Global wireless communication comprises two elements: terrestrial communication and satellite communication. Cellular networks are primarily terrestrial-based, consisting of a vast number of base stations across heavily populated areas. In some circumstances, such as research laboratories established in the Antarctic, satellite communication is the only means of communication. Some other applications of satellite communication include military satellite espionage, global television broadcast, satellite radio, meteorological satellite imaging, and GPS. In addition, satellites complement cellular networks in reaching far rural areas and have been integrated into worldwide GSM and CDMA systems.
Despite the advantage of providing global coverage, satellite communication is known to have significant drawbacks. For one thing, satellite links introduce greater propagation latency than fiber-optic links due to the much longer distance a signal must travel back and forth between a terminal and a satellite. A delay of even half a second when using a geostationary satellite phone is noticeable. Bandwidth is another downside of satellite communication compared to terrestrial wired or wireless communications. Although a single satellite may cover a large geographical area (known as the “ footprint ” ), the cost of the entire system remains extremely high, making its acceptability by the general public economically impossible.
Satellites orbit the Earth at different heights in various periods. The higher the satellite, the longer the period of the satellite will be. The orbits can be circles or eclipses. Earlier satellites were composed of transponders that received signals on one frequency and transmitted them on another. Digital technologies were introduced later to allow improved quality of the signals and more reliable communication. Signals transmitted from a satellite to the Earth attenuate proportional to the square of the distance. A variety of atmospheric conditions also influence satellite signal transmission, such as rain absorption and meteors in the space.
Communication satellites can be divided into four categories based on the orbit of the satellite in space: geostationary (GEO) satellite, medium Earth orbit (MEO) satellite, and low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite.
GEO satellites remain relatively stationary at a height of about 36,000 km. Three of them are required to cover the entire surface of the Earth. The frequency bands allocated for GEO satellite communication by the ITU are L band (1.5-GHz downlink, 1.6-GHz uplink, 15-MHz bandwidth), S band (1.9-GHz downlink, 2.2-GHz uplink, 70-MHz bandwidth), C band (4.0-GHz downlink, 6.0-GHz uplink, 500-MHz bandwidth), Ku band (11-GHz downlink, 14-GHz uplink, 500-MHz bandwidth), and Ka band (20-GHz downlink, 30-GHz uplink, 3500-MHz bandwidth). GEO satellite systems are primarily used for television broadcasting, such as Direct TV and Dish Networks, and mobile communications. The newest member of this family is satellite digital radio, which provides CD-quality music over more than 1000 channels.
MEO satellites orbit the Earth at heights of around 10,000 to 20,000 km. GPS systems use MEO satellites to provide precise location identifi cation with a range of several meters. 24 GPS satellites operated by U.S. Department of Defense orbit the Earth twice a day at a height of about 19,320 km. The civilian use of GPS operates at 1575.42 MHz, part of the L band. A GPS receiver must communicate with at least three GPS satellites in order to compute a specific two-dimensional location via triangulation. With four or more signals from GPS satellites, the receiver is able to calculate a three-dimensional location.
LEO satellites are much closer to the surface of the Earth than MEO and GEO satellites.
Their period can be as short as 1 or 2 h. Because of the considerably shorter distance between LEO satellites and receivers, propagation latency is reduced down to about 10 msec; however, to offer global coverage, many more satellites are needed. For example, the Iridium system was originally designed to have 77 satellites in space (element 77 is iridium). The Teledesic project planed to launch 840 LEO satellites. These numbers had to be scaled back in order to keep costs under control. Aimed at reducing the cost of satellites, another system, Globalstar, has 48 satellites and a large number of ground base stations. (It must be noted that Iridium went bankrupt in 1999 as a result of a small user base and high operational cost.) The data rate offered by LEO satellite systems varies from kilobits per second to megabits per second, depending on the target applications.
Source of Information : Elsevier Wireless Networking Complete 2010