Archive | Satellite RSS feed for this section

Have satellite, will travel: Iridium, Globalstar target their Earth-spanning networks at consumers

6 Feb

Iridium Next in orbit

SUMMARY:Iridium and Globalstar have started selling satellite hotspots. They’re slow, and they’re expensive, but they’ll work on mountaintops, in the deepest jungle or most windswept desert, and in Iridium’s case, even at the Earth’s poles.

You can pick up a mobile hotspot from any mobile carrier and get a decent mobile data connection in any city or town or the U.S., but that connection will disappear if on the top of mountain, a few miles into coastal waters or even in a cornfield in rural Kansas. What if you could buy a modem that worked anywhere?

Satellite communications providers Iridium and Globalstar are betting there is a consumer market for just such a mobile hotspot service. And by anywhere, I mean anywhere. Both have constellation of dozens of satellites that barrel through their orbits just above the Earth’s atmosphere. If coverage is what you’re looking for, you can get a Globalstar connection in the middle of the Pacific or an Iridium link at the North Pole.

The trade off is connection speed. Forget about 4G or even 3G speeds; Data links to low-Earth orbit satellites are measured in the single kilobits — slower than dial-up — and both satellite providers use some intense compression technology to ensure they can squeeze simple email and low-rez images through their narrow pipes.

Matt Desch

Matt Desch

You won’t be doing any video streaming or even much web surfing on a satellite hotspot, Iridium CEO Matt Desch readily admitted when we talked on the phone last week. But that’s really not the point: The idea is to provide bare-bones connectivity to the vast majority of the world’s service not covered by cellular networks, Desch said. That’s a service not every consumer would pay for, but a certain subset of consumers will, he added.

“We want to expand our market,” Desch said. “Our goal is to move beyond the emergency responder and people working in the field overseas. … We can attract more consumers with a need for [always available] connectivity and maybe even some business users.”

Bridging the gap between polar trekkers and weekend hikers

Today Iridium’s network is the definition of a specialty service. You’re likely to find an Iridium phone on the belt of a U.S. Defense Department contractor in Afghanistan or packed into a dog sled racing in the Iditarod. But Desch is hoping Iridium’s new hotspot will appeal to the hunter wanting to upload a photo of his trophy from deep in the woods, the trekker tweeting her progress from up a mountain or the yachtsman keeping in touch with the office from the middle of the Atlantic.

The Iridium Next satellite constellation

The Iridium Next satellite constellation

Unlike Iridium’s traditional service, which requires specialty phones, its Go hotspot will connect to any smartphone or laptop via Wi-Fi so customers can continue to use their regular devices, phone numbers and apps. It will even route phone calls and text messages over Iridium’s networks, though it will run it through software installed on the phone to compress their data rates. Iridium is even launching a software developer’s program to encourage app makers to use its compression technology when connected to the network. Facebook might not “Iridium optimize” its app, but developers that specialize in outdoor navigation apps might.

The hotspot won’t be cheap, priced at around $800, and as for data pricing Desch was a bit cagey. Ultimately Iridium’s resellers will set their own rates, but he said standard plans might include metered options for $35 a month and even an unlimited voice and data option for $115 a month. Even when pressed Desch wouldn’t reveal what kind of data bucket you would get, though he said it would likely translate into specific services based on the amount of airtime they used on the network. For instance, $35 could get you 150 emails, 15 voice minutes and a preset amount of weather updates and picture uploads.

Iridium Go

That likely translates into just a handful of megabytes. While the unlimited plan might sound appealing to some, keep in mind you’re not going to be running up any multigigabyte tallies on a 25 kbps link (and that’s after full compression). Globalstar, which plans to launch its Sat-Fi service in the second quarter, hasn’t yet revealed its pricing either.

Look Ma, I climbed Kilimanjaro

Ultimately this is a big trade-off of coverage for capacity. Mobile satellite links aren’t just slow, they’re also expensive. You’re never going to get the same data bucket you’d get from a terrestrial mobile operator.

But both Globalstar and Iridium are launching next generation satellite constellations into space. Once active those birds won’t be able to deliver the mobile broadband speeds we’re accustomed to on the ground, but they’ll get closer. Globalstar’s new network will support up to 250 kbps, while Iridium’s will hit the 1 Mbps mark.

Your typical consumer isn’t going to be interested in a regular subscription to an Iridium or Globalstar plan. But I can imagine a situation in which almost every consumer might want to access such a hotspot on a temporary basis. Desch said he expects Go to highly popular in the rental market. For instance, outfitters might rent out hotspots to trekkers before they set out on their expeditions.

The view from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, where a satellite hotspot would have been handy

The view from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, where a satellite hotspot would have been handy

For our honeymoon, my wife and I insanely decided to disregard our couch potato tendencies and climb Mount Kilimanjaro (in case you’re wondering, we got to the crater rim where I freaked out from altitude sickness and never made it to the final summit). Spending seven days on a mountain without any form of digital communication might sound refreshing to some, but being who I am, I wanted to blog, tweet and email my way up that rock. $35 doesn’t sound like much of price to pay to be able a tweet a selfie from Uhuru Peak.




US phone companies are winning new TV watchers. Cable & satellite, not so much

15 Aug
fios tv

SUMMARY:In the fiercely fought battle for pay TV subscribers, the phone companies are stealing customers away from cable and satellite companies, a trend that is likely to continue for remainder of the year. The worst loser? Satellite companies like Dish Networks.

Cord cutting seems to be having little impact on Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) providers even as subscribers are abandoning both satellite and cable companies.Data from IHS, a market research company, shows that AT&T’s Uverse, Verizon’s FiOS and a few others added 398,000 net subscribers during the three months ending June 30, 2013. AT&T’s Uverse added 233,000 and Verizon added 140,000 subscribers to its FiOS video offering. A big reason for these new additions at telcos is their decision to spend more on marketing these services.

dish dish

For the same April-to-June 2013 period, cable companies lost 588,000 subscribers and satellite companies lost 162,000 subscribers. During the same April-to-June time period in 2012, cable companies lost 598,000 subscribers while satellite companies lost 62,000 subscribers. IPTV providers added 304,000 subscribers.

At the end of June 2013, cable companies had 55 percent of the U.S. pay TV market, while satellite held 34 percent of the market with IPTV at 11 percent. These three groups are fighting over a shrinking base of new subscribers, many of whom are jettisoning pay TV in favor of cord cutting. IHS believes that total number of pay TV subscribers is going to decline from 100.89 million at end of 2012 to 100.77 million at end of 2013. A majority of the losses are going to come from satellite companies, according to UBS Equity Research. That can’t be good news for DirecTv and the Dish Network. No wonder Wall Street wants the two to merge.

These three charts from UBS Research do a good job of laying out the pay TV market.





Connected Vehicle

25 Jul


Mobile Satellite TV

16 Mar

Get mobile satellite TV for your summer trips using one of these satellite antenna options:

Portable Satellite Antennas:

GM-1518 Carryout Portable Automatic Satellite Antenna GM-1599 Carryout Realtree Camouflage Portable Automatic Satellite Antenna GM-5000 Carryout Anser Hybrid Automatic Portable Satellite Antenna GM-MP1 Carryout MP1 Manual Portable Satellite Antenna GM-0700 Carryout Portable Satellite Antenna for Shaw Direct TR-6018 18″ Dual Feed LNBF Dish and Tripod Kit TR-6100 DISH Network 1000 Dish and Tripod Kit (Satellite Tripod: TR-1518 Carryout Tripod Mount)

Roof Mounted Satellite Antennas:

SK-SWM3 TRAV’LER DIRECTV Slimline SK-1000 TRAV’LER DISH Network 1000 and Bell TV SK-7003 + SKA-733 TRAV’LER Shaw Direct RT4000S RoadTrip Mission Stationary Automatic RV Satellite Antenna – White RT4035S RoadTrip Mission Stationary Automatic RV Satellite Antenna – Black RT4000T RoadTrip Mission In-Motion Automatic RV Satellite Antenna – White RT4035T RoadTrip Mission In-Motion Automatic RV Satellite Antenna – Black RT8000S RoadTrip MiniMax Stationary Automatic RV Satellite Antenna – White RT8035S RoadTrip MiniMax Stationary Automatic RV Satellite Antenna – Black RT8000T RoadTrip MiniMax In-Motion Automatic RV Satellite Antenna – White RT8035T RoadTrip MiniMax In-Motion Automatic RV Satellite Antenna – Black RM-DM46 Crank-Up Satellite Antenna – With Digital Magic Sensor RM-DM61 Crank-Up Satellite Antenna and Off-Air Combo RM-4600 Crank-Up Satellite Antenna – No Digital Magic Sensor


Beta Testing First Mobile Internet Satellite Broadband, Part II

10 Mar

We were the first beta testers of a Mobile Command Center with full Internet Access in 1999. Our mobile command center was also the first unit with WiFi and Internet Mobile Access.

The next generation of this system of Broadband Satellites was introduced in 2004. And the next wave of technology almost exists for the 10 times that speed. Looks like Moore’s Law may just apply to Satellites, however with the former practice tries by Motorola and the incompetence with the FCC we saw previously we may find that there are significant obstacle to over come still.

The biggest gripe back then was the Iridium pricing of $134.50 per month and the ridiculous cost of $1.34 per minute. Of course GlobalStar proves that they are worse at 150 per month and 1.39 per minute and International calls at $1.79. The cool thing about Inmarsat is that it is 20 years old and still has the 9.6 kbps data speed and sometimes you can get the 64 kbps. Inmarsat A is ancient and 18,000 ships have the maritime Global distress system aboard. GMDSS. If you look at most all commercial ships you will see the antennas on top that can run fax machines, Telephones and various data interfaces. Previously they ran below deck Telex systems. This system as you would guess is purely analog which has much advantages in weather conditions at sea. Inmarsat B is a whole different story with it’s digital technology, you can definitely get 64 KBPS all day long for broadcasting audio streams, video (a little jumpy), and voice and fax transmissions.

The pricing of data transmission due to speeds can save users up to 40% simply because it takes less time per minute to down and upload data. Of course the hardware runs about $ 10K, but for what it is that is not bad considering the original costs of data transmissions. Now here is the new deal Inmarsat C, two way data communications, terminals are portable and small, brief case style. Costs for terminals are only $4K approx. and everyone in the TV business has one or more. Inmarsat also has a system for voice, which needs only a little antenna of 9.3 or more inches and comes in a small dome. These were recently featured in Popular Mechanics in Nov 01. Trac Phone antennas for boats, RVs etc are expensive at $6,500 but work well. This is also known as the SatCom system mobile. It is a briefcase laptop system and is only 5 lbs. Costs only $3,000. People call it their brief case phone. It uses a SIM card for multiple users a system if you will remember never took off in the US like the smart card phones in Europe. Remember the PCS Phones had that little slide in cards, but they were too expensive for mass production in cellular technology. Inmarsat F77 is another innovation of 2001. ISDN and mobile packet data service capabilities. Delivering Fax, phone, voice and data. 64kbs, Absolutely and without a problem. Almost trouble free, this is nearly fully operational. We are almost there. This technology takes advantage of the B-GAN services that will be provided by the Inmarsat 4 being launched in 2004.

This will be cool. US Based ComSat Mobile, a division of Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications has announced it’s cooperation with Fleet F77 in the first half of 2002. Ah ha, now we are getting somewhere ? Says the people at Stratos, who are arrogant Canadians. Why is this so cool? It means that users can send and receive data but only be charged for the data sent and received. Serf the web in broadband from anywhere or even a remote log cabin on vacation, emails and web browsing for about $89.95 per month all in real time with about 2-3 second delays for distance or in another system the one we have now it will be a half second delay with even higher speeds (I will talk further about this in a minute). Internet based systems like this means we can track every ship, truck, terrorist school bus in the country real time, just like they now track all the aircraft as we saw on TV during the 9-11 act. We watched charts of the US with every single aircraft flying.

Imagine the system capabilities for efficiency, safety, storm and weather watching, and safety of our people. I am really liking this a lot and everyone in America will be safe and the President can have his missile defense program because we will be able to track everything that moves which is not cloaked and right now that is everything that we know about. We can even track stealth bombers by frequency disruption patterns from cell phones. We win. Guess what these systems have a built in safety switch so important transmissions get there first for instance a ship in high seas in trouble, DEA transmitting while profiling a smuggler, or mayday distress calls. So if you are surfing or on line sending emails it will be delayed until the safety priorities are taken care of and at those speeds and numbers of users and the forthcoming Craig McCaw’s Law I predict to replace Moore’s Law for satellites that will not be more than a nano second by 2005. In other words you will assume a solar flare or even a thunder cloud.

Orbicomm is another data source with no voice capacity and handles two-pager and alphanumeric operations using a small network of LEO Satellites. Another web site we found of interest to you if you are using any of these technologies.


Satellite Internet Broadband – Reducing Your Wait Time

8 Mar

British scientists to send first “smartphone satellite” into space

12 Feb

The world’s very first mobile phone-operated satellite is being readied for launch by the United Kingdom. The spacecraft, called STRaND-1 (Surrey Training Research and Nanosatellite Demonstration satellite), was developed by the University of Surrey researchers and will be fully controlled using a Google Nexus phone for part of its mission, expected to last for a period of six months.

STRaND-1 satellite’s core is built from an unmodified Nexus one smartphone which runs Google’s Android OS. In a statement, Surrey Space Center’s lead engineer Dr. Chris Bridges said: “We’ve done lots and lots of tests on it; we’ve put our own software on it. But we’ve essentially got a regular phone, connected up the USB to it and put it in the satellite.”

An ultra-fast linux-based CubeSat computer will operate the STRaND-1 satellite during its first phase of mission, all while the smartphone gathers data through experimental apps. Meanwhile, on its second phase, STRaND-1 satellite will change operations to the smartphone to test the capabilities of standard smartphone components in space.

The STRaND-1 satellite will also be the first spacecraft to test two new propulsion technologies. First, the Water Alcohol Resisto-jet Propulsion De-Orbit Re-Entry Velocity Experiment (Warp Drive). This experiment makes use of the ejection of a water alcohol mixture to provide thrust. The second one is the Pulsed Plasma Thrusters. The experiment makes use of an electric current to heat and ablate a material to produce a charged gas that is subsequently accelerated by a magnetic field to push the cubesat along.

The mobile phone-operated satellite is a joint project between the Surrey Satellite Technology and Surrey Space Center. The satellite will be operated from the Surrey Space Center’s ground station at the University of Surrey, and is scheduled to be sent into space from India on February 25.


Telehealth over Satellite Broadband confronts the Issue of Latancy

3 Dec

The CSIRO has released a whitepaper on the potential for telehealth provision to remote parts of Australia using satellite broadband, setting out some guidelines on what is achievable within the limitations of the technology.

Written by Sarah Dods and colleagues from CSIRO’s Digital Productivity and Services Flagship and launched at the Global Telehealth conference in Sydney this week, the whitepaper investigates the differences between the type of broadband connection different parts of the country will receive once the National Broadband Network is rolled out.

Telehealth has long been heralded as a way to improve access to healthcare for people living in rural and remote regions, but there are some limitations to the type of broadband these regions will receive that will have an effect on the telehealth services healthcare organisations will be able to provide.

One of the major issues is latency, the time delay that satellite broadband in particular experiences that may rule out certain components of telehealth, including perhaps high-resolution video conferencing and remote operation.

Under the government’s NBN plan, 93 per cent of premises will connect with broadband using optical fibre and four per cent will use wireless, the majority of them in regional areas. For the remaining three per cent of Australians living in remote and very remote regions, broadband will be provided by satellite.

However, it is this three per cent that has far lower access to healthcare – and far higher incidences of chronic disease and hospitalisations – that could most do with telehealth, Dr Dods told the conference.

She said the differences between satellite communication and other kinds of broadband need to be taken into account when considering the development of telehealth applications and the services they can deliver.

“There is an assumption that broadband just works and if you can develop the service then it can just run over the infrastructure that is there,” Dr Dods said. “If you are designing a service, what you should think about is determining whether it is appropriate for different kinds of broadband delivery, particularly when it comes to satellite.”

For fibre connections, the peak upload speed in the future is expected to be 400 megabits per second (Mb/s) and 1000 Mb/s download. For wireless and satellite, however, it will be 1Mb/s upload and 12Mb/s download.

An interim satellite service was launched last year that is capable of peak download speeds of up to six megabits per second, with a long-term satellite to be launched in 2015 that will be capable of 12Mb/s. Upload speeds will be 1Mb/s.

For telehealth services with two-way information sharing, it will be the lower upstream bandwidth that will set the limitations on the types of services that can be delivered, she said.

“Bandwidth will change depending on the upstream and downstream specifications, but there is also this thing called latency,” she said. “That is how long it is going to take to get to the other end.

“The amount of time it is going to take to get from a [house or medical centre in a remote area] to the NBN point of interconnect is going to be about a quarter of a second, best case. This is because it has to go up to the satellite and back.

“Once you get into the backhaul, it is optical fibre and travels at the speed of light and you have a pretty short transmission time through the middle section. But when you get to the final section, whether it is a doctor’s surgery or a hospital, you are going to have some more delay at that end. Then the response has to return along the same path.

”That is going to affect what kind of experience you get for some services when you connect to the other end of the network. If the information flow is one way, such as streaming an educational video, it doesn’t matter. For two-way interaction, it makes a difference.”

If the connection is between satellite and fibre, the latency will be noticeable in conversation, but if both ends are using satellite, there will be “two hops” and the latency will double, she said.

Communications satellites are in geosynchronous orbit, orbiting the planet every 24 hours from 36,000km above earth. To send a signal at the speed of light to the satellite and back takes about a quarter of a second.

With two-hop satellite connections, the latency can be one second in the best case scenario. “What it means is that if [a remote patient] is connected over satellite, and he wants to talk to a rural health service, which is also connected over satellite, then he has to count it four times,” Dr Dods said.

“The interesting thing in this is the human element. Generally our reaction time is a quarter of a second. If things happen faster than a quarter of a second, we think it is real time. If it gets longer than 250 milliseconds, then we start noticing a delay and an unnaturalness when we are waiting for somebody to respond.

“So we are down to looking at at least a one-second reaction time for somebody at the other end to respond to what he has been saying. That can feel decidedly odd. Imagine trying to do a remote consultation between a city specialist and a remote clinic over that. This is why we hear people talking about latency and why it matters.”

Dr Dods and her team have developed a framework that outlines what different elements of telehealth provision are achievable using satellite, and how health services might be able to put those components together.

She urged healthcare organisations to look at what aspects of telehealth they can provide to remote areas now and in the future, despite the limitations of satellite. These include old-fashioned telephone-based services, the use of social media for sharing content, asynchronous information sharing or “store and forward” – the transfer of images or clinical data to be used at a later date – sensor monitoring and video streaming.

“What we have then done is look at how much bandwidth you are going to need to do the different services, and what the interaction time you will need for them. If you look at sensor monitoring, you only need minutes, but if you are going to look at remote operation, you will need it to be very fast.

“With low resolution video conferencing, that will have a significant delay but it will be fine if you are just giving some advice to a person and telling them what to do, but it may be a really bad thing to use if you are offering a telepsychiatry consultation and someone is recounting a fairly traumatic episode and you are trying to provide some real-time empathetic response.

“You need to think about these elements. If you are at a remote clinic and you want to provide home-based monitoring for chronic heart failure, you might have some simple sensors, some video streaming for education and some low-resolution video conferences – these are choices that you will need to look at to deliver the outcome you are looking for.

“If it is a city hospital providing the service, they have fibre so it is quite fast. If it is a rural clinic going to someone’s home, you are going to have a two-satellite hop and about a second or more latency you need to design for in your system.”

Dr Dods said that while bandwidth will improve, latency probably will not. “The interaction timescales aren’t going to change in the same way [as bandwidth]. I don’t think we are going to be changing the speed of light anytime soon and I don’t think we are going to be changing human reaction time.

“We are particularly interested in human interaction and how we can adapt to those limits, but there are some limitations that go against nature so we are going to walk away from them. Telesurgery over satellite is not going to happen in anybody’s lifetime. You really have to think about that interaction aspect when you are looking at putting services together.”


What’s the Deal with MSS Spectrum?

30 Nov

Frank Rayal

Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) spectrum is bustling with activity. With so many failed satellite service companies, it is no surprise that spectrum earmarked for such services be converted, or allowed to co-exist with profitable mobile services. Here, I like to summarize some of the developments surrounding MSS spectrum.

View original post 542 more words

FCC Dishes Dirt, Talks Up 3.5 GHz

27 Nov

Dish Network’s proposal for a mobile telephone network would destroy the value of airwaves the government plans to auction for commercial use,the Federal Communications Commission said today.

Dish wants to use all the MSS frequencies it purchased from defunct satellite operators for nationwide terrestrial LTE service. But the FCC wants to auction the H block, which is adjacent to the Dish spectrum. That could cause mutual interference.

Dish calls the draft “significantly flawed”; adding years of delay and eliminating competition. Ericsson can deliver 223 Mbps on 40MHz of spectrum.

AT&T and Verizon can’t touch it. They don’t have the greenfield spectrum.

Sprint’s filing with the FCC called for the FCC to shift Dish Network’s AWS-4 band up 5 MHz from 2000-2020 MHz to 2005-2025 MHz so their planned adjacent “H block” of PCS spectrum can be used for LTE. Sprint wants to use the entire 1990-2000 MHz block (two 5 MHz chunks). But that would adjoin Dish’s spectrum and cause mutual interference.

Sprint-Nextel claims that if the FCC were to limit their proposed “H Block” to only small cell use, it would not likely bid on the spectrum. Dish has argued that a “full power” H Block would cause at least 25 percent of its uplink frequencies (2000-2020 MHz) to become unusable, a claim Sprint has said is erroneous. Sprint says it is open to hosting Dish with their Network Vision architecture – but only if Dish were bumped up 5 MHz (2005-2025 MHz).

“In arguing that the commission should destroy the value of the H block, Dish is seeking to take a public asset potentially worth billions of dollars and turn it into a private windfall,” Justin Cole, an FCC spokesman, reports Bloomberg.

“This is not windfall; it’s a venture where success is by no means assured,” said Bob Toevs, a Dish spokesman. “While we remain ready to work with the commission, we urge it to consider the sacrifices its current approach to the H block means for spectrum, jobs and investment.”

Genachowski’s proposal awaits a vote by the five-member FCC.

Congress directed the FCC to auction the H block (Greg Walden loves to micro-manage), and by limiting Dish, the FCC can generate more revenue to help pay for a planned nationwide radio network for emergency workers, FirstNet.

In other news, the Commission will consider a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to broaden its initiatives in unleashing broadband spectrum, promoting technological innovation, and encouraging investment via the creation of a shared access broadband service in the 3550-3650 MHz band for small cell use.

According to the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology, some 1000 MHz of federal spectrum, especially in bands above 2.7 GHz, may be shared using White Space interrogation technology.

The Whitehouse PCAST spectrum report (pdf) promotes expanded spectrum-sharing technologies, originally developed for unused “white space” tv frequencies.

The 3550-3650 MHz band is mostly used by Navy radar. Using the techniques pioneered by White Space receivers, devices will be able to share the frequencies with the government if they incorporate geographic location information and interrogate data bases before they transmit.

The Wireless Innovation Alliance made a noble defense for unlicensed use of the band (like WiFi), saying, “We agree with PCAST that expanding on the TV White Space database approach holds immediate promise for opening the underutilized 3550-3650 MHz band for unlicensed devices and encourage the FCC and NTIA to make implementation a priority.”

According to the Wireless Innovation Alliance, one quarter of the world’s households and tens of millions of businesses have deployed Wi-Fi networks to deliver broadband Internet access. Wi-fi increases the economic value of fixed broadband connections by $99 billion a year.

The Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA) says the FCC should make the 3550-3650 megahertz band available through the same “licensed-light” regime as it did the 3650-3700 MHz band, which would allow wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) to use the frequencies.

Commercial carriers are not big on sharing. On AT&T’s Public Policy Blog, Joan Marsh, the operator’s vice president of federal regulatory, said, “While we should be considering all options to meet the country’s spectrum goals, including the sharing of federal spectrum with government users, it is imperative that we clear and reallocate government spectrum where practical.”

CTIA, the cellular industry association, said “the gold standard” for deployment of ubiquitous mobile broadband networks is cleared spectrum.

For them.


%d bloggers like this: