What is Satellite Communication?

What is Satellite Communication?

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Anshuman
Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content
Updated on May 10, 2024 17:31 IST

Satellite communication has changed how people communicate and obtain information across the globe. In the past, it took a lot of work to talk to people far away or in hard-to-reach places.

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However, because of satellites revolving around the Earth, individuals can now transfer and receive voice, video, and data signals at their discretion from any geographical location at any given time. But what exactly is satellite communication?

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In this article, we will explore satellite communication in detail. But, before we dive deeper into the article, let’s go through the list of topics listed under the TOC we will cover. Here’s the table:

Table of Contents (TOC)

What is Satellite Communication?

Satellite communication refers to using satellites around the Earth to relay messages, data, or other forms of communication between different locations on the planet. 

In layman’s terms, communication between any two earth stations through a satellite is referred to as satellite communication. This technology enables long-distance communication in areas where traditional wired or wireless communication infrastructure is either impractical, inefficient, or unavailable. 

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What was the Need for Developing Satellite Communication?

There was a need for developing this technology because traditional methods of communication, such as ground wave and sky wave propagation, had limitations in terms of distance and accessibility.

Ground wave propagation is suitable for frequencies up to 30 MHz and uses the Earth’s troposphere conditions to transmit signals. However, its range is limited to a few hundred kilometres, and it cannot transmit signals over large distances or across the oceans.

Sky wave propagation, on the other hand, is suitable for frequencies between 30-40 MHz and uses the ionosphere properties of the Earth to transmit signals. It has a longer range than ground wave propagation but is still limited to a few thousand kilometres.

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This technology overcomes these limitations by providing communication over long distances, which is well beyond the line of sight. Since the satellites are located at a certain height above the Earth, communication can occur easily between any two earth stations via satellites. This means that this technology can overcome the limitation of communication between two earth stations due to the curvature of the Earth.

Furthermore, satellite communication is unaffected by geographical barriers, such as mountains or oceans, and can provide communication in remote areas where other communication methods are impossible. In short, the need for developing this technology arose due to the limitations of traditional communication methods and the need for a reliable one.

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How Does Satellite Communication Work?

The satellite communication process involves uplink and downlink frequencies. The uplink frequency is the frequency at which the ground station communicates with the satellite. In contrast, the downlink frequency is the frequency at which the satellite transmits the signal to the receiving station on the Earth’s surface.

The process begins with a transmission from a ground station, typically a dish antenna, which sends high-frequency signals in the form of radio waves or microwaves up to a satellite in orbit (uplink frequency). The satellite receives the signals using its own dish antenna. Then it changes the signal’s frequency band through a transponder before sending it back to a receiving station on the Earth’s surface (downlink frequency). The satellite acts as a microwave repeater station in space, amplifying and retransmitting signals it receives from the ground station. The image shown below depicts the working of this technology:

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Types of Satellite Communication

Satellite communications can be broadly categorized into two types based on the direction of communication: one-way and two-way satellite communication. As the name implies, “one-way” transmits signals in only one direction – from the satellite to the ground station. This communication method is widely used for radio and television signals, where the satellite simultaneously sends signals to numerous ground stations. Direct broadcast satellite (DBS) and satellite radio are prime examples of one-way satellite communication.

In contrast, “two-way” is a communication method in which signals are transmitted in both directions – between the satellite and the ground station. This method is employed in various applications, including commercial and military communications, internet access, and remote monitoring. In two-way satellite communication, the ground station transmits a signal to the satellite, which then relays the signal to the intended recipient. The recipient then sends a response back to the satellite, which is then transmitted back to the ground station. Satellite phones, satellite internet, and very small aperture terminal (VSAT) systems are all examples of two-way satellite communication.

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In short, one-way communication involves the transmission of signals in a single direction. In contrast, two-way communication involves the transmission of signals in both directions – between the satellite and the ground station.

Applications of Satellite Communication

Here are some of the most popular applications of satellite communication:

  • Navigation: Satellites help in navigation and location tracking, such as air and sea transportation, surveying, military operations, etc.
  • Internet access: Satellites provide internet access in remote or rural areas where other forms of connectivity are unavailable or unreliable.
  • Broadcasting: Satellites distribute TV and radio signals, allowing broadcasters to reach a wider audience beyond terrestrial transmission capabilities.
  • Military and defence: Satellites are used for various military and defence applications, such as communication, surveillance, intelligence gathering, etc.
  • Telecommunications: This type of communication allows long-distance voice and data communication in remote or isolated regions where another communication infrastructure is unavailable.
  • Remote sensing: Satellites equipped with sensors can collect data about the Earth’s surface, atmosphere, oceans, etc. And this information is used for various purposes, such as weather forecasting, natural disaster monitoring, agricultural monitoring, etc.

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Advantages of Satellite Communication

Here are some of the most popular advantages:

  • Scalability: Satellite networks can be easily expanded or contracted depending on the user’s needs.
  • Global coverage: This technology can cover any part of the world, including remote and inaccessible areas.
  • Cost-effective: This technology can be more cost-effective than laying cables or building terrestrial networks.
  • Mobility: It allows for communication while in motion, making it useful for transportation, aviation, and maritime industries.
  • High-speed connectivity: This technology provides high-speed data and voice communication services, even in remote areas.
  • Security: This type of communication is more secure than other forms of communication since the signals are difficult to intercept.
  • Reliability: It is not affected by terrestrial factors such as terrain, weather, or distance, making it more reliable than other forms of communication.
  • Disaster recovery: During natural disasters or emergencies, this technology can act as a backup communication system when terrestrial networks are damaged or unavailable.

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Disadvantages of Satellite Communication

Here are some of the most popular disadvantages:

  • Cost: Setting up and maintaining this technology can be expensive, which makes it less accessible for some organizations.
  • Delay: The time taken by a signal to travel to and from a satellite can cause delays, which can be detrimental in certain situations.
  • Weather: Adverse weather conditions, such as heavy rain or snow, can disrupt or completely interrupt satellite signals, thus affecting quality and reliability.
  • Vulnerability: Satellites are vulnerable to space debris, solar flares, and other potential hazards that disrupt communication, making them less reliable in certain scenarios.

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This is what "Dr. Sapna Katiyar" has to say about satellite communication:

Conclusion

In this article, we have explored what satellite communication is. We have also explored its working, importance, types, applications, advantages, disadvantages, etc. If you have any queries related to the topic, please feel free to send your queries to us in the form of comments. We will be happy to help you.

Happy Learning!!

About the Author
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Anshuman Singh
Senior Executive - Content

Anshuman Singh is an accomplished content writer with over three years of experience specializing in cybersecurity, cloud computing, networking, and software testing. Known for his clear, concise, and informative wr... Read Full Bio