Mobile Satellite Overview
Mobile satellite access is going through a transition. According to Gary Arlen, start-ups WildBlue and Astrolink have imploded. StarBand has plateaued with about 40,000 customers and Hughes DirecWay is not much better. Teledesic even with money from Bill Gates and Craig McCaw looks dead. More news is available at Satellite Broadband Magazine and Sky Report while Satellite News has a transponder guide . Comprehensive links are available from About.com, Telecomweb and Satellite-Links.uk. Lyngsat.com has the best listing of satellite transponders.
The viability of mobile broadband internet access is heavily dependent on the geosynchronous satellite inventory. Current Market leaders EchoStar and DirecPC are seeking approval for a $26 billion merger. Consumer satellite internet providers charge about $70 a month for unlimited service, but the user also must pay between $200 and $400 for installation. RV installations have been prohibitied although some third parties who use EchoStar and DirecPC avoid interference using specially approved mobile dishes provided by companies like Motosat but they cost about $5,000. WorldCom uses DirectWay for business. DirecPC uses the Ku-band, GE 4/AMC-4.
Let's cut to the chase; it appears Wild Blue and Spaceway, using 20/30 Ghz spot beams in 2003, are the most likely contenders for affordable mobile satellite access with fast upstream capability. Gilat's VSAT dish will provide an always-on connection with downstream rates up to 52.5 Mbps (shared) and uplink rates up to 307.2 kbps on the Ka band.
- = Cellular 3G Access =
3G service is available from Voicestream Verizon Wireless, AT&T Wireless, SprintPCS, Nextel and others. It has one big drawback - cost. Using 40-60Kbps for 2 hours could cost over $100 if my calculations are correct.
The ideal solution would be Monet Mobile out of Seattle. They offer 1XEV-DO (Data-Only cellular). This $50/month "wireless DSL" uses cellular for mobile, high-speed backbone connections. Unfortunately cellular operators make more money from voice so availability may be limited. Still, 1XEV-DO (or 3XEV-DV with three channels of data/voice) would be ideal. Cost might be about $50/hr for 1Mbps up and down. Near "broadcast quality" using RealVideo 9, teleconferencing and cellular may be possible in urban areas. A "wearcam" could be autonomous using an OQO shirt-pocket computer, a headset and a professional DV cam with streaming MPEG-4 output.
- = Satellite Phones =
Satellite phones are slow and expensive. Providers includeTeledesic, ICO, Globestar and Iridium. But they cost $1.50/minute or more and speed is generally limited to a max of 19Kbps. ICO and Teledesic would be faster but cost is still the primary issue if it were used more than 30 minutes a month ($100 or so).
- = Inexpensive Satellite Internet =
Low-cost, unlimited use, consumer satellite internet is available for $50-$100/month. Here are some mobile, 2-way satellite dishes that could be used on a van:
- Company: Imark
- Service: eHighwayman mobile satelite
- Bandwidth: 400Kb down, 128Kb up
- Cost: Unknown (heard $200/month)
- Company: Satcom
- Service: PASSPort MDBS-AA2000
- Bandwidth: Unknown
- Cost: Unknown
- Company: Sky Gate
- Service: low-cost 1-way or 2-way flat antennas
- Bandwidth: Unknown
- Cost: Unknown
- Service: Portable 2-way internet dish (US)
- Bandwidth: (128kbps-2Mbps)
- Cost: Dish about $5k, service varies
- Service: Transportable 2-way internet dish
- Bandwidth: (128kbps-2Mbps)
- Cost: Dish about $5k, T-1 for $600 to $2,000/mo
Company: Nera Sat Phone
- Service: CNN's mobile video phone
- Bandwidth: (64Kbps-128kbps)
- Cost: Flat panel sat transponder about $8k, 64K on Inmarsat for $7.50/min
- Company: Voice Stream
- Service: 3G cellular service
- Bandwidth: approx 50k
- Cost: Ungodly (approx $10/MB plus service charges)
- Company: Verizon
- Service: 3G cellular service
- Bandwidth: approx 50k
- Cost: Ungodly (approx $10/MB plus service charges)
- Company: Monet Mobile
- Service: 3G Data Only ("wireless DSL")
- Bandwidth: approx 500k
- Cost: (approx $50/month)
- Company: Winfield Wireless
- Service: Metropolitan 802.11b
- Bandwidth: approx T-1
- Cost: (approx $200-$300/month)
DirecPC and Starband use the Ku (14Ghz) band. Satellite carriers like Loral's CyberStar skip most of the congestion of the terrestial internet for Enterprise users and ISPs. Loral's ClearStream WebCast is available in packages of 100, 500, 1000 and 2000 simultaneous live users at a variety of data rates including 56 Kbps, 100 Kbps and 300 Kbps. Satellite teleconferences typically book an entire satellite transponder at $300-$800/hr.
Canada's Telesat provides a high-speed Internet service available everywhere in the United States and Canada. Offered in partnership with Spacenet, a subsidiary of Gilat Satellite Networks, it enables two-way high-speed Internet access for users across all 50 U.S. states and all 13 Canadian provinces and territories. It's on the Ku band of the Anik E-2 bird. The one to watch is Wild Blue on the Ka band (20/30 Ghz) using spot beams in 2003. They and US-backed Spaceway both use 20Ghz spot beams. The economics and technology of spot beams may have the most potential to deliver affordable, fast, mobile satellite access.
Wild Blue plans to have 2-way satellite uplinks for $70/month using the Ka band (20/30Ghz) with spot beams. Hughes DirectWay (12Ghz) and Spaceways (20 Ghz) may have the most potential. Spaceways is likely to have 384K-6M/up/down in Ka by 2003. Other Ka band satellites that may come online in the next year or so include GE Star(5) with 384K-40M/up/down in Ka and NetSat with 384K-1.5M/up/down in Ka with .3meter dish by 2003.
Other satellite carriers include:
The two-way Motosat dish (below, left) automatically finds the DirectWay consumer satellite service ($70-$90/mo) on the road. The Nera satellite phone (right, $8-12,000) can be packed in a briefcase but costs $7.50/min for 64Kbps. The Swe-dish dish (above) can be transported anywhere ($5,000) and uses commercial satellites like G-Star. The suitcase-size Swe-dish portable terminal sets up in minutes for IP-TV transmissions anywhere up to 2Mbps.
Major satellite providers include:
SES/Americom's satellite fleet includes GE/Americom operating 13 comsats over North America and 11 in Europe. SES combines ASTRA, Europe's leading provider of satellite capacity and GE/AMERICOM.
Inmarsat used to supply maritime communications but now offers VERY portable mobile VSATs domestically.
Boeing Satellite Systems supplies space platforms for Panamsat, GE-Americom (SES) Intelsat and others.
Small users generally order satellite equipment from packagers. They include companies like:
Immeon, using Loral Skynet Telstar 4 satellite and ViaSat's StarWire VSAT provide peer-to-peer services. StarWire is a hubless C-band or Ku-band VSAT network that sets up direct, terminal-to-terminal connections on-demand. A matching unit on the roof of aTelecom Hotel could feed a streaming server. Immeon's bandwidth-on-demand delivers emergency communications and remote WAN access.
Tachyon's transportable system provides T-1 like service for $600 to $2,000 per month, depending on the number of days that the unit is deployed. Service is available at (down/up) speeds of; 256Kbps/64Kbps, 384Kbps/128Kbps, 512Kbps/128Kbps, 768Kbps/128Kbps, and 1.54Mbps/256Kbps.
AMERICOM's Operating Fleet Line-up
AMC-1 at 103 degrees W is the first hybrid in the Americom fleet, it’s C-band payload supports cable programming distribution as part of the Cable2 neighborhood.
AMC-2 at 85 degrees W serves the entertainment, education, gaming, government & business markets with both C-band and Ku-band frequencies with strong CONUS, Hawaii, Caribbean and Canadian coverages.
- AMC-3 at 87 degrees W delivers educational programming plus business and broadcast television services in both C-band and Ku-band with excellent CONUS, Hawaii and Caribbean coverages.
- AMC-4 at 101 degrees W is partnered with AMC-1 on the C-band side to support cable while the Ku-band payload supports enterprise and IP services throughout the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.
- AMC-5 at 79 degrees W, an all Ku-band satellite, predominantly supports news distribution
- AMC-6 at 72 degrees W offers both C-band and Ku-band based servicing the enterprise, IP and entertainment markets and covers Mexico, Central America and into Latin America.
- AMC-7 at 137 degrees W is a C-band satellite just launched in the 4th Quarter of 2000 and supports video content distribution as well as back up to AMC-8.
AMC-8 at 139 degrees W is a C-band satellite that serves AT&T Alascom and is the home of Americom’s premier radio neighborhood – reaching more than 6000 radio affiliates.
- AAP-1 at 108.2 degrees E is the powerful Ku-band satellite operated on behalf of Americom Asia-Pacific, the joint venture between SES Americom and Lockheed Martin Global Telecommunications.
These operating spacecraft, all within a few years of retirement, will retain their current designations: GSTAR 4 at 105 degrees W; Satcom C1 at 79 degrees W; Satcom C3 at 131 degrees W; Satcom C4 at 135 degrees W; Satcom K2 at 81 degrees W; Spacenet 4 at 172 degrees E; TDRS-5 at 174.3 degrees East; TDRS-6 at 47 degrees W and 515 at 37.7 degrees W.
UDcast a French technology firm, wants to deliver television over IP. Their hybrid solution is currently optimized for European DVB, but the company claims that the underlying UDLR technology can provide wireless connectivity by satellite to mobile or nomadic users.
Satellite internet webcasting was tried by www.iBEAM-Chapter11.com, Williams Communications and www.webcasts.com. They're dead, dead, dead.
- = Consumer Satellites =
Echostar wants to merge both Echostare and DirecTV and is holding 2-way satellite internet access ransom. Another issue is mobile access. Both Hughes and Echostar say they can't do access from RVs although 3rd parties have been advertising just that. Motosat may be the best example. It uses DirectWay for a flat $90/month.
The fastest, affordable 2-way satellite service may be Tachyon. Their transportable dishes cost about $5,000 and data rates are $600-$2000/month but can be shared. The new generation of 20/30 Ghz satellites, when launched in 6-12 months may make mobile internet access cheaper, faster and easier, but it remains to be seen.
The Gilat Skyblaster 360e (below) can provide 384K up and 40Mbps down in the Ku band. Their 20/30 Ghz VSATs could open up the market for high-speed consumer satellite access. The hub could be at OHSU. Of course you'd have to get Jere Ratzer of OHSU's PREN.net or other NWAX members to buy into it. In the winter a mobile van could connect schools and clinics with virtual field trips. In the summer it could be used by the Neptune Project.
California has an earthquake plan that integrates with first responders. Oregon doesn't. A $500K grant would save more than $500K. Some 160 schools around the state will soon be required to pay $1200/month to Qwest to maintain the operation of their $20,000 teleconferencing systems which may soon go black. Figure it out. Multiply 100 schools by $1000/month, you get $100K/month or $1.2 million/year. AM I MISSING SOMETHING HERE?
- = Spot Beams in 2003 =
Spot beams in the Ka band (20/30 Ghz) promise to lower cost and increase speed because the same frequency can be re-used over broad geography. SES has been a leader in European spot beams at 30 Ghz. A new satellite at 105.5° West, in 2004, will enable them to provide high-speed broadband connections to U.S. residences.
Spot beams in 2003 will lower cost and increase speed. Wild Blue and SpaceWay expect to serve 1 million businesses with satellite broadband. They will provide users with up to 30 Mbps down and uplink rates ranging from 512 Kbps for individual users, to tens of Mbps for a business or major hub. WildBlue will offer similar Ka band services; consumer-level service with 400K up and 3 Mbps down for $50-$100/month and 30Mbps for $1-2,000/month. Spaceway also provides full-mesh connectivity, allowing users to communicate on a single-hop, peer-to-peer basis for collaborative interaction. Multicasting could share a satellite channel nationwide. Mentat makes efficient use of TCP-IP and multicasting for inexpensive geosynchronous satellite terminals. SkyStream Networks, a similar Content Delivery solution teamed with HP Blade Servers. A shared 30 Gbps backbone with 2 Mbps upstream could offer a terabyte of video, music and games.
The FCC authorize 11 companies to operate Ka-band satellites at a total of 34 orbit locations in geosynch space in 2001. Perhaps 2-3 systems will actually be build. The Ka band systems include:
- Assigned: 125° W.L.
- Assigned: 500 megahertz of spectrum at 121° W.L. and 500 megahertz of spectrum
- Assigned: 127° W.L. and 123° W.L.
- Assigned: 131° W.L., 26.2° W.L., 7.5° W.L., 103° E.L.
- Assigned: 111° W.L.
- Assigned: 129° W.L., 51° W.L., 52° E.L., 99° E.L., 151.5° E.L.
- Assigned: 147° W.L. and 15° W.L.
- Assigned: 71° W.L. and 62° W.L.
- Assigned: 133° W.L., 58° W.L., 45° W.L., 68.5° E.L., 72.7° E.L., 166°
- Assigned: 117° W.L., 107° W.L., 43° W.L., 28° E.L., and 107.5° E.L.
- Assigned: 119° W.L., 79° W.L., 15° E.L. and 116.5° E.L.
Satellite backbones have latency issues but sharing 5 Mbps downstream link that would cost $200/month might be shared by 100 people. That lowers the cost to $2/month. "Unplugged expeditions" might be infrequent. The capacity would normally be shared. It would also be used for emergency backup. Cost sharing with other groups (like hams) might also be feasible.
- = Mobile VSAT Satellite dishes =
Small, two-way VSATs are available from Tachyon, LandSea,Motosat, and Swe-dish. If 500 people share a $2000/month satellite connection with 3 Mbps up and 30 Mbps down cost per user would be $4/month. Premium entertainment may be offered by MP-4 sites.
- = The Van as a Remote MAN Link =
Winfield Wireless on the KGON tower may supply the ideal solution for "wireless DSL" using 802.11b for the backhaul. A 20db gain dish on a 20 foot pneumantic tower in the van could probably hit the KGON tower from most of the metro region.
A wireless link from the Van to OHSU or the KGON tower could provide a high-speed wireless MAN. A short leased line from OHSU to the Pittock Building might be utilized. The unlicensed 2.4 or 5 GHz band could supply a 22-54 Mbps backbone. A van with a 2-way dish could be parked, semi-permanently on a hilltop location for PersonalTelco for emergency back-up. It needn't be expensive. Find a private or public parking garage (for $75/month) that can get DSL service from Easystreet ($75/month). Then extend the mast for service. The $150/mo cost might be shared by 10-15 people (at $20/month).
Another 2.4 Ghz system might use Navini's CDMA system. They have teamed with Intel and use another 2.4Ghz standard (CDMA) for the non-line of sight backbone and link to Intel's 802.11 wireless access points. A wireless ISP in a van might consist of Tachyon's satellite link connected to a Navini 2.4Ghz base station in the van. The pneumatic tower supplies 2.4Ghz backhaul with CDMA to remote CPEs using multiple Navini/Intel Access Points. The non line of sight nature of the Navini solution and the mobility of the van might also provide emergency back-up. Bureaucratic "command centers" may cost ten times more. An independently operated "cloud van" could be fast and flexible.
A shared 2-way dish located at OHSU (about 1000 feet above sea level) could be accessed via 5.8 GHz unlicensed bridge that would be mounted on the van.Western Wireless, which merged with Proxim, offers a wireless solution. Their Tsunami Multipoint can support 6,000 subscribers per cell site using the 5.8 GHz frequency band at 60 Mbits/second. It complies with the emerging IEEE 802.16 standard for broadband wireless access. This wireless backbone solution delivers connectivity for nodes on roof-tops, utility poles or a van. A 60 Mbps base station (at OHSU for example), costs $10,000 while the 60 Mbps receiver unit (in the Van for example), costs about $2,000.
The community might also be served from this 60Mbps wireless backbone.
Dual-channel access points that are available include the Cisco Aironet 1200 ($1500), D-Link's Air Pro DWL-6000AP ($499) and Intel's 5 Gig products. Dual-mode access points may provide easier bridging; rooftop nodes might be interconnected via the 5Ghz backbone while supplying 2.4Ghz locally.
Combining multiple access points into a seamless, local-area roaming network is made easier withORiNOCO's AP-2000 Access Point and their AS-2000 Access Server or the Proxim Controller ($1,495) with their Proxim 802.11A Access Points. So The Van could be dispatched to an area of interest and 3-4 remote access points would provide continuous connection in the area. The van supplies either a MAN link to OHSU or a direct to satellite link.
- = Remote Video Uplinking =
Portland Cable Access can't cablecast from remote locations because they don't have microwave equipment. Broadcast microwave gear requires licensed frequencies and is expensive. Uplink video to satellite from a small van is pretty routine ($5/minute) through network affliliated satellite services like Telstar 6 or G-Star5. A two minute segment via satellite link typically runs about $75 and uses MPEG-2 compression at 5Mbps for the uplink. ABC News has a similar agreement with Loral (Telstar).
For live events staged in a park, an electric bike might be used to provide power. A $1,200 Bike-E includes a 10 ah battery pack at 24 volts. A small inverter supplies the power to Sony streaming USB camcorder ($600) (mounted on the handlebars). The video feed a Pentium IV laptop ($1500) with a 802.11a card ($150) and an 8db gain omni antenna ($50). The Electric Bike feeds the van a broadcast quality stream for 4 hours. The van uplinks the 1Mbps stream using the Winfield's "wireless T-1" connection ($250/month). The electric bike ($1,500) and mobile streaming system ($2,500) could provide live coverage anywhere - something the $250,000 Portland Cable Access van can't do.
Local unlicensed 2.4Ghz and 5.8 Ghz could also be used. Consumer DV camcorders offer high quality video and can be compressed down to 1Mbps or so. That could be fed to Winfield Wireless on the KGON tower and picked up by Portland Cable Access (via cable modem) for live cablecasts. PCA (or anyone) can plug a cable modem into a $600 Pentium IV to receive the 1Mbps stream. They expand it full screen and output S-Video to air or cablecast. RealVideo 9 should produce near broadcast-quality results. A DVD Jukebox can store 200 pre-recorded segments.
For encoding the video at the van, the best bet might be a Videum 1000 Capture Card ($250) or a Firewire-compatible Viewcast card ($900). The Osprey-220 and Osprey-540 video capture provide high-end professional streaming and capture solution, and are compatible with the On-2 DIVX standard. The Osprey 220 ($350), comes with a breakout box (above) for easy access to audio/video inputs. The high-end 540 encoder ($2500) works with professional Betamax SDI inputs. Firewire has now been upgraded to 1394b which can use inexpensive CAT-5 cable with 300 foot runs. A live, multiple camera shoot might use 4 DV cameras ($500/each), running into a DV video switcher ($1,500), then compressed in real-time by the computer ($650) equipped with a capture card ($350). The whole thing could run under $5,000 and be paid off with one contract to do the Gorge Games, for example.
- = MPEG-4 Video =
Real's Producer 9 Preview is the latest. RealVideo 9 is said to provide 30% bandwidth savings over RealVideo 8 at all quality levels. Pocket PCs have the Microsoft MediaPlayer built-in, of course, but Real also has a player for Pocket PCs.RealSystems now includes MPEG-4 support.Real's MPEG-4 page explains their server and client-side plug-ins using Envivio MPEG-4 and others. Constructing a 40 hr/wk streamcast might not be such an outrageous idea.
A sports event might be covered live using 3-4 wireless "hot spots" for the reporters and streaming DV cams. Cabling the hot spots together at 100Mbps is practical with 1394b cable which can run over 1000 feet (optically) or up to 300 feet using copper, CAT-5. A wireless backbone to the van may also be used. Navini's 2.4 Ghz backbone or the 5Ghz section of a Cisco Aironet 1200 access point, used as a bridge, with 4 different APs linked "ad hoc" on 4 different 5.8 Ghz frequencies. Magis chipsets for IEEE 802.11a-compliant, 40 Mbits/second video handle up to five standard-definition digital TV channels simultaneously. Tablet PCs could preview each hot spot and go full screen for 1394 output to the switcher. The van would switch 1394 video compressed down to 4 Mbps using RealVideo 9 and uplink via Ka band at 5Mbps. This IP-solution can use inexpensive, low-capacity uplinks and provides user interaction.
Plug a Bluetooth earpiece in your ear and a stick a consumer-grade USB camera or a camcorder into a shirt-pocket size OQO PDA with a 1 Ghz Transmeta running XP for live NetMeetings or streamcasting anywhere. Intel's Pentium IV-M will have similar capability. Walk and webcast. Sony's CCD-TRV608 camcorder streams live video over USB while Producer, Media Encoder, On2 or Sorenson Broadcaster could feed a broadcast-quality MPEG-4 signal to a Darwin Open Source Server colo'ed at Easy Street.
Wireless backbone could be provided with 1XRTT cellular using a Socket connector ($100) or Sierra Aircard ($300). For 1Mbps upstream, a 802.11a card with a 802.16 dish on a van ($500) or Navini's CDMA backhaul ($300) might do the trick.
Like the Jason Project. Only cheaper.
Newspapers could start their own state-wide network. Free Speech TV provides an alternative to mainstream TV broadcasts. Portland.Indymedia uses Community Activist Technology. FreeNetworks hosted the January 2002 Summit and has it on video. PrideVision is out of the box.
Local news directors may be obiterated by centralcasting group owners struggling with a shrinking 10% over-the-air audience. Talent-owned networks can take control of their own destiny. Twenty-first century storytellers will create new rules. Wi-Fi is Fast, Cheap and Out of Control.
Unfortunately the bottom line is still the bottom line. Selling temporary, high-speed connection for trade shows or conventions for $1000/day could pay for it. If it costs $3,000 per webcast, you'd need 60 users paying $50 to cover costs. Multi-casting to 10,000 (or 100,000) might be possible with a Sports and Comedy "cloud" providing revenue.
Homeland Security might be summarized in two words: Comedy Roadtrip.