Satellite (Wireless Networks)

Satellite communication systems use of orbiting satellites to relay communications signals from one satellite station to one or several other users. Satellite communication can be divided into categories of fixed satellite service, positioning systems, and mobile satellite communication systems.

There are three basic types of satellite systems: geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO), medium earth orbit (MEO), and low earth orbit (LEO). GEO satellites hover at approximately 22,300 miles above the surface of the earth. GEO satellites revolve along with the earth once a day; they appear stationary with respect to the earth. The high-gain antennas used to receive signals from 22 thousand miles away (usually called “dish” antennas) are pointed directly toward the satellite. MEO satellites are located closer to the earth than GEO satellites and do not as a rule require high-gain antennas. This is important as MEO satellites revolve around the earth several times per day and fixed antennas cannot be used. The newest satellite technology being deployed is LEO satellites. LEO satellites are located approximately 450 miles above the surface of the earth. Because these satellites are relatively close to the earth, portable phones with smaller antennas can be used.

Figure 1 shows the different types of satellite communication systems. The GEO satellite system is primarily used for television broadcast services, as their satellites appear stationary above the Earth. MEO and LEO systems are used for mobile communications as they are located much closer to the Earth. However, these satellites continuously move relative to the surface of the Earth.

Figure 1: Satellite Systems

Mobile satellite telephone service allows customers to use specialized satellite mobile telephones to communicate in any part of the world to the PSTN through the use of communication satellites. Commercial communication satellite services began in the mid-1960’s with the establishment of Intelsat, a multinational organization with well over 130 member nations today. An organization known as the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT) also was established in the early-1960’s and became the United States’ representative in Intelsat. These first commercial applications of satellites provided international telephone and television program transmission, primarily between the United States and Europe.

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