Innovation in Identifying the Source of Interference (2012)

Comtech EF Data

SSPI honors Comtech EF Data for developing, on its own initiative and at its own expense, a critical component of a long-term solution to the problem of satellite radio frequency interference (RFI).  When interference occurs on a satellite, the first and most challenging problem is to identify the source of that interference, because without this information, almost nothing can be done to resolve the problem.  The industry currently uses complex and costly geo-location systems and large amounts of human labor to pinpoint interference sources.      

Responding to requests from the industry, Comtech EF Data developed a technology called MetaCarrier that fulfills three important requirements: it is readable regardless of any encryption of the signal; it uses a format that is universally accepted; and it adds minimal overhead to the transmission.  MetaCarrier uses spread-spectrum modulation of a very low data-rate carrier that contains metadata about the carrier and the device that is emitting it.  The energy of this "meta-carrier” is spread across the bandwidth of the carrier being identified, which adds only a miniscule amount of noise to the signal.  Because it is separately encoded from anything else riding on the signal, it can be encoded and decoded regardless of encryption or conditional access, and can be used on any static carrier, SCPC, video or other configuration.  It represents a significant advance over the only other approach to digital carrier ID, which uses the DVB-S2 Network Interface Table and works only with that technology.      

As a service to the industry, Comtech EF Data has proposed that MetaCarrier be adopted by DVB as an open standard, to be incorporated into new terminal equipment and downloaded by firmware update to existing equipment where possible.  Once it achieves widespread adoption, carrier ID will permit satellite operators and their customers to identify, in minutes, the equipment from which an interfering signal originates, which will be a major step on the long road to making satellite RFI a thing of the past.

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