Telcos are seeking new ways to deliver satellite data directly to customers. A wide variety of information such as GPS coordinates, satellite imagery and maps is making its way to the desktop or to handheld devices. As information sources and platforms converge, which satellite services providers are leading the way in meeting customer demand?
In the increasingly connected world, there are overlapping spheres of connectivity, including wired, Wi-Fi, cellular and satellite. Darren Koenig, wireless market director at Tele Atlas of Boston, says that "users are growing to expect continuous access to data, and they increasingly are using location information where they live and work. Consumer and business users alike share a passion for access to real-time navigation and maps provided by companies like Tomtom on a personal navigation device or Telenav on a mobile phone," he says.
Many businesses are leveraging related technology for asset-tracking and work-order dispatch, Koening says. Others, like UPS, have added GPS-related technology into multiple aspects of their business, using location data to immortalize proof-of-delivery signatures, as well as in routing their van fleets.
"Satellite data services are beginning to play an increasing role in the mobile handheld market," adds Bryan Padgett, an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton. "The key driver for this change is the integration of GPS receivers into mobile devices."
Many businesses now rely on enhanced geo-data. For Koenig, when you can access satellite data of some kind, and "when you layer on additional information about local points of interest and add in dynamic elements such as traffic, it's easy to understand why these technologies are being adopted so rapidly."
Mobile TV Initiatives
In France, Alcatel, France Telecom's mobile subsidiary Orange and the country's space agency, Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales (CNES), have conducted the first trials of a new mobile broadcasting solution that uses a hybrid satellite and terrestrial transmission system to deliver content to handsets. The satellite is simulated using an S-band transmitter onboard a helicopter at high altitude along with terrestrial repeaters installed in about 10 Orange France locations. A test terminal and instruments on board a vehicle are used to measure and record the signal in real time. Eutelsat and SES Astra are supplying the satellite resources needed for feeding the terrestrial repeaters.
The system is central to Alcatel's Unlimited Mobile TV solution, which will use high power geostationary satellites with large deployable reflectors to deliver data to handsets. European coverage will be provided through several spot beams, and all the satellites that will be involved in the system will be co-located at the same orbital location. The goal of Unlimited Mobile TV is to make TV ubiquitously available to mobile phones and PDAs throughout all geographies, including inside buildings.
Unlimited Mobile TV chose a solution which, according to Olivier Coste, president of Alcatel mobile broadcast, is "based on an evolution of the DVB-H standard in a unique frequency range in the S-band reserved for satellites. It also relies on powerful radio coding known as OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), which is well-suited to future generations of mobile telephony," he says. "The solution is entirely compatible with DVB-H in the UHF-band and with 3G mobile telephony, extensively reusing existing 3G network infrastructure (sites, antennas, and base stations)."
In Asia, mobile TV already has entered the commercial service stage. In Japan, Mobile Broadcasting Corp. launched a commercial mobile-TV services dubbed Mobaho in October 2004. The service provides eight video channels along with 30 audio channels and data information services using S-band services provided by MBSat along with terrestrial repeaters installed in some areas of Japan to extend the service into areas where the satellite signal is blocked, such as tunnels. In February, Mobile Broadcasting expanded the set of information services it provides, launching a service to provide information such as water temperatures, sea currents and sea surface height to marine users via a partnership with Japan Fisheries Cooperatives.
Other countries in Asia also are joining the mobile TV era. Korea's TU Media launched commercial services in 2005 and plans to have more than 6 million subscribers by 2010. India will launch a multimedia mobile satellite system built by the Indian Space Research Organization to offer S-DMB services via mobile phones and mobile video/audio receivers for vehicles.