The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Boeing a patent on maintaining satellite uplinks. The patent describes a technique where a combination of ground stations and satellites can maintain a constant connection by using virtual channels. Boeing recently won a contract to build three satellites for an upcoming data and voice network for North and South America. In addition, this technology could help airlines make cheaper wireless data networks.
Regular satellite uplinks require expensive antennas that must quickly change frequencies when the satellite passes over the ground stations. Boeing’s patent sets up virtual channels which groups frequencies according to color. As the satellite passes over the ground stations coordinate and hand off to the same group of frequencies. From the satellite’s perspective, nothing has changed, when in fact it is talking to another station.
While the patent does mention ground stations the same technology could be applied to jumbo jets, which in effect are miniature ground stations from the satellite’s point of view. Two weeks ago, we reported that the FCC was auctioning off a band of frequencies to be used for broadband voice and data service to airlines. The satellite uplink technique described in the patent could help minimize the expensive equipment needed on a plane and reduce the number of disconnects.
Additionally earlier this month, Boeing won a major satellite deal with Mobile Satellite Ventures. Valued at between $500 million and $1 billion, Boeing will build three satellites capable of pumping out 11,000 watts. These satellites will power a new data and voice network covering both North and South America. The satellites will be completed and launched between 2009 to 2010.
Patent 6,993,288 titled, “Managing satellite fixed beam uplink using virtual channel assignments”, was filed on July 17, 2002 and was granted on January 31, 2006.