Mother’s Day

There is a great anecdote in the book “Eccentric Orbits – The Iridium Story” that I reviewed in a previous post.

It was May 9, 2004. The technicians at the Network Operating Centres for the Iridium satellite system in Hawaii and Arizona noticed a high level of dropped calls (more precisely failure to connect) and a very high level of traffic in general. They were confused because everything seemed to be working normal, and the system could hand almost 100,000 calls at a time and there were barely 140,000 handsets in service at the time.

Then they noticed that all the calls were coming from one particular place, massive numbers of people were all trying to call over the same satellite. That is what was taxing the system, a specific geographic overload. You see, there were 146,000 American troops stationed in Iraq at the time. And that year, May 9 was Mother’s Day.

The only situation that could max out the Iridium system was Mother’s Day in a war zone.

Anyone who has spent time in network or traffic engineering for a telco knows that the busiest day on the network is Mother’s Day. Even more than Christmas, or any other holiday. That is why I laughed when I read that story as it immediately resonated with me. All these soldiers and Marines HAD to call home on Mother’s Day.

So make sure that your network is ready for this Sunday, because the traffic is going to ramp up bigly.

And don’t forget to call your Mother !

Satellite Phones

The most expensive destinations on any A-to-Z wholesale rate sheet are almost always satellite phone networks. Depending on the satellite network and its design, they can be used to provide voice, text and low bandwidth Internet access in specific regions or the entire Earth including Antarctica and the North Pole.

Satphones are ideal for certain applications; on board ships and airplanes, for remote resource industries such as mining, oil and gas exploration, natural disaster recovery scenarios and they are very popular on expeditions into wilderness areas where terrestrial cellular service is unavailable. Government agencies and militaries also find them quite useful.

Traditional satellite networks are based on satellites in geostationary orbit, which are meant to remain in a fixed position in the sky relative to an observer on Earth. Geostationary satellites are 35,786 km above sea level so there is a noticeable delay when talking over them as the signal has to go up to the satellite and then back down. Examples would include Inmarsat and Thuraya.

There are also satellite networks that rely on a constellation of satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to provide worldwide coverage including the polar regions. The LEO satellites orbit the earth at altitudes of only 640 to 1120 km so their delay is negligible and goes unnoticed during a call. Examples would include Globalstar and Iridium.

These networks show up on wholesale A-to-Z rate sheets because satellite phone are issued with their own special country codes.

Inmarsat has been issued with codes +870 designated SNAC for Single Network Access Code. Prior to 2008 there were separate codes for geographic regions such as the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, and Atlantic Ocean East and West). Inmarsat was originally created to provide a communications network for the maritime community. Inmarsat now has a variety of services beyond the strictly maritime such as Aeronautical (for aircraft obviously), BGAN (IP based Broadband Global Area Network), M2M for machine to machine applications such as IoT. Other services such as B, M and Mini-M were closed Jan 2017.

LEO systems that provide global coverage are issued virtual country code +881. Iridium satphones have country codes +881 6 and +881 7. Globalstar is allocated +881 8 and +881 9. Calls to both networks can be very expensive, thus it is possible to call them with charges reversed (i.e. paid by the satphone customer) by first dialling a number in the USA. That way the receiver pays the standard rate for satellite to landline calls , but the caller only pays for the domestic USA call.

Smaller regional satellite phone networks are allocated numbers in the +882 code range designated for “international networks”.

Finally, the voice codecs used in satphones have very aggressive voice compression due to the limited bandwidth. The sound quality will exhibit a clipping effect. Satphones use far less bandwidth than a 3G cellphone or a G.729 IP call. Thus it is even more imperative to access these numbers with as high quality a connection as possible to maximize the intelligibility of the speech.

If your business or commercial customers require operating in remote regions of the globe, away from cellular networks (which would include most of Canada !) then have them consider satphones and then route their traffic via AurorA’s premium connections for maximum quality.