Are satellites affected by the weather?

The increased use of satellite broadband services has led to a greater realisation of the benefits that they offer – but has also raised questions about possible limits to their effectiveness. One misconception is that they can be affected by bad weather.

The truth is more nuanced, and the outlook is much brighter than has been forecast by some commentators. Indeed, smart satellite systems like the Twoobii-on-Flex service operated by Intelsat are engineered to continue to deliver excellent signal strength even during heavy rainfall.

In common with all other signals that use the air as their medium, satellite signals can be impacted by rainfall between the satellite and ground-based receivers. This phenomenon will be familiar to anyone who has had a satellite TV programme disrupted during storms. There is also a direct link between the heaviness of the rainfall and the affect it has on signals.

Precipitation rates are not however the only factor to be considered. All other factors being equal, network operating frequencies are a major determining factor in the disruption that rain causes. Put simply, the higher the operating frequency, the greater the impact of rainfall on the signal.

Commercial FM radio stations typically broadcast at +/-100MHz; their signals are rarely affected by rain. Twoobii satellite broadband uses a much higher frequency (12GHz) and is therefore theoretically more susceptible to interference from rain. The recently launched SpaceX constellation uses operating frequencies as high as 40GHz and is therefore commensurately even more vulnerable to rain stopping play.

“Rain is naturally a factor in our calculations,” explained Dawie de Wet, CEO of Q-KON, the satellite engineering enterprise behind Twoobii. “However, we have invested in advanced technology to mitigate the impact of rainfall, and our emphasis on providing reliable business satellite internet connectivity means that we are well-placed to help our customers stay online, even during very heavy downpours of the kind we experience here in Africa,” he added.

By focusing on the needs of business customers as a design priority, Twoobii has ensured that their network delivers exceptional reliability. This will not make their service completely immune from rain-related disruption, but Twoobii’s equipment specifications and the power of their transmission equipment mean that rainproof resilience is baked into their service offering in ways that it may not be with other satellite connectivity services positioned at a lower price point.

Smart satellite networks like Twoobii-on-Flex are able to provide excellent reliability even at relatively high operating frequencies and in severe weather. This will provide additional reassurance to business customers in remote areas who depend on satellite internet connectivity for both routine operational, and emergency, communication services.

Rain is a fact of life – although in many parts of Africa, it is a seasonal rather than a daily occurrence. With advances in satellite connectivity, disruption to signal strength can become a rarity.

Source: Bytes