Russian Satellite Hit


A Russian communications satellite mysteriously malfunctioned earlier this week, reports SpaceToday. Some suggest that the spacecraft was struck by a micrometeoroid or a piece of orbital debris. Express-AM11 is now being moved to a graveyard orbit.

The Russian Express-AM11 satellite suffered what its operator, the Russian Satellite Communications Corporation (RSCC), called a “sudden external impact” early on March 29.

The EXPRESS-AM11 was designed for digital TV and radio broadcasting, telephony, data transmission and broadband Internet access using VSATs. It offered communications and broadcasting across Russia, CIS countries, Middle East, and Asia using 26 C-band transponders and 4 Ku-band transponders.

The impact caused the loss of fluid used by the spacecraft’s thermal control system. The spacecraft also temporarily lost attitude control, and while engineers were able to restore the spacecraft’s attitude temperatures inside the spacecraft rose to critical levels, forcing RSCC to boost the spacecraft into a disposal spacecraft before control of the spacecraft was permanently lost.

RSCC has shifted the customers of Express-AM11, primarily TV and radio broadcasting services, to the company’s other satellites. The spacecraft, built by Russian manufacturer NPO PM with a communications payload provided by Alcatel, had been launched less than two years ago into geosynchronous orbit at 96.5 degrees east.

This should be a good test of the U.S. antisatellite response time. Here are current launches and Vandenberg’s AFB Launch Schedule.

The Air Force launched the XSS-11 a year ago which has the ability to inspect other satellites. Some believe antisatellite capabilities are also being added to the U.S. arsenal, even to disrupt or destroy other satellites. Still, if recent articles available on the internet are any indication, close observation and rendezvous may not yet be possible for geosynch satellites. They’re sitting ducks.

Air Force Research Laboratory is “planning a small experimental satellite that would orbit in close proximity to a host spacecraft and keep tabs on their surrounding space environment” in geostationary orbit. It’s called the Autonomous Nanosatellite Guardian for Evaluating Local Space or ANGELS program:

The Angels satellite will be launched into a geostationary orbit for an experiment that is expected to last about a year, according to the request for information. The Air Force hopes to extend the mission for another two years, according to the request for information.

While ANGELS will eventually operate in geostationary orbits, the first space guard satellites, like XSS, DART and Orbital Express, operate only in low earth orbit (LEO).

“Parasitic” microsatellites could prove useful for Anti-SAT missions if the microsatellite were able to maneuver close enough to the target satellite to disrupt or destroy it. Microsatellites could also perform defensive functions for satellites.

A “quick reaction” space optical payload with the potential to spot hidden targets is in development by Raytheon. In the responsive-space approach, satellites and their cargo would be kept in readiness in a holding facility where systems could be assembled and transported rapidly to a convenient launch site. “Conceivably, a system could be mounted on a satellite, launched and in orbit some 200 miles above Earth within three to seven days of a request by a field commander,” says Raytheon.

Of course NASA has depended on the Russian Soyuz and Progress to ferry astronauts to the space station since the 2003 Columbia disaster. The Russian “Istrebitel Sputnikov” (IS) ASAT was planned to be a guided “kamikaze”-style spacecraft carrying explosives and capable of changing orbit.

U.S. satellites may inevitably come under attack. Who do you suppose is calling the shots; Homeland Security or DOD?

Nicholas Johnson, chief scientist and programme manager for orbital debris at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, says while possible, such an impact would be “exceptionally rare” in geostationary orbit. He told New Scientist the only case of a spacecraft being struck in such an orbit that he could recall was ESA’s Olympus spacecraft which is believed to have been hit by a meteoroid in August 1993.

“It’s not infrequently that when a spacecraft fails suddenly spacecraft operators say we got hit by something,” Johnson notes.

More than 9,000 pieces of space debris are orbiting the Earth, a hazard that can only be expected to get worse in the next few years. And currently there’s no workable and economic way to clean up the mess.

The 45th Space Wing, supports launch operations at Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Peterson AF Base in Colorado Springs works closely with NORAD. SeeSat has the latest poop from amateur satellite observers who explain how to build your own satellite tracking station.

Other space news is available at CBS, Dragon in Space, RussianSpaceWeb, SpaceFlightNow, SpaceRef, FloridaToday, FT Blog, Houston Chronicle, LaunchDate, EarthViewer, ESatcom, Lloyd’s Satellite Constellations, OrbiReport, SatComsUK and SatNews. Space Software includes; Heavens Above, J-Track 3D, Orbitron, Earth Viewer and NASA’s World Wind.

Canadian Pre WiMAX



DSL Reports has an interesting article on the “pre-WiMAX” (NextNet) gear and service now available by Canadian subscribers to Rogers. DSL Report’s forum on Rogers’s service discuss the new “Portable Internet” solution. The Rogers Website has additional info.

Built in conjunction with Bell Canada and Rogers Communications, the Inukshuk network is one of the largest of its kind in the world. The total investment of the partnership between Bell and Rogers is expected to reach $200-million by 2008 covering over 100 urban and rural areas.

The 2.5 Gigahertz solution offers 1.5Mbps downstream speeds and 256kbps up, with a 30Gig monthly cap, for $49.95 / month (modem costs $100). Service is available in some 20 cities across Canada

Users in the forum state the modem is rather bulky, and requires being plugged into a power outlet, limiting the portability, obviously (see photo of the modem in question).

According to Digital Home Canada, Rogers Communications and Bell Canada have pooled all their licensed wireless broadband spectrum into a new company – Inukshuk Internet – that is equally owned and controlled by the cable guys and the phone company.

They will also equally share transmission capacity and will work with other wireless broadband providers such as Clearwire to make sure that wireless broadband users can roam on other networks. Inukshuk will build and operate the network, that within three years should bring wireless broadband to two-thirds of Canadians. It is going to cost $200 million and will cover 40 cities and approximately 50 rural and remote communities across Canada. I wish some of our big guys roll out a similar network!

Inukshuk has (MCS) spectrum in the 2500 MHz range, and proposes to build a high-speed wireless access network based in the 13 regional service areas defined by the Department. In 2000, Industry Canada awarded Inukshuk 12 of the 13 available MCS licences. These 12 licence areas cover all of Canada except Manitoba and Saskatchewan and where approximately 30 million Canadians live.

According to the Globe and Mail, the wireless high-speed Internet network is expected to reach more than two-thirds of Canadians in less than three years. Bell and Rogers will each have the right to use 50 per cent of the network’s total transmission capacity, but will compete against each other using their own sales and marketing staffs.

NextNet gear is portable (indoors and out), not mobile (with automatic handoff). NextNet does not yet conform to the Mobile WiMAX spec (since there really isn’t one yet), but plans to at a later date.

Clearwire, the wireless broadband company that last year acquired NextNet Wireless received a $100 million investment from Bell Canada as part of a new alliance between the two companies. Clearwire is partnering with Bell Canada to provide voice calls over its network and with Intel for WiMax gear.

The Bell Canada/Clearwire alliance makes Clearwire an exclusive strategic partner for VoIP and certain other value-added IP services and applications in the United States. Bell Canada will also become Clearwire’s preferred provider of these services and applications in markets beyond North America. Clearwire owns a huge chunk of 2.5GHz across the United States and plans to take it national.

WiMAX Global News interviewed Monica Paolini of Senza Fili Consulting. She is bullish on the Mobile WiMAX standard but not particularly bullish on mobility. As she explains, mobility requires blanket coverage for handoff. Cell companies have that market covered. But indoor WiMAX and portable WiMAX (without the handoff) are areas where the new 802.16e (Mobile WiMAX) standard can shine — high speed without the high price.

Unfortunately, Mobile WiMAX won’t have blanket coverage for years. Cellular is better for voice because cellco towers are ubiquitous, says Paolini. VoIP over Mobile WiMAX could be threatening to cellcos. Later.

Clearwire, BellSouth Wireless Broadband and (soon) Sprint WiMAX are the only (licensed) WiMax providers with a nationwide footprint in the United States.

Will AT&T (or DirecTV) buy Clearwire? Then Mobile WiMAX providers in the United States would be reduced to Sprint and AT&T. End of competition. Duopoly cellcos control the chockpoints.

Is that Kevin Martin’s dream sequence?

Sprint’s EV-DO Upgrades


It’s official. Sprint today announced plans to expand their Sprint Power Vision (EV-DO) network. Sprint says their high speed EV-DO system now covers over half of the U.S. population with mobile broadband data services.

By year end 2006, Sprint says it expects to reach 190 million people nationwide and in Puerto Rico, making it the largest mobility network of its kind.

Sprint will concurrently implement second-generation technology upgrades later this year known as EV-DO Revision A, to bring additional mobility benefits to users beginning in 1Q 2007. Sprint plans to reach about 220 million people in the U.S. with the advanced network by the end of 3Q ’07.

Sprint’s Power Vision network, claims to cover over 150 million people and serve customers in 215 communities with at least 100,000 population, as well as 470 airports across the country. Handsets and EV-DO cards average download speeds equivalent to DSL (400-700 kbps).

EV-DO Revision A, boosts downstream to 3.1 Mbps (from 2.0) with peak upload data rates increase to 1.8 Mbps (from 144 kbps). Average download speeds improve to 450-800 kbps (from 400 -700) and average uplink speeds become 300 – 400 kpbs (versus 70 – 144 kpbs).

Wireless broadband customers can currently access the mobility network with Sprint’s PocketPC phone (the PPC 6700) and Sprint PCS Connection Cards including the Novatel Wireless 620 and Sierra Wireless 580 and PC 5740. Consumer data devices include Sprint Power Vision phones from Samsung (A900 and A920) and the MM 7500 by Sanyo.

Additional information on Sprint’s Mobile Broadband network and access devices can be found at www.sprint.com/wirelesshighspeeddata. The Communications Insider is a terrific new Podcast by Sprint. It features a variety of insider info on business applications and technologies.

Verizon is also testing EVDO Revision A and hopes to offer VoIP and more multimedia services.

Big Stink in NOLA


New Orleans decided last fall to convert its Tropos-based WiFi public service network, used for emergency personnel, into a free Wi-Fi service. But, as USA Today recounts this week, it has ruffled the feathers of BellSouth which says the city’s network is illegal.

The city got around the state-wide ban on municipal wireless because the governor declared a state of emergency after Hurricane Katrina. But the state of emergency is expected to be lifted this year.

When that happens, the broadband network would have to shut down:

Within weeks, “BellSouth was in here asking us when we were going to wind it down,” Meffert recalls. “We told them we couldn’t do that.”

More than 10,000 people are using the service. Among them: police officers, law firms, restaurants, bars and coffee shops. EarthLink will keep providing the service for free, but plans to sell faster premium services in time.

BellSouth recently announced plans to merge with AT&T. When the $67 billion deal closes, AT&T will become the USA’s biggest telecom with more than $120 billion in annual revenue.

Jeff Battcher, a BellSouth spokesman, says that his company has spent “tens of millions of dollars” repairing the local network, “which any Wi-Fi network would rely on.”

Determined to keep the Wi-Fi network humming, Meffert, who works in the mayor’s office, last week reached out to EarthLink.

The result: EarthLink plans to take over the city’s Wi-Fi network, with the goal of spending around $15 million in the next three years to build out the network to a 15-to-20-mile radius around the city.

“We really feel for the city,” says Donald Berryman, president of EarthLink’s municipal networks. “They’re still basically at a crawl in terms of communications there.”

City officials are using Sony’s SNC-RZ30N cameras as the “eyes” of their original wireless system, and backboning them with wireless and fiber. Sony’s IP cameras feature remote-controlled pan/tilt/zoom, a 25X optical zoom lens, day/night and wireless capabilities. They can read a license plate from hundreds of feet. Images captured on the street are digitized and sent via the city’s network to a main server archive for Internet-based monitoring from any location – whether it’s police headquarters or a patrol vehicle.

Chris Drake, who works for the Mayor’s Office of Technology in New Orleans, tells DailyWireless;

“I built our Surveillance Camera project where we are running dozens of Sony IP cameras on a mostly wireless network all over the city. I now manage our public safety interoperable communications project for a four Parish (county) area. I am pushing hard for a WiMax solution.”

The New Orleans cloud was developed with the help of Active Video Solutions (New Orleans) and Southern Electronics (New Orleans), with Verge Wireless Networks (New Orleans) acting as the integrator and installer. The city has set up a Web site (www.iseecrime.com) which allows citizen groups, neighborhood organizations, businesses, churches and other community organizations to adopt a camera. The program allows organizations to pay for a camera and place that camera in a location of their choice.

Earthlink will start adding Motorola and Tropos hardware to the existing infrastructure in New Orleans. They’ll serve two audiences with the enhanced network:

  • Residents – We’ll provide a 15 square mile zone of free wireless access at 300 kbps (upload and download) for the residents of New Orleans. This network will make it easier for them to do things like communicate with friends and relatives in the outside world, schedule appointments, find grants and government aid programs, and connect with essential city services. Once hardware providers bring Wi-Fi phones to the U.S. market, this could also bring affordable telephone service to tens of thousands of people currently without it.
  • Commercial – We’ll also provide a premium 1 megabit service throughout the city primarily for the 140,000+ city workers and businesses. That service should cost users around $20 per month.

DailyWireless has more on New Orleans/BellSouth including New Orleans’ Wireless Cameras, BellSouth Extends WiMax, Dubious Achievements 2005, New Orleans Announces “Free” Cloud, and BellSouth in New Orleans with Navini.

CTIA Wireless Show


The Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association holds its annual CTIA Wireless Show, the big one, April 5 – 7 at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Here are the schedules, keynotes, exhibits, and educational programs along with profiles of some CTIA Wireless exhibitors.

CTIA’s wireless conference will be co-located with the IEEE Wireless Communications and Networking Conference, and the 9th Annual Tower Summit.

The show bills itself as the “largest wireless show in the world”, bringing together all industries affected by wireless technology for three days of intense learning and networking. Some 1,000 exhibitors and 35,000 attendees from 90 countries are expected.

There were 207.9 million wireless users in the US in 2005, with 69% penetration, a 14 percent growth over 2004. Six percent of U.S. households now only use wireless handsets, according to the CTIA.

By 2010, there will be 15.4 million WiMAX subscribers worldwide, generating over US$16 billion in service revenues, according to a new report from Senza Fili Consulting.

“The hottest market for WiMAX will be emerging countries like China and Mexico where WiMAX is a cost-effective last-mile solution, and countries like Korea with a high demand for portable and mobile services,” according to Monica Paolini, author of the report. In 2010, 41% of subscribers will be in Asia Pacific countries.

A key theme of this year’s CTIA event is convergence—not just within the wireless industry as we have seen with several carriers, but within all communication sectors,” said Robert Mesirow, vice president and show director for CTIA WIRELESS.

“This year’s keynote speakers—from the carriers to the device manufacturers—will share with our audience how the industry is embarking in a new direction that will forever change the way we receive and view all content.”

Intel’s Cheap, Rugged PC for India



Intel today announced a new Ruggedised Personal Computer platform called “Jagruti” for the Indian market. It’s designed to withstand adverse environmental conditions and run on alternate power sources, including a car battery.

The PC platform, powered with a Celeron Mobile processor, is equipped to operate in a community setting. Intel expects many of these Community PC platforms to be deployed as Internet kiosks. The kiosks would be operated by local entrepreneurs and provide neighboring communities with access to services including e-Governance forms.

Ajai Chowdhry, Chairman of HCL Infosystems, said his company would make these PCs available in the next 30 days.

Intel’s partners include NIIT, Microsoft, Red Hat, TCS and others. Intel declined to divulge the price of the proposed product, saying the OEM vendors would finalise this in due course.