realise data communication via the optical spectrum.
That would wipe out all the disadvantages of RF at a stroke and, moreover, broadband Internet traffic would also be within reach in remote areas. But technologically, the challenges are enormous. Commercial satellite communication is still based entirely on RF and the switch to the optical spectrum would be revolutionary in every respect. This technological breakthrough is comparable to the development of extreme ultraviolet light (EUV) in the world of lithography, in which our country has a unique position.
TNO has everything in-house to lead the industry in optical communication worldwide, with over fifty years of knowledge and experience in the design, construction and testing of precision instruments for space, combining high-quality expertise in areas such as optics, optomechanics, thermodynamics, materials and ICT.
TNO is in the process of building an ecosystem in which the Dutch manufacturing industry has been given a prominent role: the development of individual components into subsystems and even fully integrated ground and space terminals. TNO is able to combine all the necessary scientific expertise and expertise from industry, both nationally and internationally, into a powerful and efficient whole.
There is a great deal of interest from industry, both in terms of participation and new opportunities. Optical communication enables significantly higher data rates and at a fraction of the cost. Ground and space stations must be able to process up to 10 Gbit/s in the first instance and then up to 100 Gbit/s. TNO is already working on technologies to enable 10 terabit/s.
The technology and equipment to be developed is of interest to satellite operators, service providers, system integrators and the manufacturing industry. The first step is to build a prototype and establish a data connection with a CubeSat.
A license contract has been signed with Airbus Nederland in 2018 to jointly develop the next generation of optical ground stations.