Spectrum Crunch in the Fight Against COVID-19
14 April 2020
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on infrastructure is far reaching, with satellites now playing an increasing role in maintaining connectivity and delivering eHealth services.
A first clear example of this came in late March, when the Bolivian Space Agency announced that they will provide satellite broadband connectivity to 215 rural health centres in the country. ESA has also launched a call for projects that use space systems to support the fight against COVID-19.
Countries around the world rely on satellite communications every day to bridge the digital gap and supply vital connectivity services to remote areas that fibre doesn’t reach. This connection will now be under extra pressure as hospitals turn to eHealth services and taskforces use bandwidth to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.
A dramatic spike in the demand for satellite connectivity presents its own challenges, such as increasing the threat of a spectrum crunch. Spectrum is a finite resource that is used for many different communications infrastructures, including radio, satellite applications, TV broadcast, and mobile communications.
Dr Nicola Maturo, Research Associate in the Satellite Communications and Signal group at SnT, spends his time researching how to use spectrum in the most effective way possible.
“Today, for each new service we want to deploy, we could be forced to take resources from already existing services,” said Maturo. “A satellite serving a certain region with different beams transmits different signals in each of them. To avoid interference, the satellite operator needs to split the available bandwidth into a different part for each beam, limiting the data rate that can be transmitted.”
Maturo and a team at SnT are working on a solution to this, which is currently in its testing phase, and will be until the end of the year. The LiveSatPreDem project, funded by ESA and launched in partnership with SES and AirBus, looks at how to optimise the way available frequencies are used.
Until the results of the test are verified though, countries and satellite operators around the world will be left to use current techniques to ensure spectrum for the fight against COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, today it is still about making a choice,” said Maturo. “Decision makers will be looking at the most vital services that need connectivity to respond to the emergency, and then taking steps to ensure they have the spectrum to get their job done.”
Read the original article on the SnT website.