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Year In Review... Xtar

xtar_sm1210_l Warfighters around the globe are demanding more and more satellite bandwidth to support their communication requirements, whenever and wherever their missions take them. Technology has ushered in an era of broadband satellite capabilities that include X- and Ka-band systems supporting command and control, imagery, streaming video and many other data-intensive applications. The U.S. military’s Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) satellites have started to fulfill this increasing appetite for bandwidth. These satellites have also fueled warfighters’ demand for broadband systems, demand that WGS cannot fully meet.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that with all these critical new broadband requirements, governments are turning to commercial satellite resources to augment growing capacity that is coming on line, particularly at X-band. And the commercial X-band operators have stepped up to the plate, designing and launching high-power satellites to meet these specific needs. XTAR, LLC is one of two companies that operate and provide services in the X-band exclusively to fulfill the unique mission requirements of U.S. and Allied governments and military forces around the world.

X-band’s high power supports all types of government users but perhaps the two most important and growing are:
  • High data rate users transmitting large amounts of capacity to support day-to-day communications to and from the battlefield, and for imagery and intelligence
  • Users of small terminals like manpacks and comms-on-the-move (COTM), where high power spot beams are essential to yielding very high signal strength in a variety of environments, on the ground, at sea or in the air
The first group is switching to X-band in large part due to growing congestion at Ku-band, where lack of capacity is driving the introduction of new frequency bands. The second group is using X-band owing to its unique ability to deliver high throughput to very small terminals.

Whether commercially or government operated, X-band works in the 7-8 MHz frequency band. This frequency range is ideally suited for military and other government operations in nearly all locations, including hostile environments. The X-band frequency is lower than Ku-band which means it is less susceptible to rain fade and other atmospheric interference. This technical strength and the smaller wavelength compared to C-band, enable X-band to support the use of smaller terminals, including manpack and COTM systems.

Another key advantage is that fewer X-band satellites are orbiting the earth, decreasing the probability of adjacent satellite interference, enabling speedy isolation of local interference, and therefore, making smaller antennas more effective. Lastly, commercially owned and operated X-band satellites are compatible with the installed base of military X-band terminals, allowing the government to make the most of its X-band infrastructure investment.


X-band operators, such as XTAR, offer government users all these technical benefits together with a user-focused operational and commercial experience. Commercial operators have shown government users the benefit of nonpreemptive services, operational independence, and the flexibility to seamlessly transition between routine and surge applications.

Understanding that shifting from WGS to commercial X-band requires no equipment retrofitting, government customers have found that using commercially available X-band can help them better manage costs. Beyond these market-oriented benefits, XTAR and other operators closely adhere to the rule of offering commercial X-band systems only to government users.

Government users are increasingly taking notice of the benefits described above. New technology now coming to market is making commercial satellite communications available to more users to support their expanding applications. They see commercial X-band as a viable and sometimes, preferred option to meet their requirements. A number of these applications are worthy to note as demand drivers.

xtar_sm1210_g2 When looking at applications that increase government demand for commercial bandwidth, UAVs top the list. The requirement for commercial frequencies, including X-band, grows incrementally wherever large UAVs are deployed, especially in specific regions of the world. Based on this significant requirement and the key roles for UAVs, a new platform, the U.S. Navy’s new Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) UAV, is being developed that will drive X-band directly.

The BAMS mobile system, which can be used anywhere on the globe with little notice, can switch between commercial and WGS as necessary. It will use only X- and Ka-band frequencies. Commercial X-band systems will be perfectly suited to supplement government satellite capacity for BAMS where the government has insufficient capacity or is otherwise unable to meet demand. Consequentially, it is likely that commercially available X-band will be a critical complement to WGS capacity for the new BAMS platform.

The increased use of airborne, small terminals which circumvent air-to-ground links is another example of a high-bandwidth application that has become increasingly critical to achieving mission success. These airborne terminals allow reconnaissance aircraft to collect high-bandwidth intelligence data at a greater radius of operations and relay it back to HQ in real time.

Blue Force Tracking (BFT) is also driving demand for satellite capacity, including X-band capacity, by the U.S. DoD. Through the use of small terminals, BFT allows troops to cut through the “fog of war” and distinguish between friend and foe. When integrated into other systems, BFT can also be used to send and receive text and imagery messages, and has the mechanisms for reporting battlefield conditions. Earth station antenna manufacturers are responding to these requirements by developing a small BFT terminal that is approximately 10 inches in diameter, and XTAR is assisting with this development.

Military and government demand for dependable, technically strong X-band satellite bandwidth will continue to grow. WGS resources may support prioritized functions like intelligence gathering, special operations and front-line communications. However, with limited availability of WGS today and into the foreseeable future, there is little doubt that commercial X-band satellite providers will continue to be called upon to support many of the military’s critical communications requirements.

XTAR and other commercial X-band operators have already proven their ability to add value in support of these government missions. As demand for all satellite capacity grows in regions where demands are high, the benefits of commercial X-band will be increasingly evident.

xtar_sm1210_bio X-band offers much needed capacity in a congested spectrum, and XTAR is committed to providing today’s warfighters the highly-secure, reliable service they require and deserve in order to meet the unique mission requirements of governments worldwide — today and tomorrow.