The Commercial Market

First Global Personal Satellite Communications Service Introduced

COMSAT Personal Communications has announced global coverage for its Planet 1SM personal communications service, which uses portable, notebook-sized satellite telephones to provide voice, fax and data communications worldwide. The service is carried over four International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT)-3 geostationary satellites that provide full global coverage (except for the extreme polar regions). A Planet 1 telephone, or any other INMARSAT personal satellite telephone, and a Planet 1 Smart Card are used to access the service. Connections to the service require that the cover of the notebook-like telephone be pointed at the satellite in view. A compass in the instrument together with an accessible file of proper compass directions for worldwide locations stored in the instrument facilitate instrument setup. An icon indicates optimum antenna pointing. If the instrument must be placed on a windowsill to acquire a satellite, the phone unit may be detached for more convenient use. Each INMARSAT spacecraft has 2200 circuits available for the service. The high power spot beams in the new INMARSAT satellites reduce the size and weight of Planet 1 phones and increase the number of calls that can be carried over each circuit.

NIST Refines Emerging New Imaging Technique

The refinement of near-field scanning optical microscopy (NSOM), an emerging new type of microscopy that combines the nondestructive properties of optical microscopy with nanometer-scale resolution near that of atomic force or electron microscopes, is the objective of recent work at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in collaboration with researchers at the University of Virginia and the Naval Research Laboratory. The NSOM technique channels laser light through a fiber-optic probe, scans it approximately 10 nm above a sample surface and then collects it on the other side. The opening at the tip of the probe is approximately 50 nm wide, smaller than a wavelength of visible light (several hundred nanometers) but large enough for a small portion of the light energy (photons) to escape. The recent NIST work involves the creation of an NSOM image of a photonic crystal, a test material consisting of an array of tiny glass cylinders in a matrix glass. The two glasses have slightly different indices of refraction, and the NSOM image shows that the light is guided by the cylinders rather than traveling straight through the sample. According to the NIST, the new technique has been explored by various laboratories as a means of characterizing nanometer-scale features on biological membranes, semiconducting devices and substrates, and fiber-optic and other communications components.

WLL Market to Approach 75 Million Subscribers by 2002

A recent report from Allied Business Intelligence Inc. (ABI), "Wireless Access Solutions to Local Loop Telephony: Emerging Markets & Competitive Analysis," forecasts that seven percent of world subscriber lines will be accessed through wireless local loop (WLL) technologies by 2002. An aggressive scenario in which 10 percent of the world's subscribers use wireless as their primary access to local telephony is also described. With a worldwide backlog for phone lines (particularly in developing countries) so large that it cannot be satisfied within a reasonable time with wired systems, wireless access technologies will be employed to fulfill the demand. With a moderate growth scenario, 197 million WLL subscribers are forecast by 2006; an aggressive growth pattern would yield 266 million subscribers by that time. ABI estimates that developing nations will have 84 percent of WLL subscribers by 2006 and that Asia and Latin America will be the largest potential regional markets. WLL infrastructure investments by 2006 are expected to total somewhere between $86 and $119 B. In addition, code-division multiple access (CDMA) or time-division multiple access (TDMA) technology will be employed in the majority of installations with CDMA capturing 33 percent and TDMA capturing 38 percent of the worldwide WLL market by 2006. Urban areas are expected to account for 68 percent of WLL subscribers by 2006 and operators will be required to use technology making the most efficient use of available spectrum in order to compete. For additional information, contact ABI at (516) 624-3113.

Report Examines State of the the US Paging Industry

According to a report by The Strategis Group, "The State of the US Paging Industry: 1997," the number of paging subscribers reached a record 43.1 million in 1996. Population penetration, which was above 16 percent at the end of 1996, is expected to grow to 19 percent by the end of this year. Household penetration was 31 percent by the end of 1996, with many households having more than one pager. Falling alphanumeric paging service prices, the declining cost of pagers with that capability and strong marketing efforts by the major carriers have combined to make the alphanumeric paging segment one of the fastest-growing areas in the market. Just under two million alphanumeric pagers were in use by the end of 1994 and over three million were in service by the end of 1996. The addition of information services, e-mail forwarding and e-mail text input to the available features is expected to further stimulate growth. For additional information, contact John Zahurancik, The Strategis Group (202) 530-7500, fax (202) 530-7550 or e-mail:

TRW Files for Ultra-high Data Rate Satellite System License

TRW Inc. has filed a license application with the Federal Communications Commission for a new global satellite communications system with a capacity to handle more digital data than all existing undersea fiber-optic cables. The global satellite network will provide fixed satellite services using portions of the EHF spectrum between 37.5 and 50.2 GHz, and is intended to complement fiber-optic systems by providing high rate trunks between regions and continents for broadband data transport, multimedia services and private networks. The network is designed to provide data rates as high as 3 Gbps and as low as T1 rates (1.5 Mbps). It will be available to serve the anticipated 2005 market of $810 B for T1-equivalent circuits as well as the demand for higher bandwidth circuits that the development of next-generation Internet services is expected to create.

Ameritel Expands Coverage to Create Nationwide Wireless Communication Network

Ameritel Communications Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of USCI Inc., has announced plans to expand its cellular service coverage into New York City, Newark and northeast New Jersey. The move is expected to add 17 million subscribers and increase Ameritel's overall cellular services coverage to 198 metropolitan and rural statistical areas with a total population of more than 117 million. The expansion was scheduled for completion by mid-September. Approximately 100 current client store locations are included in the new coverage areas, bringing the total client store locations offering Ameritel's services to approximately 1500.