Right First Time

Not all Ka-band Satellites are the Same

This white paper explores the factors that must be considered when choosing the right Ka-band satellite operator

Executive Summary

Whilst traditional Ku satellite technology has been used for two-way data applications, the spectrum has often carried a price premium due to its attractiveness for TV broadcast services, resulting in high costs to the end user. Now though, Ka satellites have been designed to deliver high speed data services that offer significant advantages over Ku-band capacity, including:

– Lower cost – due to the efficiencies resulting from the use of small spot beams which concentrate power and reuse spectrum;
– Higher capacity – Ka satellites often have 10 to 20 times more capacity than Ku satellites providing room for a customer to grow their network;
– Smaller dishes – efficiencies of operating at Ka-band mean that user terminals are cheaper and cost less to install and maintain;
– Sophisticated service offering – Ka-band operators are focused on data applications, which means a customer can purchase an entire end-to-end managed service from a single source.


– Ka satellites have a number of design factors which differentiate them from Ku satellites. Many complex engineering trade-offs are undertaken to achieve performance beyond that of Ku systems.
– Design trade-offs drive the architecture of a Ka satellite network and can result in dramatically different solutions from operator to operator.
– Decisions made early in the design lifecycle directly affect the ability of a Ka satellite to serve a particular communications application.
– The efficiency of data delivery to the end user is the result of satellite transponder design.
– Ka satellites employ small spot beams, rather than the continental or global beams employed at Ku or C-band. Quality coverage, therefore, has to be carefully designed to meet market demands.
– Networks need to ensure sufficient redundancy is available in the Gateway Earth Stations (GES) and the terrestrial communications links to guarantee quality of service.
– Network flexibility is required to meet the varied requirements of the customers, who might range from Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) wishing to install high capacity, dedicated base station backhaul links, through to individual homes or business wanting simple, shared broadband internet access.

Ka has many inherent benefits over Ku, making it a compelling choice. However, caution should be applied when comparing Ka operators on a like-for-like basis. This paper is not just about the benefits of Ka, but outlines the essentials that must be considered in choosing the right Ka operator – not all Ka satellites are the same.