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Re: re: Iridium to de-orbit their satellites?

on 3/12/00 11:02 AM, Eric Rosenberg/Jennifer Gruber at wd3q@erols.com wrote:

> Whether you liked them or not, Iridium's failure will
> undoubtedly have a massive impact on the satellite industry and
> LEOs in particular.  We've seen it at ORBCOMM (my employer). At
> an ITU meeting last week in South America, *all* the LEO
> companies -- operating or proposed (Orbcomm, Globalstar, ICO,
> Teledesic, and Skybridge at the meeting I participated in) took
> a lot of heat, cynicism and skepticism.  It really is to
> everyone's advantage that *all* succeed.

Why?  What good is a technology if it isn't needed?  Sure, it's a cool toy
and for us hams with out little "pistol" stations and what not we can afford
to have lightly used, experimental toys up there.  But commercially it
doesn't fly.

Iridium failed because there is this thing called "terrestrial cellular."
Terrestrial cellular today covers the vast majority of the earth.  In the
US, it is rare where you do not find some 800 MHz cellular coverage.  And if
you don't, why do you need to be there?

Same thing goes for the entire world.  Every major population center has
cellular service of some kind.  And with the merging of cellular
technologies (3rd Generation stuff), a single phone will be able to be used
anywhere in the world.

Business users were the main targets of Iridium as the cost was just too
high for the average Joe on the street.  So the market was already reduced.
However, business travelers usually travel in major population centers.  So
they already have phone servcie.  Why carry a big clunky phone when I can
rent a small one somewhere for a fraction of the cost?

The only people who needed Iridium were folks climbing Mount Everest, people
in the Gobi or Sahara desserts or out in the middle of an ocean.  I don't
see many thriving centers of industry in any of those places.  Additionally,
there are satellite phone services that are available for those folks and
have been for some time.

The bottom line is there was no sustainable market for Iridium.  The same
goes for ALL of the other LEOS that are planning on providing a service we
already have on the ground.

> Funny about all is.  The success or failure of these systems
> seems more to be related to perceptions than reality.  Iridium's
> phone and pagers do work. Globalstar's phones and packet service
> do work.  Orbcomm's data service does work.  New or different
> technology seems to scare regulators and the marketplace.

Of course it works.  It's not a matter of new technology scaring anyone.  We
as the technical elite like to think that just because it's a new technology
that it should be embraced with open arms.  Well, in the commercial world
that argument just doesn't hold any water.  Technology has to be useful to
the masses.

Computers are useful cause they are cheap.  So are terrestrial cell phones.
If neither of these technologies had a sustainable market, they would go
away too.  Or if something cheaper was able to replace one of these, they
would go away as well.

If Iridium was the only wide area phone service available, if we didn't have
most of the world covered with normal cellular, then it WOULD be a viable
and sustainable technology.

Satellites just won't work where a ground based system will do.  Fiber
optics can carry a ton of data bandwidth.  More than we really need.  They
can be installed and maintained (and repaired!) for much less than a
satellite system.  So all these far flung dreams of a constellation of
satellites carrying commercial internet data are just that - far flung
dreams.  Unless it truly can be made cheaper and easier to the average
consumer, it won't fly.  And with a satellite based system, I doubt it can
be at least today.

The reason, IMHO, that geo-synch sats work for carrying telecommunications
is because they are able to cover HUGE amounts of the earth, large amounts
of traffic and they can essentially broadcast to all earth stations
simultaneously via one signal path.  However, even for telephone traffic,
the move has begun to be toward laying fiber optic cable on the ocean floor.
In fact, the US and Japan have been linked by fiber cables for about 10
years now.  More and more phone traffic is being moved to such a system
(funny how we come full circle as it used to be underwater cable!).  You
don't have the propagation delay and the cost is a lot less.

Well, enough ranting.  I wish all the LEO folks luck.  Unless they are able
to develop a LOW cost system, their days are numbered.



Jon Ogden



"A life lived in fear is a life half lived."

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