Commercial Market

First Four Globalstar Satellites Launched

The first four low earth orbit (LEO) satellites of the Globalstar system were launched in February from Cape Canaveral, FL. The $2.6 B Globalstar system, which comprises 48 LEO satellites and approximately 60 ground stations, will provide worldwide telephone service via cellular-sized hand-held, vehicle-mounted and fixed-site terminals. The next four satellites in the constellation are scheduled to be launched this month from Cape Canaveral. Beginning in July, an additional 36 satellites will be launched aboard three Ukranian-built launch vehicles (12 per launch) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, bringing the total number of active satellites to 44 by the end of the year. An additional 12 satellites to be launched in early 1999 will complete the 48-satellite Globalstar constellation and place eight spares in orbit.

The system is intended to provide a variety of digital voice services, ranging from serving global business travelers roaming outside terrestrial-based cellular coverage to fitting developing regions with Globalstar fixed-site village phones that will provide primary telephone service. Globalstar is a partnership of telecommunications service providers and equipment manufacturers led by Loral Space & Communications and including QUALCOMM Inc., AirTouch Communications, Alcatel, Alenia, DACOM, Daimler-Benz Aerospace, Elsag Bailey, France Telecom, Hyundai, Space Systems/Loral and Vodafone.

CDMA Predicted to Overtake GSM in Global Market

A new study by Datacomm Research Co., "CDMA Wireless Business Opportunities," predicts that code-division multiple access (CDMA) digital wireless technology will be used more widely than the Global System for Mobile communications (GSM), the current market leader, by early 2003. The report challenges the assumptions that GSM’s rapid growth in Europe will be repeated in other regions, that the US cellular industry will migrate slowly to digital systems and that CDMA offers no significant advantages over GSM.

Out of three competing digital wireless technologies in North America, GSM (personal communications service (PCS)1900) is the only one that is not participating in the 800 MHz band. In addition, the technology has not been selected by any nationwide wireless operator and is not supported by one of the top four long-distance carriers. The report notes that CDMA is unopposed by GSM in Japan and South Korea (Asia’s first- and third-largest markets, respectively), and predicts that CDMA’s versatility in cellular, PCS, wireless local loop (WLL) and mobile satellite applications will overwhelm GSM in Asia.

US cellular carriers are forecast to accelerate their migration to digital systems. The report also notes that more carriers have committed to CDMA than time-division multiple access (TDMA). Since GSM was never intended to overlay existing analog networks, it is not a factor in the US cellular market. In addition, while GSM has a large lead in Europe, CDMA is being used in WLL installations in Eastern Europe. CDMA’s higher capacity and larger cell radius make it ideal for WLL applications as is evident by the recent WLL network installations in China, Brazil, Russia and other developing countries.

The Globalstar satellite network will provide a worldwide system for CDMA to serve. (Currently, no prospective worldwide GSM application exists.) The GSM base station switch interface allows for the practical development of CDMA-GSM dual-standard networks. Calls to end government technology mandates barring CDMA from markets have been made and CDMA has demonstrated capacities two- to four-times those of GSM. For additional information, contact Ira Brodsky at Datacomm Research Co. (314) 514-9750.

Nation’s Largest PCS Carrier to Serve One Million Subscribers

Sprint PCS, the largest all-digital PCS wireless network in the US, has reached its one millionth subscriber and has completed more than one billion minutes of PCS calling in 1997. The company notes that this goal was accomplished in only two years; the entire US cellular industry reached that level in four years. With approximately 6000 cell sites nationwide, Sprint PCS now offers service in 134 metropolitan markets, including more than 600 cities.

Cellular Telephone Safety Package Introduced

ORA Electronics has developed a retail version of its Travel Talk" +911 speakerphone. Rescue Mate™ is a plug-and-play hands-free speakerphone designed for portable cellular telephones that enables automatic 911 emergency access. When a prominently placed red button on the unit is pressed, Rescue Mate initiates a 911 call via the attached cellular telephone and acts as a hands-free speakerphone when the call is answered.

The portable unit plugs into a vehicle’s cellular telephone and cigarette lighter receptacle, acts as the power source for the cellular handset and charges the telephone’s rechargeable battery. Currently, the unit supports Motorola and Ericsson cellular telephones; models for additional handsets are expected to be available later this year. The company expects to distribute the unit at a variety of retail outlets at a suggested price of $119.95.

WLL Infrastructure Market to Approach Cellular/PCS Level

In a recent report ("Wireless Systems Outlook ’98: The Evolving Landscape"), Allied Business Intelligence predicted that the market for WLL infrastructure will reach $16.1 B in 2002 compared to the $20.2 B expected to be spent on cellular/PCS equipment during that year. The report analyzes complications in the growth of the cellular industry caused by the maturation of PCS and suggests that the two will coexist as a network of merged technologies. Both cellular and PCS are viewed as viable candidates for WLL applications that augment regional wired infrastructures.

Beyond the telephony aspects of the wireless markets, 20 million households are expected to subscribe to direct broadcast satellite services within the next five years and the receiver/decoder markets will expand as prices are reduced. Prospects that the selective availability of Global Positioning System (GPS) signals will end are expected to stimulate the growth of both cellular/GPS and automotive GPS applications.

Very small aperture terminal and wireless local area network markets also are included in the report, as well as a satellite section that examines the timetables for upcoming major communications satellite launches. For additional information, contact Allied Business Intelligence at (516) 624-3113.

Partnership Formed to Develop Multiple Geostationary Satellite System

Loral Space & Communications and Alcatel Alsthom of France have announced plans to jointly build and operate a multiple geostationary satellite system that will provide broadcast and telecommunications services from Western Europe to Southeast Asia. Europe*Star will provide coverage to Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South Africa and India. The three-satellite system, which will be located between Europe and Asia at 43°, 45° and 47.5°, will be the first European Ku-band satellite system to provide telecommunications, high rate data interchange (Internet and on-line service access), television and distribution services connecting Europe and Asia directly in a single hop.

Alcatel Espace of Toulouse, France will serve as prime contractor and supply the payload for the Europe*Star system. Space Systems/Loral will build the bus in addition to testing and integrating the satellites at its Palo Alto, CA facility.