RoadNews Road Report:
Solving the Global Wireless Communications Problem

Iridium LLC became the world‚s first global satellite phone and paging company on November 1, 1998. Its network of 66-low earth orbiting satellites combined with existing terrestrial cellular systems enabled customers to communicate around the globe. However, Iridium LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on August 13, 1999. Iridium was 20% owned by Motorola. On March 17, 2000 Iridium LLC announced that it would terminate the provision of commercial service as of 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, March 17, 2000. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York approved use by the Company of its secured lenders‚ cash collateral to commence the wind down of its operations and the sale of its assets.

That announcement set off a shock wave among the ranks of the Iridium customers as they scrambled to find alternatives to their Iridium based telecommunications systems.Recent comunications with various users around the globe indicate that parts of the Iridium system are still up and running under some reorganization plans. AUstralia is one of those locations.

Among the possible alternatives to the now defunct Iridium system:

Iridium Satellite LLC

Iridium Satellite LLC is the only provider of truly global mobile satellite voice and data solutions. Iridium LLC purchased the Iridium satellite network in December 2000 after its original owners filed for bankruptcy. With complete coverage of the Earthís oceans, airways and Polar Regions, Iridium delivers essential services to users who need communications access to and from remote areas where no other form of communication is available. The company has operations in Leesburg, Virginia where the Satellite Network Operations Center is located, and gateway facilities in Tempe, Arizona and Oahu, Hawaii.

Terrestrial and Space Based Network The Iridium constellation consists of 66 operational satellites and seven spares orbiting in a constellation of six polar planes. Each plane has 11 mission satellites performing as nodes in the telephony network. The seven additional satellites orbit as spares ready to replace any unserviceable satellite. This constellation ensures that every region on the globe is covered by at least one satellite at all times. Charges start around $20 per month with a $60 one time set-up charge. Usage rate are $1 to $1.50 per minute with no long distance or roaming charges. Rental/lease of handsets starts at $125 per week plus call rates of $1.84 per minute. Outright purchase of a handset can be made for $1,494 for a Motorola 9505.

Iridium LLC 1600 Wilson BoulevardSuite 1000 Arlington VA22209 USAPhone:703-465-1000 Business Operations 8440 South River Parkway Tempe, AZ85284 USA Phone: 480-752-1100 Web site: www.iridium.com 

----------------------------------------------

American Mobile Satellite Corporation
10802 Parkridge Boulevard

Reston, VA 20191
Ph.: 703-758-6000
www.ammobile.com

American Mobile was founded in 1988. Its acquisition of ARDIS was completed on March 31, 1998. Based in Reston, Virginia, approximately 470 employees are located at American Mobile‚s headquarters and its Lincolnshire, Illinois, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa offices.

American Mobile Satellite Corporation offers complete communications services and solutions for mobile work forces and mobile professionals. With integrated terrestrial and satellite networks, American Mobile delivers reliable communications virtually anywhere in the United States. To meet the communications needs of America's businesses, American Mobile has developed a suite of products and services that offer effective communications between customers' headquarters and remote or mobile workers. Their nationwide communications services provide one-stop shopping for wireless e-mail services, two-way wireless data services, custom data applications, satellite and terrestrial mobile messaging, satellite telephone, voice dispatch, and circuit-switched data.

American Mobile‚s wireless communications solutions operate in a service area that includes the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and coastal waters. Their products and services are applied in a variety of markets, including transportation, field service, telemetry, emergency management, and natural resources.

SKYCELL® Satellite Communications Services from American Mobile provide instant communication across North America. Dependable telephone, dispatch, data, and fax connectivity are available virtually anytime, anywhere.

American Mobile provides unmatched nationwide coverage based on the combination of the fully deployed ARDIS® network and our geosynchronous satellite communications technology. Today American Mobile owns and operates a technology infrastructure that would cost a new venture close to10 years and hundreds of millions of dollars to duplicate.

Globalstar USA
3200 Zanker Road
P.O. Box 640670
San Jose, CA 95164-0670
Ph.: 877-728-7466
www.globalstar.com

Globalstar is a consortium of leading international telecommunications companies originally established in 1991. Globalstar is a wholesale provider of mobile and fixed satellite-based telephony services including Voice calling, Short Messaging Service (SMS), Roaming, Positioning, Facsimile, and Data transmission.In February of 2002, it received permission froma bankruptcy court to continue operations while it restructures.

With Globalstar, one phone is all you need to communicate virtually anywhere and everywhere around the globe (except India, Southeast Asia, Arctic/Antarctic and most of Africa), simply, dependably and affordably.

Globalstar's constellation of 48 low-earth-orbiting (LEO) satellites, transmits calls from a wireless phone or fixed phone station to a terrestrial gateway, where they are passed on to existing fixed and cellular telephone networks in more than 100 countries on 6 continents.

As a wholesaler, Globalstar sells access to its system to regional and local telecom service providers around the world. These Globalstar partners in turn, form alliances with additional providers. Ultimately, the caller benefits because his final service provider understands the local market and provides optimal service for the area.

In this way, Globalstar leverages the marketing, operating and technical capabilities of the world's premier communications service providers. And by extending their reach, Globalstar complements terrestrial networks, rather than competing with them, opening up markets and bringing telephony to entirely new areas of the world.

The Globalstar system was designed to provide high quality satellite-based telephony services to a broad range of users. Globalstar meets the needs of cellular users who roam outside of coverage areas, people who work in remote areas where terrestrial systems do not exist, residents of under-served markets who can use Globalstar's fixed-site phones to satisfy their needs for basic telephony, and international travelers who need to keep in constant touch.

From an ease of use point of view, Globalstar phones look and act like mobile or fixed phones with which you're familiar. The difference is that they can operate virtually anywhere, carrying your call over an exceptionally clear, secure Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) satellite signal.

Like "bent-pipes", or mirrors in the sky, the Globalstar constellation of 48 Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites picks up signals from over 80% of the Earth's surface, everywhere outside the extreme polar regions and some mid-ocean regions. Several satellites pick up a call, and this "path diversity" assures that the call does not get dropped even if a phone moves out of sight of one of the satellites. As soon as a second satellite picks up the signal and is able to contact the same terrestrial "gateway", it begins to simultaneously transmit. If buildings or terrain block your phone signal, this "soft-handoff" prevents call interruption. The second satellite now maintains transmission of the original signal to the terrestrial "gateway". Packages start at $25 per month with 89 cents to $1.49 per minute when calling from-to the USA and roaming charges of $1.09 to $1.99 apply outside of the home calling area.

Additional advantages of using Low Earth Orbiting satellites within the Globalstar system include no perceptible voice delay and lighter / smaller all-in-one handsets.

Inmarsat
99 City Road
London EC1Y1AX United Kingdom
Tel: 44-171-728-1000
Fax: 44-171-728-1179
www.inmarsat.org

Inmarsat pioneered and developed global mobile satellite communications. It was established in 1979 to serve the maritime industry by developing satellite communications for ship management and distress and safety applications. Inmarsat currently operates a global satellite system that is used by independent service providers to offer an unparalleled range of voice and multimedia communications for customers on the move or in remote locations.

While continuing to perform its original mandate, Inmarsat has since expanded into land, mobile and aeronautical communications, so that users now include thousands of people who live or work in remote areas without reliable terrestrial networks, or travellers anywhere.

Users such as journalists and broadcasters, health teams and disaster relief workers, land transport fleet operators, airlines, airline passengers and air traffic controllers, government workers, national emergency and civil defence agencies, and heads of state.

Two decades after it was established, Inmarsat has become the first intergovernmental "treaty" organization to privatize and become a limited company. Its headquarters are in London. Inmarsat also has regional offices in Beijing, Delhi, and Dubai.

Since Inmarsat came into being, new technology, new services, expanding markets, growing competition and regulatory changes are all having profound effects on the way it will operatein the future.

Using the experience gained through 20 years of successful mobile satellite operations, Inmarsat is actively following a business strategy that will place it at the heart of the convergence between computers, communications and mobility. This strategy will enable it to continue to serve its traditional markets in the maritime, aeronautical and land mobile communities, along with new markets for personal and multi-media mobile satellite communications.

Throughout the world, there are over 150,000 terminals commissioned for use with services offered via the Inmarsat system. Depending on the type of terminal used, services available include direct-dial telephone, data, facsimile, telex, electronic mail, high quality audio, compressed video and still video pictures, telephoto, slow-scan television, videoconferencing and telemedicine.

Orbcomm
2455 Horse Pen Road
Herndon, VA 20171
Ph.: 800-ORB-COMM
Ph.: 703-406-6000
Fax: 703.406.3508
www.orbcomm.com

ORBCOMM is the world's first commercial provider of global low-Earth orbit satellite data and messaging services. The ORBCOMM system enables businesses to track remote and mobile assets such as trailers, railcars, locomotives and heavy equipment; monitor remote utility meters and oil and gas storage tanks, wells and pipelines; and stay in touch with remote workers anywhere on the globe.

ORBCOMM is owned by Teleglobe Inc. and Orbital Sciences Corporation. Teleglobe Inc. is a leading global provider of broadband services with the most extensive global Internet network. Delivering advanced broadband applications to customers in more than 100 countries, Teleglobe is the premier communications architecture for the digital economy. Orbital is a space technology company that designs, manufactures and markets a broad range of space products and satellite-based services.

The ORBCOMM system uses LEO satellites instead of terrestrial fixed site relay repeaters to

provide worldwide geographic coverage. The system is capable of sending and receiving two-way

alphanumeric packets, similar to two-way paging or e-mail.

The three main components of the ORBCOMM system are:

the space segment - the constellation of satellites;

the ground segment - gateways which include the Gateway Control Centers (GCCs) and

Gateway Earth Stations (GESs) and the Network Control Center (NCC) located in the United States; and,

subscriber communicators (SCs) - hand-held devices for personal messaging, as well as fixed and mobile units for remote monitoring and tracking applications.

ORBCOMM currently has 35 satellites in its constellation. An additional launch is planned for 2000, enhancing coverage in the equatorial regions of the world.

ORBCOMM provides the following products and services:

Monitoring - ORBCOMM enables a company to monitor its remote assets from a desktop computer. From oil pipelines to gas well heads, from utility meters to the water quality of an environmentally sensitive river, the ORBCOMM system can provide information to operate a business more effectively.

Tracking - ORBCOMM's low-cost data communication system is an easy way to keep track of

trailers, heavy equipment, railcars, locomotives or barges-anywhere in the world. By attaching a small ORBCOMM communicator to a company asset, you can know where it is, if it's moving, or even the status of the cargo. Knowing the location and availability of company property-and being able to respond immediately when problems do occur-will help maximize revenue and decrease costs.

Commercial messaging - A ship captain, a long-haul truck driver, or a surveyor can take full advantage of wireless data applications. You can order a part, find out about the next job or check on your family from any location Ų all without worrying about terrestrial service coverage limitations.

Personal messaging - Boating, hunting and backpacking adventures often takes a person to remote locations, far from telephone lines, cell towers and couriers. ORBCOMM insures that you are never out of touch with family, friends and the office. Using a lightweight, hand-held communicator, you can send and receive short messages via the Internet. It's an excellent backup and supplement to your existing communication services.

TMI Communications
1601 Telesat Court
P.O. Box 9826
Ottawa ON K1G 5M2 Canada
Ph.: 800-216-6728
www.tmisolutions.com

Telesat Mobile Inc. was formed in 1988 with a mandate to develop, construct and operate Canada‚s first mobile satellite communications network. It evolved into "TMI Communications and Company, Limited Partnership" (TMI) when it became a wholly owned subsidiary of BCE Inc.

By 1996, less than a decade after it was created, TMI completed its research and development, launched its first satellite, and began offering mobile communications services to customer across Canada.

Since 1996, TMI has successfully introduced a portfolio of mobile communications services, including voice, data, facsimile, dispatch radio, positioning and asset management services. TMI Communications has a rich heritage of delivering advanced mobile communications network solutions. These solutions are delivered via North America‚s most powerful mobile communications network providing superior capacity and reliability for customers across North America, northern South America, Central America, the Caribbean, Hawaii, up to 250 miles offshore.

TMI is owned by BCE Inc. BCE is one of the world‚s premier telecommunications companies and one of North America‚s largest telecommunications suppliers.

TMI partners with distributors to provide a full range of mobile solutions including asset tracking and management services, packet- and circuit-switched data, voice, facsimile, e-mail and Internet access and dispatch radio.

TMI products and services include Track And Manage Service (TAMS), Wireless Data Services, Wireless Phone, Dispatch Radio, Wireless Fax, Differential GPS, and Satellite Capacity and Consulting Services.

Their markets include Oil & Gas, Transportation, Forestry, Utilities, Marine, Mining, and Leisure & Recreation.

Especially noteworthy is TMI‚s Circuit-Switched Data Service. It is ideal for email and Internet access. In addition, the service can be used for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) type activities where larger volumes of information need to be transmitted or received. Devices, such as computers, fax machines, data loggers, Remote Terminal Units (RTUs) and onboard computer units, can be directly connected to TMI communicators.

TMI Circuit-Switched Data is economical and technically efficient for applications that send larger file sizes (>1500 bytes) or have small numbers of remote terminals. The service provides 2400 bps and 4800 bps throughput and supports fixed and mobile office applications such as e-mail, fax, Internet surfing, LAN access and file transfer. Calls are interconnected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) allowing the TMI subscribers to connect seamlessly to virtually any destination in the world.

Most of these global communications solutions are still fairly expensive for the individual road warrior or casual traveler. However, the prices are coming down as local providers and partners find ways to creatively take advantage of the vast array of communications channels available and the many devices being incorporated in today‚s laptop computers. Totally integrated cell phone, fax, e-mail messaging and Internet access via laptop computer is slowly becoming a reality. Keep a watchful eye on the local partners to come up with more economical ways to provide these integrated services for you in the near future.

 

Return to the Article Index