STFC spin-out company gets funding to improve satellite broadband

Network repeaters, base transceiver.

An STFC spin-out company has secured funding to enhance its software to optimise the performance of satellites for telecommunications.

The funding is from the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund (UKI2S). It will allow Atheras Analytics to extend the capabilities of its software tools for the telecommunications sector to cover a wider range of satellites and orbits.

From research to commercialisation

Founded in August 2020, Atheras Analytics’ core technology is based on research conducted by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) RAL Space. The company has developed software tools for satellite operators to optimise the design and operation of next-generation satellite networks by taking into account region-specific weather conditions, in particular, rainfall.

The tools are particularly for satellite networks which operate in Ka-band and Q/V-band frequencies, which are increasingly used to support the higher data rates demanded by businesses and consumers worldwide. Dr Spiros Ventouras from RAL Space, researches the effects of weather impairments on Ka-band and Q/V-band satellite links. He developed the artificial intelligence-based outage prediction algorithm which is now the core tool of Atheras Analytics.

The tool has been derived from European Space Agency funded research into the way Ka-band and Q/V-band satellite links are impaired in certain atmospheric conditions. This research took place across Europe over several years. The algorithm employs advanced machine learning techniques, including neural networks, to ‘train’ it for multiple different operational scenarios.

The research behind this technology was also funded as part of an internal STFC proof of concept programme. The programme supports STFC scientists and engineers to deliver real-world impact from their ground-breaking innovations.

Satellite broadband for everyone

John Yates, Atheras Analytics Managing Director explained:

This funding will enable us to support the many new innovative satellite constellations coming online in the near future offering ubiquitous high-speed internet service to business and consumers world-wide.

It will help us to accelerate the development of our toolkit and extend the capabilities of the outage predication algorithm into exciting new growth areas such as the rapidly evolving low Earth orbit and medium Earth orbit satellite constellations and optical satellite links.

The satellite telecommunications sector is about to enter a phase of major change by using high throughput satellites and very high throughput satellites. They can deliver more than 20 times the data capacity of traditional satellites at a fraction of the cost to provide broadband to consumers and businesses.

Satellite operators need to use higher frequency Ka-bands and Q/V-bands to support these higher data rates. However, these higher frequency bands are much more susceptible to the effects of weather than those previously used. Atheras Analytics’ outage predication algorithm can predict and help to manage weather outages to support this shift in broadband delivery.

Funding innovation

UKI2S is a national seed investment fund, backed by public bodies including STFC’s parent organisation, UK Research and Innovation and managed by venture capital firm Midven. It nurtures innovative businesses from great UK science to leverage private investment and grow jobs.

Letizia Gionfrida Investment Associate at Midven the fund manager for UKI2S said:

Atheras is a great example of how high-quality research by one of our partner laboratories can form the basis of a company solving a global problem and we look forward to supporting their growth.

Top image:  Credit: Olgaviare, Getty Images

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