|Wireless By Satellite|
Lazlow 11/17/2005 12:02 am
While the Fonz was making out at Inspiration Point or pounding out requests on a jukebox and (inexplicably) hanging out in the bathroom of Al's Diner, 1950s America was suddenly rocked to reality at the announcement that the Soviets were launching dogs into space. Dogs and monkeys have always had grand plans for space domination, and with the successful launch of Sputnik II and a dog named Laika on Nov. 3, 1957, America took notice. The space race continues to this day, though it's now less about sending monkeys in rockets and more about launching rockets with satellites so people in rural Idaho can watch monkey documentaries on Animal Planet.
Satellite TV plays in SUVs and vans across America, thanks to flat satellite receivers mounted on rooftops. Internet access via satellite dish is appearing on RVs and tour buses, giving retirees and rock stars high-speed connectivity wherever the road may take them. Satellite radio, the thorn in the side of terrestrial broadcasters, has been testing video streams as well, adding a whole new dynamic to the "rear seat entertainment" market. Both XM and Sirius are testing the technology, and the prospect of watching Opie and Anthony as you listen to them could be offered in the foreseeable future.
We've become used to satellites. It's hard for people to fathom life without satellite-tracking technology for vehicles, allowing the directionally disoriented to hit a button on the dashboard that says "home" and receive audio directions on how to get there. Truckers are tracked by satellite, bread deliverymen, too. Companies even sell satellite-tracking kits so you can see if your kid has taken your convertible to Inspiration Point.
While satellite phone pioneer Iridium flopped, the service itself eventually caught on, allowing everyone from journalists in Baghdad to executives on vacation in Bali to phone home. Now telecom giants are eying a two part strategy: squash plans by cities and municipalities to offer low-cost municipal broadband and wireless to taxpayers, and invest in wireless broadband by satellite.
Inmarsat's Broadband Global Area Network will go online next year and cover 88 percent of the globe's landmass, according to the company. Others are in on the race, too. According to Wired, Hughes Network Systems has a broadband service in the works for North America. Titled Spaceway, the system is set to go live in 2006.
Launching all these satellites to feed our need for TV and wireless access isn't done by NASA. Sea Launch, a company formed by interests at Boeing, RSC-Energia of Russia and Kvaerner ASA of Norway, has launched satellites that give you DirecTV, Dish Network programming and XM Satellite Radio. Two hundred-foot rockets are launched from a converted oil-drilling platform in the middle of the ocean.
Sea Launch delivered Inmarsat's satellite into orbit on Nov. 8. And as the Internet goes wireless by satellite, the places you can truly unplug will disappear.