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Beyond the Ides of March
by Mark Sedenquist

Information about wireless communication options continues to swirl about the Web with dizzying rapidity. With rare exception, I learn of another trade organization or media source that is performing some role in the wireless world every time I log on. I am not sure if this is simply because of my continued gradual ascent on my own personal learning curve of knowledge or there is some mystical golden goose that is working overtime. I do know that I owe a debt of gratitude to fellow Dashboarders-in-training like Chris Hammack, Craig Smith and Bill Nunnery who pass on ideas and links to the Road Wirer from time to time.

Chris alerted me this week to the “Berst Alert” column written by Jessie Berst at the “ZDNet Anchor Desk” that encouraged me to take another look at the latest claims of potential wireless services being made by the huge satellite consortiums. (The ZDNet has some remarkable news resources and the articles are always informative and entertaining). I have been following the news releases detailing the progress made by the producers of satellite communications since early 1996 with the hope that one of these systems would allow us to meet the guidelines of true, reasonable cost, two-way wireless communications via the Internet. The product services of the Iridium and GlobalStar systems are not a particularly good match, although I am looking forward to the release of the GlobalStar network to the public later this year because of the improved handset choices provided by Qualcomm.

Beyond Iridium and Globalstar, the rest of the field does not seem to have changed much since 1996, with the exception of some musical chairs being played among some of the company partners. The single biggest consistency is that none of these providers will be ready to deliver services to mere mortals until at least 2003.

The Web sites of some of these operations have improved and are worth a look. The mega-buck enterprise partially funded by Craig McCaw and Bill Gates, Teledesic, Inc. is supposed to be an “Internet in the Sky” and it will include 288 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. SkyBridge, another mega-humongous consortium that includes Alcatel and Loral Space Systems has a very silly, (short on information) website at www.skybridgesatellite.com.

I couldn’t find the Web site for the Motorola broadband satellite project known as Celestri, (a combination LEO and GEO satellite array), but there are at least five more satellite systems in the works from mega-companies like Hughes Network, (Spaceway); Lockheed Martin, (Astrolink) and Loral Systems, (Cyberstar).

As you may remember, Megan and I are giving serious thought to outfitting the Phoenix One with the appropriate receivers and transmitters to allow us to use the second generation wireless technologies of Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) and Global Systems for Mobile Communications (GSM). One more firm that produces the necessary hardware to enable this form of data communications is Antennas America, Inc. based in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. One aspect that sets this company apart is that it produces “covert antennas” that can be mounted under the dashboard or in the trunk and still allow access to the CDPD and GSM networks.

In case your interest in wireless communications is “fixed” on Fixed Wireless Broadband technologies, (supposed to be able to provide equal or better speed and capacity than hard-wired systems in localized areas), check out the Wireless Communications Association’s Web site.

Mark Sedenquist
Pasadena, California
March 15, 1999

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