WorldVu Proposes Global LEO Broadband

According to the Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk is working with WorldVu Satellites which proposes to deliver Internet access across the globe. A network of 700 satellites in Low Earth Orbit would use the Ku band (12/14 GHz) to deliver broadband to end users. Industry officials estimate that it would cost $1 billion or more to develop the project.

Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a former Google executive and satellite-industry veteran. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites which controls a large block of radio spectrum in the Ku band.

WorldVu hopes to bring the cost of manufacturing the satellites to under $1 million, with each satellite weighing about 250 pounds. The current WorldVu design has been granted radio spectrum rights by international regulators, to beam some 2 gigahertz of Ku-band (12/14 GHz) using nongeostationary satellites at between 800 and 950 kilometers in altitude.

The WorldVu satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the current Iridium fleet. It is expected to require up to US$3 billion in capital by the time the full constellation becomes operational in 2019–2020. SpaceX, which has launched a dozen of its Falcon 9 rockets in the past five years, would likely launch the satellites.

O3b Networks, a previous satellite Internet startup founded by Mr. Wyler, has faced technical problems with the first four satellites it launched, which likely will shorten their lifespans. Today, satellites in the O3b constellation each weigh about 700 kg (1543 lbs), and were designed, tested and integrated by Thales Alenia Space. O3b serves large areas on either side of the equator with a constellation of eight satellites and is planning to launch four more by the end of the year. O3b is using Ka-band frequencies that were abandoned by the now-defunct Teledesic venture

Teledesic was the most ambitious of the early LEO broadband constellation proposals. Originally in 1994, 840 active satellites were planned, then 288 active satellites in 1997 after a Boeing-led redesign and before the merge with Motorola’s Celestri. Later it was reduced to a proposed 12 satelites in a Medium Orbit (as Craig McCaw’s ICO). Teledesic planned 21 near-polar orbital planes of 40 active satellites with 4 in-orbit spares per plane at an altitude of 700km. Each Teledesic satellite was originally planned to have eight intersatellite links, in the 60GHz band. Ka-band frequencies were allocated to Teledesic at the 1995 World Radio Conference.

Alcatel announced its SkyBridge constellation in February 1997. Unlike Teledsic, SkyBridge did not propose to use intersatellite links. Instead, its satellites were planned to act as in-orbit ‘bent-pipe’ transponders, in the Ku-band.

The WorldVu concept is similar to the defunct SkyBridge satellite constellation, and is an attempt to use the same spectrum. Before it disappeared, SkyBridge battled with existing satellite fleet operators about whether dozens of SkyBridge satellites in low orbit would interfere with the standard telecommunications satellite fleets in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers over the equator, notes SpaceNews.

Perhaps active beamforming antennas like Kymet’s flat antenna and improved frequency inteference rejection will bring LEO broadband satellites back from the dead. With WorldVu, Google may be adding another player in satellite space in addition to their SkyBox Imaging platform.

Third world and global broadband connectivity is being explored with a variety of platforms, including drones. Facebook purchased Britain’s Ascenta drone company as part of what it calls its Connectivity Lab project, while Google earlier this year purchased Titan Aerospace.

Near-space platforms at 12 miles (20K meters/65K feet) are 20 times closer than a typical 400-kilometer LEO satellite at 250 miles. High altitude UAVs can stare — 24/7 — without blinking or human needs. Mercury’s sigint computers are powered by nVidia GPUs and Intel processors for TeraFLOPS processing.

IEEE Spectrum has Five Ways to Bring Broadband to the Backwoods, including solar-powered drones, MEO and LEO satellites, balloons, blimps, and White Spaces.

Perhaps not co-incidentally, Google’s rumored fleet of LEO Comsats would weigh about the same as their new Skybox imaging satellites, or about 250 pounds (113 Kilograms).

Supposedly, the LEO comsats would operate in circular orbits of 800 and 950 kilometers inclined 88.2 degrees relative to the equator. Google may try for a regulatory deadlines of between late 2019 and mid-2020 to enter service by the ITU, using the Ku band (12/14 GHz).

In other news, the third MUOS secure military communications satellite has been delivered to Florida by Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy for launch next year. MUOS, or Mobile User Objective System, spacecraft, is a geosynchronous platform that can send and receive secure voice and data communications directly to handsets.

MUOS-1 and MUOS-2 were launched respectively launched in 2012 and 2013. The MUOS Constellation will consist of Four Satellites in Geosynchronous Orbit with one on-orbit spare. A total of 16 communication beams can be provided by each satellite. MUOS will replace the legacy UHF Follow-On and operates primarily in the 300 MHz band which penetrates foliage well.

MUOS utilizes 3G (WCDMA) cell phone technology which was a pretty big deal back in 2002. Data rates of up to 384kbps will be available for mobile users. Today’s drones, however, now depend on commercial broadband satellites for most of their kill missions.

Related DailyWireless Space and Satellite News includes; Google Buys Skybox Imaging for $500 Million, Fleet of LEO Comsats for Google?, Satellite Swarms Revolutionize Earth Imaging, Google Buying Drone Company Titan, Facebook Announces Connectivity Lab, Amazon & Globalstar Test Wireless Service, GlobalStar Promotes “Licensed” WiFi in 2.4 GHz band, OuterNet: CubeSat Datacasting?, Planet Labs’ Photo CubeSats Released,SpaceX: Geosynchronous Launch, Antarctic Expeditions Go Live, ExactEarth Launches 5th AIS Satellite, ViaSat-1 Launched

Obama Urges Strong Net Neutrality Rules

President Obama today urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to take up the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality. It represented a rare step by the White House into the policy-setting of an independent agency, reported Reuters.

“An open Internet is essential to the American economy, and increasingly to our very way of life,” said President Obama at the White House today, strongly supporting the concept of “net neutrality“.

Obama is calling for the FCC to enact four rules:

  • A “no blocking” rule where ISPs can’t block lawful Internet traffic.
  • A “no throttling” rule banning the intentional slow down some content.
  • Increased transparency around how ISPs connect to consumers that would potentially address interconnection deals like the ones between Netflix, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast.
  • A “no paid prioritization” rule, where no service would be stuck in a ‘slow lane’ because it does not pay a fee.

“By lowering the cost of launching a new idea, igniting new political movements, and bringing communities closer together, it has been one of the most significant democratizing influences the world has ever known.That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality,” said President Obama.

Net neutrality” has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.

The FCC on May 15 launched a rulemaking seeking public comment on how best to protect and promote an open Internet. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking is designed to ensure robust, fast and equal Internet access to providers and users.

At the crux of the debate over Net neutrality is Title II of the Telecommunications Act, explains C/Net. The section, which is more than 100 pages long, regulates how common carriers must conduct business across all forms of communication in order to act “in the public interest.” Net neutrality supporters say that the language is vague and could be used to sidestep a free and open Internet.

In a press release, Chairman Wheeler today said the President’s statement is an important and welcome addition to the record of the Open Internet proceeding.

“Like the President, I believe that the Internet must remain an open platform for free expression, innovation, and economic growth. We both oppose Internet fast lanes. The Internet must not advantage some to the detriment of others. We cannot allow broadband networks to cut special deals to prioritize Internet traffic and harm consumers, competition and innovation.”

“…Keeping the Internet open includes both the Section 706 option and the Title II reclassification. Recently, the Commission staff began exploring “hybrid” approaches, proposed by some members of Congress and leading advocates of net neutrality, which would combine the use of both Title II and Section 706. The more deeply we examined the issues around the various legal options, the more it has become plain that there is more work to do.”

Public internet groups have vigorously opposed Wheeler’s proposal, which prohibited Internet service providers from blocking any content, but allowed deals where content providers would pay ISPs to ensure smooth delivery of traffic, reports Reuters.

Reaction was mixed, with netneutrality supporters largely supporting Obama’s stance and carriers opposed.

  • The Electronic Freedom Foundation said the White House Gets It Right On Net Neutrality.
  • The Internet Association — whose members include Facebook, Netflix, Amazon and others — had previously remained largely mum, said it was in full support of the president’s plan.
  • AT&T’s statement today said, “Today’s announcement by the White House, if acted upon by the FCC, would be a mistake that will do tremendous harm to the Internet and to U.S. national interests.
  • Verizon’s statement said, “Reclassification under Title II, which for the first time would apply 1930s-era utility regulation to the Internet, would be a radical reversal of course that would in and of itself threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition and innovation.”
  • The CTIA and its members said, “…applying last century’s public utility regulation to the dynamic mobile broadband ecosystem puts at risk the investment and innovation which characterizes America’s world-leading $196 billion wireless industry.
  • Comcast’s statement by VP David Cohen said, “To attempt to impose a full-blown Title II regime now, when the classification of cable broadband has always been as an information service, would reverse nearly a decade of precedent, including findings by the Supreme Court that this classification was proper. This would be a radical reversal that would harm investment and innovation, as today’s immediate stock market reaction demonstrates.”

We’re going to get sued,” says a senior FCC official to the Washington Post. “But we want to be on firm legal footing. The litigators in the agency want to be sure to do everything to minimize the legal risk.”

The Verge has gathered additional reactions and TechMeme has more links.

Aerohive Announces Verizon LTE compliant WiFi Router

Aerohive Networks, a leader in controller-less Wi-Fi for the enterprise market, has introduced their Verizon-embedded LTE plus Wi-Fi branch router. The Aerohive BR200-LTE-VZ Router provides embedded Verizon 4G LTE capabilities. The turnkey solution allows granular control and security, with the ability to set up Quality of Service (QoS), time-of-day access schedules, firewall policies and web security settings.

Aerohive’s BR200 series comes in three models: the BR200, the BR200-WP (which includes PoE and 3×3 3 spatial stream), and the BR200-LTE-VZ which runs on the Verizon network. The BR200-LTE-VZ allows enterprises to instantly deploy Aerohive’s Personal Engagement Platform for retail, enabling retailers to prototype and test new loyalty solutions

Aerohive has been named a Gold-tier member of the Verizon Partner Program. The Verizon Partner Program tailors regional and national opportunities for systems integrators, value added resellers, agents and solutions providers.

Aerohive’s cloud-enabled wireless network can deliver a zero-touch, auto-provisioned network, complete with wired and wireless connectivity, for secure access.

Aerohive’s HiveManager Network Management System has the ability to manage devices from the cloud, so a central administrator can control wireless access remotely, regardless of where the routers are located. Corporate networks can then easily deploy secure, wireless networks and reduce complexity and time-to-operation of Wi-Fi deployments, says Aerohive.

Aerohive’s BR200-LTE-VZ router is available today and starts at $1,199 US list.

IDC predicts that the number of connected “things” will grow from 11.4 billion in 2014 to 28.1 billion in 2020. As a result, branch locations in industries ranging from hospitality to banking must be equipped to meet connectivity needs while ensuring secure, compliant access to corporate resources, says Aerohive.

Opensource Dronecode Project Announced

The Dronecode Project, administered by the nonprofit Linux Foundation, aims to establish common technology for use across the industry. The concept behind Dronecode is to create an open hardware and software stack, where companies can plug in modules for enhanced performance whether it be sensors, piloting, mission planning or other functions. The Android ecosystem is their model.

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Chris Anderson, who started DIY Drones and later 3D Robotics, is behind Dronecode. It utilizes open source hardware and software and includes the APM/ArduPilot UAV software platform and associated code. Examples of Dronecode projects include APM/ArduPilot, Mission Planner, MAVLink and DroidPlanner.

Founding members include 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, jDrones, Laser Navigation, Qualcomm, Skyward.io, Squadrone System and others.

PX4 ​is an independent, open-source, open-hardware project aiming at providing a high-end autopilot. The PX4 from 3D Robotics, for example, features advanced processor and sensor technology for controlling any autonomous vehicle.

ArduPilot (also ArduPilotMega – APM), was created in 2007 by the DIY Drones community, based on the Arduino open-source electronics prototyping platform.

H.265 encoding, available on Qualcomm’s 810 smartphone processor can reduce HD bandwidth by 50%. Portland’s Elemental Technologies can do the number crunching in the cloud, bring real-time video to all manner of displays.

OpenVX provides mobile developers with an industry standard API to deliver embedded computer vision and computational imaging chipsets that can keep UAVs on track.

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“Open source software and collaborative development are advancing technologies in the hottest, most cutting-edge areas. The Dronecode Project is a perfect example of this,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation.

“By becoming a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, the Dronecode community will receive the support required of a massive project right at its moment of breakthrough. The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects.”

See: Columbia River Drones

Goodyear Blimp Gets Competition

The Goodyear Blimp is often in the sky at major television events, and with the launch of a new Goodyear Blimp in August (Wingfoot One), Goodyear officials expect their fleet of three blimps to cover 160 events in 2014.

Doug Grassian, senior manager for airship communications at Goodyear in Akron, Ohio, explained the television operations to TV Technology.

On site at the event, the crew sets up microwave gear that carries signals from the ship to the network television production truck. They generally test the system out a day before the event.

The typical equipment complement starts with an Axsys Technologies’ Cineflex V14 gyro-stabilized pan/tilt head that can also rotate. The Cineflex V14 has an integrated Sony HDC-1500 camera and Fujinon 9.7×42 lens with a 2X extender.

Inside the ship, there’s a Sony PVM-1741A HD monitor and a Tektronix WFM5200 waveform monitor for the camera operator. A Sony PDW-HD1500 HD video recorder captures the feed for safe-keeping.

For the microwave downlink, Goodyear uses Janteq and Nucomm microwave transmitters and receivers, with Gigawave antennas picking up the signal at the production truck.

The balloon-like body of the airship – the “envelope” – is made of polyester with an innovative film from DuPont™ called Tedlar, surrounding a semi-rigid internal structure, which differentiates this airship from previous Goodyear blimps. The new airship can do up to 73 mph, which means it can cover more ground, and more events, than the older 50-mph models.

Wingfoot One replaces the Spirit of Goodyear that was retired.

Helicopters like the the all-new Cabri G2 may soon give small helicopters like the Robinson R-22 and R-44 some serious competition.

The company has also signed a deal with Eurocopter to develop an unmanned variant. An unmanned demonstration used a four-dimensional flight plan that was uploaded to the helicopter.

Another competitor, the Enstrom 480B-G, is equipped with the Garmin G1000H glass cockpit.

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The cost/effectiveness of drones will be hard to top for many applications. They can now be equipped with Lidar, Flir, tiny hyperspectral cameras and 360 degree cameras (videos).

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Of course FAA rules allowing coverage over public areas is still in the works.

Tech Leaders: NSA Damages Digital Economy

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) convened a roundtable on “The Impact of Mass Surveillance on the Digital Economy,” at Palo Alto High School — the same gym where the Senator held a school record of leading scorer in basketball.

Wyden, now better known as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was flanked by executives and lawyers from some of U.S. tech’s biggest companies: Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Dropbox.

The hour-long session shifted from talk about the digital economy to the risks posed by government surveillance programs to human-to-human communications.

Wyden cited a study from Forrester Research that found that surveillance concerns could cost U.S. companies a quarter of their foreign revenue by 2016.

According to Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith:

“The fundamental issue is pretty straightforward. It’s all about trust. And it is personal to people. Just as people would not put their money in a bank they don’t trust, they will be reluctant to store their personal information in a data center or on a phone that they don’t trust. These issues have undermined people’s trust in American technology, and that’s a shame.”

“If you’re a consumer or a company, you own your email, your text messages, your photos and all the content that you create,” he said. “Even when you put your content in our data centers or on devices that we make, you still own it and you are entitled to the legal protection under our Constitution and our laws. We will not rebuild trust until our government recognizes that fundamental principle.”

Congress has been considering reforms to U.S. digital communication laws, particularly the USA FREEDOM Act. But those efforts have been slow going, reports the Washington Post. With only a bare majority of Americans opposed to U.S. government anti-terrorism surveillance, the event was likely a preview of how the issue will be framed when Congress returns to session: as a personal affront to American citizens, to U.S.-based technology entrepreneurs and to the global community.

“The simplest outcome is we’re going to end up breaking the Internet,” said Google’s Schmidt. Foreign governments, he said, are “eventually going to say, we want our own Internet in our country because we want it to work our way, and we don’t want the NSA and these other people in it.”

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said the spying scandal will continue to impact Google and other tech companies.

The impact is “severe and is getting worse,” Schmidt said. “We’re going to wind up breaking the Internet.”