SouthWest startup to launch novel satellite system at Farnborough Air Show

June 13, 2012 by
Filed under: News 

SouthWest startup Phasor Solutions is to launch a novel low cost phased array antenna system for broadband satellite communications at the Farnborough Air Show next month.

Phasor, based in Ledbury, Herefordshire, has developed a system that allows moving vehicles such as aircraft, ships or trucks to communicate with stationary satellites, or antennas that track moving satellites, in real time with no moving parts. It had originally developed the antenna system to provide broadband connections on trains, and is now targeting the multi-billion dollar satellite communications and radar market with a unique, ground breaking design that it says provides order of magnitude improvements over competing solutions.

Phasor Solutions was founded by Ledbury venture capital firm Anglo Scientific and circuit designer Richard Mayo in 2005 to develop flat, high gain antennas to fit on the roof of moving vehicles. Since then, Phasor has raised venture capital funding through a pool of investors and has built a strong team from the South West UK. Mayo was a member of the founding team of Microcosm Communications in Bristol that developed more cost effective optical components using CMOS and BiCMOS silicon and was sold to Conexant Systems. Chief Operating Officer Tim Esparon was VP of Manufacturing Operations at Microcosm spin out Phyworks in Bristol.

The Phasor chips include all the radio frequency functions (amplifiers, oscillators) and phase shifting circuits, as well as the logic and data modulation/demodulation required. This approach to phased array technology aims to reduce costs by over 10x and provide added value such as a flat design (less than 1 inch high), conformal to any surface, modular approach, and high reliability as there are no moving parts. One of Phasor’s initial targets is wireless internet access on trains, an estimated available market of over 500 million users worldwide. However airborne satcoms and other Comms-On-The-Move (COTM) applications are likely to be larger markets.

“Phasor is carving the way for the next decades of phased arrays by providing a paradigm shift in satellite communications. It took the industry over 40 years to develop phased arrays which are typically expensive to buy and to operate. But now, with the invaluable support of our partners, and in particular TowerJazz, we have been able to deliver semiconductors which provide an order of magnitude reduction in costs compared to current solutions,” said David Garrood, Managing Director at Phasor Solutions. “Phasor has been able to achieve this milestone with the support of the TowerJazz team and relying on the stability and performance of its SBC18HX process.”

The chips use a 155GHz silicon germanium (SiGe) technology from Californian chip foundry TowerJazz, rather than the more traditional and more expensive gallium arsenide technology.  This allows more features to be added to the chips and makes the system dramatically cheaper

“Our advanced SiGe BiCMOS technology provides higher integration at lower cost than GaAs solutions, allowing cost-effective satellite communications on the move to be realized,” said Dr. Marco Racanelli, Senior Vice President and General Manager for the RF & High Performance Analog and Aerospace & Defense Business Groups at TowerJazz.  “Together, we have begun volume manufacturing to enable a high gain antenna, which consists of 20,000 chips. In addition, we continue to invest in advanced SiGe and recently announced our latest process, SBC18H3, which supports devices with speeds of 270GHz and offers a path for further performance, power, and noise improvement in next-generation products.”


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