SATELLITE PHONE NETWORKS WITH EMPHASIS ON IRADIUM AND ODYSSEY BY Sanjeev Kumar
1. A communications satellite (sometimes abbreviated to comsat) is an artificial satellite stationed in space for the purposes of telecommunications. Modern communications satellites use a variety of orbits including geostationary orbits, Molniya orbits, other elliptical orbits and low (polar and non-polar) Earth orbits. For fixed (point-to-point) services, communications satellites provide a microwave radio relay technology complementary to that of submarine communication cables. They are also used for mobile applications such as communications to ships, vehicles, planes and hand-held terminals, and for TV and radio broadcasting, for which application of other technologies, such as cable, is impractical or impossible . GEOSTATIONARY SATELLITE 2. A satellite in a geostationary orbit appears to be in a fixed position to an earth-based observer. A geostationary satellite revolves around the earth at a constant speed once per day over the equator. The geostationary orbit is useful for communications applications because ground based antennas, which must be directed toward the satellite, can operate effectively without the need for expensive equipment to track the satellite’s motion. Especially for applications that require a large number of ground antennas (such as direct TV distribution), the savings in ground equipment can more than justify the extra cost and onboard complexity of lifting a satellite into the relatively high geostationary orbit. The concept of the geostationary communications satellite was first proposed by Arthur C. Clarke, building on work by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and on the 1929 work by Herman Potočnik (writing as Herman Noordung) Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums - der Raketen-motor. In October 1945Clarke published an article titled “Extra-terrestrial Relays” in the British magazine Wireless World. The article described the fundamentals behind the deployment of artificial satellites in geostationary orbits for the purpose of relaying radio signals. Thus Arthur C. Clarke is often quoted as being theinventor of the communications satellite.
The first truly geostationary satellite launched in orbit was the Syncom 3, launched on August 19, 1964. It was placed in orbit at 180° east longitude, over the International Date Line. It was used that same year to relay experimental television coverage on the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan to the United States, the first television transmission sent over the Pacific Ocean. Shortly after Syncom 3, Intelsat I, aka Early Bird, was launched on April 6, 1965 and placed in orbit at 28° west longitude. It was the first geostationary satellite for telecommunications over the Atlantic Ocean. On November 9, 1972, North America's first geostationary satellite serving the continent, Anik A1, was launched by Telesat Canada, with the United States following suit with the launch ofWestar 1 by Western Union on April 13, 1974. On December 19, 1974, the first geostationary communications satellite in the world to be three-axis stabilized was launched: the Franco-German Symphonie. After the launchings of Telstar, Syncom 3, Early Bird, Anik A1, and Westar 1, RCA Americom (later GE Americom, now SES Americom) launched Satcom 1 in 1975. It was Satcom 1 that was instrumental in helping early cable TV channels such as WTBS (now TBS Superstation), HBO, CBN (now ABC Family), and The Weather Channel become successful, because these channels distributed their programming to all of the local cable TV headends using the satellite. Additionally, it was the first satellite used by broadcast television networks in the United States, like ABC, NBC, and CBS, to distribute their programming their local affiliate stations. Satcom 1 was so widely used because it had twice the communications capacity of the competing Westar 1 in America (24 transponders as opposed to the 12 of Westar 1), resulting in lower transponder-usage costs. Satellites in later decades tended to have even higher transponder numbers. By 2000 Hughes Space and Communications (now Boeing Satellite Development Center) had built nearly 40 percent of the more than one hundred satellites in service worldwide. Other major satellite manufacturers include Space Systems/Loral, Lockheed Martin (owns former RCA Astro Electronics/GE Astro Space business), Northrop Grumman, Alcatel Space, nowThales Alenia Space, with the Spacebus series, and EADS Astrium..
LOW Earth Orbit 3. A Low Earth Orbit (LEO) is generally defined as an orbit within the locus extending from the Earth’s surface up to an altitude of 2,000 km. Given the rapid orbital decay of objects below approximately 200 km, the commonly accepted definition for LEO is between 160 - 2000 km (100 - 1240 miles) above the Earth's surface. With the exception of the lunar flights of the Apollo program, and the suborbital flights of the Mercury program and the X-15 and Space ShipOne rocket planes, all human spaceflights have been in LEO, including all Space Shuttle and space station missions. The altitude record for a human spaceflight in LEO was Gemini 11 with an apogee of 1374.1 km. Objects in LEO encounter atmospheric drag in the form of gases in the thermosphere (approximately 80-500 km up) or exosphere (approximately 500 km and up), depending on orbit height. LEO is an orbit around Earth between the atmosphere and below the inner Van Allen radiation belt. The altitude is usually not less than 300 km because that would be impractical due to the larger atmospheric drag. Equatorial Low Earth Orbits (ELEO) are a subset of LEO. These orbits, with low inclination to the Equator, allow rapid revisit times and have the lowestdeltav requirement of any orbit. Orbits with a high inclination angle are usually called polar orbits. Higher orbits include medium Earth orbit (MEO), sometimes called intermediate circular orbit (ICO), and further above, Geostationary orbit (GEO). Orbits higher than low orbit can lead to earlier failure of electronic components due to intense radiation and charge accumulation The International Space Station is in a LEO that varies from 319.6 km (199 mi) to 346.9 km (216 mi) above the Earth's surface. While a majority of artificial satellites are placed in LEO, where they travel at about 27,400 km/h (8 km/s), making one complete revolution around the Earth in about 90 minutes, many communication satellites require geostationary orbits, and move at the same angular velocity as the Earth. Since it requires less energy to place a satellite into a LEO and the LEO satellite needs less powerful amplifiers for successful transmission, LEO is still used for many communication applications. Because these LEO orbits are not geostationary, a network (or "constellation") of satellites is required to provide continuous coverage. Lower
orbits also aid remote sensing satellites because of the added detail that can be gained. Remote sensing satellites can also take advantage of sun-synchronous LEO orbits at an altitude of about 800 km (500 mi) and near polar inclination. ENVISAT is one example of an Earth observation satellite that makes use of this particular type of LEO. Although the Earth's pull due to gravity in LEO is not much less than on the surface of the Earth, people and objects in orbit experience weightlessnessdue to the effects of freefall. Atmospheric and gravity drag associated with launch typically add 1,500-2,000 m/s to the (delta-V) required to reach normal LEO orbital velocity of around 7,800 m/s (17,448 mph) .
4. Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), sometimes called Intermediate Circular Orbit (ICO), is the region of space around the Earth above low Earth orbit(2,000 kilometres (1,243 mi)) and below geostationary orbit (35,786 kilometres (22,236 mi)). The most common use for satellites in this region is for navigation, such as the GPS (20,200 kilometres (12,552 mi)), Glonass (19,100 kilometres (11,868 mi)) and Galileo (23,222 kilometres (14,429 mi)) constellations. Communications satellites that cover the North and South Pole are also put in MEO. The orbital periods of MEO satellites range from about 2 to 24 hours. Telstar, was one of the first and most famous experimental satellites, orbits in MEO.
Operating Basics of Satellite Phone Networks When the user initiates a call on a satellite capable handset, the nearest satellite picks up the call and authenticates the users through the nearest gateway on the earth. If the destination phone is part of the public switched telephone network (PSTN), the call is routed to the nearest gateway and consecutive PSTN. If the destination phone is another satellite handset, the call routing occurs through satellites only, which increases transmission efficiency and quality.
6. Iridium’s Network The Iridium satellite system uses 66 LEO satellites that orbit 780 km (about 485 miles) above the earth's surface, to transmit signals. Each satellite cost $62 million, weighs about 1500 pounds, and revolves around the earth every 100 minutes. The satellites cast 48 beams onto the surface of the earth, covering a circular area with a diameter of 2700 miles. Iridium transmits data between phones, satellites, and traditional communication networks. Calls are routed from one beam to the next or one satellite to another when the satellite moves out of the range of the user. The service link between phone and satellites operates in Lband frequency at1-2 GHz. Iridium relies on circuit and packet switching to manage voice and data transmissions between phones and satellites. Circuit switching sets up a dedicated connection for the duration of each voice transmission i.e., a phone call. By using circuit switching for phone calls, Iridium ensures that users will not experience transmission interruptions due to dropped or degraded signals. Packet switching
breaks down data into smaller units called packets and sends them over a shared connection. By using packet switching, the Iridium system efficiently uses bandwidth to allow more concurrent users to transmit data. Iridium uses gateways to manage communication between its satellite network and more conventional telecommunications systems. Gateways are points that a signal may enter or leave a network. Iridium currently maintains 12 gateways, 2 in North America, 7 in Asia, and 1 each in Europe, Africa, and South America. Communication among satellites and gateways uses Kaband frequency at a rate of 19.4 – 29.3 GHz. SATELLITE PHONE SERVICE INDUSTRY 7. Following Iridium, several companies attempted to enter the satellite phone marketplace. However, due to a lack of financial support, Iridium’s rivals have not successfully implemented global satellite phone networks Odyssey Worldwide Services Odyssey Worldwide Services planned on implementing MEO satellite system as a backbone of its service. Because a MEO system required less maintenance, analysts believed Odyssey would yield greater profits than Iridium’s LEO satellite system. However, despite the financial backing of TRW and Teleglobe, Odyssey lacked sufficient resources to complete the satellite system and merged with ICO http://www.ico.com/press/releases/199712/971217.htm]. ICO Global Communications ICO’s founders envisioned a system that combines the strengths of satellites and terrestrial network to deliver services. ICO’s proposed system would have used MEO satellites to reduce maintenance costs and simplify transmitting signals. MEO satellites operate at higher altitude which leads to a longer lifespan than LEO satellites. Also, because they can cover larger areas, MEO satellites switch signals fewer times to span the globe than a LEO-based satellite network. Due to financial difficulties, ICO filed for bankruptcy in August, 1999. In 2000, Craig McGaw, founder of Nextel, raised 1.2 billion dollars to lead ICO out of bankruptcy. In a step forward, ICO launched its first satellite in 2001.However, despite the infusion of capital and successful satellite launch, ICO has not implemented an operational . Teledisc Funded by Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, and Craig McGaw, Teledisc announced it would build a network of 840 LEO satellites to offer consumers telephone and Internet services. Perhaps due to its high profile supporters, Teledisc successfully persuaded the United Nations and United States to dedicate a portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for their service. After Iridium and ICO filed for bankruptcy in 1999, was unable to raise sufficient capital to fund the network. As a result, Teledisc failed to launch a single satellite. In 2002, Teledisc laid off its last ten employees and went out of business. Globalstar Globalstar was formed in 1991 by Loral Space & Communications and Qualcomm. With support from the United States and Russian space programs, Globalstar quickly built a limited LEO satellite network. In 1999,
Globalstar began delivering services in more than 100 countries. By November 2000, Globalstar had sold only 21,300 out of its stockpile of 143000 phones . When examining Globastar’s failure to win subscribers, analysts suggest that consumers didn’t like limited service, bulky phones, and high per-minute charges. Globalstar filing for Chapter 11 US bankruptcy protection during February 2002.
Conclusion Despite a history of bankruptcy and failures, satellite telephone companies continue to operate. To survive, companies have been reorganized or bought out by investors. For example, although Iridium’s satellite system $5 billion to develop, Dan Colussy acquired Iridium assets for about $25 million at a liquidation sale. Freed of massive debt, satellite phone companies have been able to lower costs. Rather than $7 dollars a minute, Iridium has slashed charges $1.50 per minute of airtime. Despite lower costs, satellite phones may not appeal to broader consumer markets. Satellite telephones cost from $1995 to $9295. When compared to modern cell phones, satellite telephones are bulky and posses fewer auxiliary functions. In lieu of broader consumer markets, satellite phone companies continue to market their services to the industries such as oil exploration and have directed their attention to government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Defense. Iridium recently renewed a contract with the Pentagon to serve 20,000 U.S. Defense Department workers. The usefulness and ubiquitous access of satellite phone services was demonstrated to TV viewers all over the world in the Iraqi war. Despite new contract and increased public awareness of its services, Iridium has a long way to go to meet investors’ expectations. Will the future of Iridium Satellite be bright as analysts predicted?