Satellite Systems

Satellite Systems

Using satellite systems for wireless voice and data first came into consideration in the early 1990s. The goal was to provide a wireless network that would provide coverage for the entire planet, without the need for multiple mobile phones or to roam between many carriers' networks. The state of WWANs then was quite different from today. Many of the existing WWANs were still analog and there was no clear standard for second-generation networks. Satellite phones had the potential to become the de facto standard for wide area communication.

At the same time that satellite marketers were pitching a phone that would work across the globe, wireless carriers were implementing expansive networks; and mobile phone manufacturers were working on new lightweight attractive designs. By the time the satellite networks were ready for commercial use, they had already been overtaken by cellular systems. Satellite companies had a very difficult time promoting bulky, expensive satellite phones, when attractive, inexpensive cellular phones would provide the same benefits. If that were not enough, the airtime fees for the satellite networks would scare away even the most spendthrift customer.

Many of the early mobile Internet satellite providers discovered that their business plans were not as foolproof as they thought; some went bankrupt. Fortunately, the story did not end here. Even though widespread satellite phone usage was not destined for success, many other scenarios existed where satellite technology could prove to be helpful. Here are three examples:

  • Fixed locations. This refers to situations when access to voice and data systems is required from locations that are not serviced by other network types. Some examples of locations that could benefit from this service are industries such as oil and gas, utilities, and manufacturing; humanitarian workers in remote areas; military establishments; remote office locations or semifixed locations such as trailers or shelters. Consumer services are also offered where the download link is via satellite and the upload is through a telephone line.

  • Portable communication. Field personnel can send and receive voice and data regardless of their location. This can be useful for search-and-rescue efforts, research in remote locations, news agencies, corporate travelers in remote locations, and military efforts.

  • Vehicle. This may be one of the more compelling cases for satellite connectivity. Field workers can be assured that no matter what their location, they can communicate it and other pertinent information back to enterprise systems. Delivery personnel, law enforcement, and news organizations can all benefit from guaranteed coverage.

The terminals used for satellite communication range from handheld units to mobile base stations to fixed satellite dish receivers. The peak data transmission speeds range from 2.4 Kbps to 2 Mbps, depending on the solution being sought. For the everyday mobile professional, satellite communication does not provide a compelling benefit, but for people requiring voice and data access from remote locations or guaranteed coverage in nonremote locations, satellite technology may be worth consideration. Also of interest, some of the satellite service providers offer roaming between existing cellular systems and satellite systems.

To get you started, Table 3.6 lists some of the leading satellite service providers with their Web sites.

Table 3.6: Satellite Service Providers










Hughes Network Systems

Thuraya Satellite

Asia Cellular Satellite