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Choose a Satellite Channel Model

A satellite communication channel model is a theoretical representation used to simulate and analyze the behavior of satellite communication links under various conditions. Satellite Communications Toolbox provides two types of channel models, radio frequency (RF) channels and optical channels. These models encompass the physical and environmental factors that affect the signal as it travels from the transmitter to the receiver. Each channel model is a System object™.

System objectDescription
etsiRicianChannelMultipath European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) frequency-flat Rician fading channel
lutzLMSChannelLutz land mobile-satellite (LMS) frequency-flat fading channel
p681LMSChannelITU-R P.681-11 LMS frequency-flat fading channel
dsocPoissonChannelDeep space optical communication (DSOC) Poisson channel

RF Channels

Unlike terrestrial wireless communication, where multipath fading due to reflections is a dominant factor, the amplitude and phase of satellite signal are affected by these factors.

  • Atmospheric Conditions — The atmosphere can cause significant signal fading, especially in the higher frequency bands. Specific atmospheric conditions that affect satellite communication include rain fading, clouds and fog, and gaseous absorption.

  • Ionospheric Effects — The ionosphere can introduce fading mostly through scintillation and polarization.

  • Doppler Shift — The relative motion between the satellite and the ground station can cause a Doppler shift in the frequency of the received signal, which can cause fading if the system is not designed to compensate for this effect.

  • Satellite Position — The position of the satellite in the sky relative to the ground station (elevation angle) can affect fading. Low elevation angles can result in longer paths through the atmosphere and potential obstructions, leading to increased fading.

This table describes the various RF channels the toolbox offers and highlights the key differences between them.


These are narrowband channel models, and are applicable for single input single output (SISO) scenarios.

ChannelFrequencyModel TypeFading DistributionSatellite OrbitsLine of Sight ComponentDopplerHas Shadowing

Typical satellite communications frequency ranges

Single state


Geosynchronous orbit (GSO)


Models Doppler spread due to mobile movement



1.54 GHz

Two state semi-Markov

  • Good state — Rician

  • Bad state — Rayleigh with Log-normal


Yes, for good state only

Models Doppler spread due to mobile movement



1.5 GHz to 20 GHz

Two state semi-Markov


GSO and non-geosynchronous orbit (NGSO)


  • Models Doppler spread due to mobile movement

  • Models Doppler shift on line of sight component due to mobile movement

  • Models Doppler shift due to satellite movement


Optical Channel

The toolbox also offers a DSOC Poisson channel: dsocPoissonChannel.

DSOC uses optical (laser) technology for communication between a spacecraft and Earth or between spacecraft in deep space. Optical communication offers the potential for higher data rates compared to traditional radio frequency (RF) communication systems due to the higher frequencies (and thus shorter wavelengths) of light, which allow for tighter beam divergence and higher bandwidth.

The DSOC Poisson channel model accurately captures the behavior of light as a stream of individual photons and the statistical nature of their detection. The model is essential for designing DSOC systems that can operate effectively in the challenging environment of deep space, where signal levels are extremely low and precision is critical.

See Also

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