NEW ERA IN BUSH COMMUNICATIONS
Summary: Forest companies working in remote locations will welcome Ottawa-based TMI Communications new mobile MSAT communications network.
By Robert Forrest
Courtesy of a satellite, forestry people working in remote locations have a new world of communications open to them. A new satellite to be launched this month is the second communications satellite of its type that gives tele-phone service to remote locations through-out North America, even many places which had difficulty using the old radio-telephone service.
The new satellite telephone service has been available in Canada since January of this year. Service is currently provided using a satellite owned by the American Satellite Corporation (AMSC) which was launched in April, 1995. Under an agreement with the AMSC, TMI Communications of Ottawa, owner of the MSAT satellite communications network , is using the American satellite until a new Canadian satellite, scheduled for launch this month, is operational.
Our customers are using the American satellite right now. Our service began on January 15, 1996, says Patrick Sumarlidson, BC Tel Mobilitys satellite project manager. The Canadian satellite is scheduled to launch in April, 1996 and all the Canadian customers would be invisibly transferred over to the Canadian satellite. The satellite is geostationary in a geosynchronous orbit. It is approximately 36,000 km above the equator at 106.5°(longitude) and projects six beams of radio frequency over North America. The two satellites will serve as back-up units for one another. Mobility Canada is part of a distribution network setup by telephone companies across the country.
A second distribution network is provided by Glentel Inc. of Burnaby, BC. The new satellite service uses radio frequencies and is thus similar to other wire-less communications systems. Radio communications require line-of-sight to com-plete communications. Any solid object,like a mountain or a tall building, can inter-fere with the signal. The satellite eliminates most of that problem, although there will still be places where things like mountains interfere with the signal. Whet her its two - way radio, radio phones, cellular phones or something else, all wireless communications use similar technology, says Christian Perkins, dealer training and sales manager at Glentel. They all work off a network of towers and require line-of-sight to other towers to transfer the phone message. Instead of hav-ing an antenna on a pole, weve put it on a satellite that is 36,000 kilometres high. One radio site can effectively cover all of North America. Our pole is just higher, Perkins observes. One of the reasons the new satellite telephone service works for remote locations is that the new satellite broadcasts a signal of 600 watts, eight times stronger than any previous commercial satellite.
This means that the signal no longer requires a large dish-like antenna to pick up the signal. Instead, with the new MSAT mobile satellite technology, a small mast-type or dome-type antenna atop a truck or elsewhere can do the job. This reduced antenna will give greater flexibility of use. The new service allows the timber cruiser in the bush or the geologist on the Arctic tundra to quickly and privately send data or consult with others at a base camp nearby or in head office in Toronto or Halifax.
This is for industrial applications , says Perkins. All of our phones have hands-free capability. This means drivers can drive down the highway and talk without having to use their hands to hold a handset. The satellite service offers a complete telephone system, including voice, data and fax communications with complete privacy. Currently, data transfer is at 2,400 BPS but it is being upgraded to 4,800 BPS, according to Perkins. He indicates that this system will always be slower than a land line for data.
There are other satellite systems that do high-speed data. Our reasoning is that somebody in a mobile situation probably doesnt need to send huge quantities of data. The guy driving d own the road in a logging truck may want to report his position or load information but he is not sending megabytes of information .
Data transfer from a remote location is very accurate and assures complete privacy on the system, which is a concern with other systems. Recent cases have been documented in the media of cellular telephone conversations between celebreties proving to be totally lacking in privacy.
The most important feature of this service is mobility, the fact that we can go anywhere, adds Perkins. The system is also affo rd able. The cost of a typical installation is between $5,000 and $6,500, depending on the equipment selected. There is also an air time charge which could be as low as $1.75/minute but will run about $2. 50/minu t e, and which includes long-distance calling any-where in North America.
There is also a monthly charge for the service package selected, depending on what the package includes. Several equipment configurations are available, including one that fits in a briefcase and is completely mobile. Previous satellite systems would have cost much more than this service eight to ten times more so this represents a huge price drop, says Perkins.
The system is still about twice the price of the older radio telephone system but it has the strong advantage of greater flexibility and privacy of communications. Response has been good in several sectors, particularly forestry, oil and gas, mining, and transportation. Perkins reports that many companies are currently conducting trials with the new equipment.
If the trials are successful, the demand will increase as resource compa-nies and others see applications for the technology, he predicts. It will replace traditional radio service because radio service is older technology and they want to upgrade to the new digital satellite RF (radio frequency) service, says Sumarlidson.
There is a different cost between the two. The growth potential is huge, says Perkins. This industry right now mobile satellite technology is really a non-existent industry. There is really no other technology like this out there, other than niche applications. It is estimated that by 2002 this will be a $17-billion industry worldwide. It is a huge growth market. This will be in 10 years comparable to what the growth of cellular phones has been over the last 10 years , he adds.
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Forest companies working in remote locations will welcome TMI Communications' new mobile satellite communications network.
Last modified 6/10/96
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