US 20070129019 A1
A hybrid satellite communications system provides communications, particularly Internet access, to computer users. The hybrid satellite communications system includes a satellite system and a terrestrial communications system. The satellite system includes two transceivers. The first transceiver receives and transmits a first set of signals received from the terrestrial communications system to a plurality of user units. In reverse fashion, the satellite systems second transceiver receives a second set of signals in a second frequency band from the user units and transmits those signals back to the terrestrial communications system. The first set of signals (downlink signals) are of much higher frequency than the second set of signals (uplink signals). Preferably, the first set of signals are relayed by a Direct Broadcast System (DBS) satellite in a frequency band between 12.2 GHz and 12.9 GHz, while the second set of signals are relayed by a Mobile Satellite System (MSS) satellite operating between 1.0 GHz and 3.0 Ghz, or relayed by a terrestrial node operating between 0.8 and 2.0 Ghz. The differences in frequency between the first set of signals and second set of signals is considered optimal for the transmission and receipt of communications between a computer user with the Internet. Moreover, the present invention is capable of using the present communications infrastructures dedicated to the satellite transmission of television via DBS satellites, satellite cellular communications via MSS satellites, and radio communications via terrestrial cellular systems.
1. a user unit that provides internet access, comprising:
a wireless receiver that is configured to receive inbound data from an Internet service provider via a satellite; and
a wireless transmitter that is configured to wirelessly transmit outbound data to the Internet service provider via a wireless link that is independent of the satellite.
2. A user unit according to
3. A user unit according to
4. A user unit according to
5. A user unit according to
a second wireless receiver that is configured to wirelessly receive inbound control data from the Internet service provider via the wireless link that is independent of the satellite.
6. A user unit according to
wherein the wireless transmitter is configured to wirelessly transmit outbound data to the Internet service provider via the wireless link that is independent of the satellite in response to user input at the wireless terminal; and
wherein the wireless receiver is configured to receive inbound data from the Internet service provider via the satellite in response to receipt by the Internet service provider of the outbound data.
7. A method of operating a user unit comprising:
wirelessly transmitting outbound data via a wireless link in response to user input at the user unit; and
wirelessly receiving inbound data at the user unit in response to the outbound data that was transmitted, the inbound data being wirelessly received at the user unit via a satellite link that is independent of the wireless link.
8. A method according to
receiving the outbound data at a data provider;
generating the inbound data at the data provider in response to receipt of the outbound data; and
transmitting the inbound data from the data provider to the satellite link.
9. A method according to
10. A method according to
11. A method according to
12. A method of providing Internet services by an Internet Service Provider (ISP) comprising:
receiving a request at the ISP from a user unit via a wireless link;
generating data at the ISP in response to the request that was received; and
transmitting the data from the ISP to the user unit via a satellite link that is independent of the wireless link.
13. A method according to
14. A method according to
15. A method according to
16. A user unit comprising:
a wireless transmitter that is configured to wirelessly transmit outbound data via a wireless link in response to user input at the user unit; and
a wireless receiver that is configured to wirelessly receive inbound data at the user unit in response to the outbound data that was transmitted, the inbound data being wirelessly received at the user unit via a satellite link that is independent of the wireless link.
17. A user unit according to
18. A user unit according to
19. A user unit according to
This application is a continuation of application Ser. No. 10/246,868, filed Sep. 17, 2002, entitled Data Communications Systems and Methods Using Different Wireless Links for Inbound and Outbound Data, now U.S. Pat. No. ______, which itself is a continuation-in-part of application Ser. No. 09/371,316, filed Aug. 10, 1999, entitled Hybrid Satellite Communication System, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,522,865, both of which are assigned to the assignee of the present invention, the disclosures of both of which are hereby incorporated herein by reference in their entirety as if set forth fully herein.
The present invention relates to satellite communications systems. More particularly, the present invention relates to satellite communications systems providing Internet service to computer users.
Computer networking is rapidly becoming ubiquitous in present day society. Computer networks have grown from isolated connections among research scientists and universities to the “information superhighway” of today. Access to this superhighway is typically accomplished through the “Internet”. The Internet utilizes a transmission control protocol/Internet protocol (TCP/IP) communications system which is utilized by hundreds of millions of users worldwide.
Through the use of standardized formats, computer users can easily access and navigate through the abundance of information which is accessible through the Internet. This information includes not only research and news information but has now spread to commercial advertising and business communications which permit users to download images, video, sound clips and/or text documents relating to a company's products. This information is transmitted over the Internet in measurements commonly referred to as bits.
Conventionally, access to the Internet is achieved by using slow, terrestrial dial-up modems through commercial telephone systems such as the public system telephone network (PSTN). Unfortunately, the fastest transmission rate commonly available over the PSTN is 56K bits per second (bps). Because such transmission rates are prohibitively slow for some practices, such as the transmission of video information, additional systems have been devised including Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) and T1 systems which require special cabling to be constructed to the computer user. Unfortunately, ISDN and T1 communications systems are too expensive for the average computer user. Because it will take a long time and substantial expense to connect computer users to the Internet via highspeed transmission lines, such as fiber optic lines, it is desirable to implement some type of highspeed Internet communications system that could be rapidly and inexpensively implemented. Moreover, as explained above, the Internet is largely accessed through telephone lines and dedicated communication lines. Such infrastructure exists today only in developed countries. In undeveloped countries, communities separated by vast distances have limited telephone service, if any. Even where there is telephone service, the quality of the telephone connection is often poorly suited to support the transmission of digital data at a useable rate.
The lack of access to the Internet is rapidly becoming more of a problem as users have expanded beyond academics, researchers and computer enthusiasts, and it has become virtually mandatory for members of the general public to participate in the global community via the Internet. For example, physicians in developed countries now confer electronically over the Internet. School children search encyclopedias, obtain information from far away places and even “chat” with other children around the country. Those without access to the Internet are left educationally behind.
To overcome the deficiencies of the present Internet infrastructure, systems have been proposed which make use of satellite communications to access the Internet. For example, Direct TV, a subsidiary of Hughes Electronics, Inc., provides highspeed Internet access through their collection of Direct Broadcast System (DBS) satellites which were originally constructed to provide satellite television service. Unfortunately, the Direct TV system does not provide a communication link for the user to send information back to the Internet via the satellite. Accordingly, a computer user must utilize a separate terrestrial telephone line through the PSTN system or the like to provide communications to an Internet provider. Though the transmission rate from the computer user through the PSTN system to an Internet provider is substantially slower than the downlink from the DBS satellite, this system is generally acceptable as computer users generally receive (download) much greater amounts of data from the Internet than they transmit. Accordingly, it is generally acceptable for the computer user's uplink (transmission) rate to be substantially less than the computer user's download rate. However, the Direct TV system suffers from several disadvantages as a user must have both a satellite receiver and a connection to telephone service. In many portions of the globe, access to both a satellite dish and telephone line are unavailable.
In order to overcome this disadvantage, systems have been proposed which utilize a single satellite system for both the uplink and downlink of Internet data to a computer user. For example, an Iridium/Motorola cellular telephone system provides two-way Internet access at approximately 2.4K bps. Meanwhile, Inmersat has proposed a satellite cellular telephone system which will provide 64K bps of Internet access. Similarly, U.S. Pat. No. 5,912,883 issued to Herschberg as the inventor and assigned to WorldCom Systems, Inc., discloses a satellite communication system which optimally would permit 9.6K bps of Internet access. Unfortunately, these rates for transmission and receipt of data to the Internet are far too slow to be practical for many computer users. For example, the transmission of a few seconds of live action video would take literally hours to be transmitted from the Internet over these satellite systems.
Accordingly, there is a substantial need for a lowcost, highspeed system which provides access for the computer user to the Internet.
It would also be desirable if an Internet communication system were provided which could substantially utilize existing communications infrastructure.
Moreover, it would be particularly desirable to provide a communications system which could access the Internet which did not require the utilization of telephone lines or highspeed transmission cables. To this end, it would be even more desirable if the communication system provided the computer user with mobile access to the Internet and/or access to the Internet from remote areas around the world.
Briefly, in accordance with the invention, we provide an improved apparatus and method for providing communications to a computer user or the like. More particularly, my invention is a hybrid satellite communications system which is particularly suitable for providing Internet access to a computer user. The hybrid satellite communications system includes one or more satellites, one or more terrestrial communication stations and a plurality of user units. The one or more satellites act as relay stations and include a first transceiver for receiving and transmitting a first set of RF signals in a first frequency band and a second transceiver for receiving and transmitting a second set of RF signals in a second frequency band. Preferably, the first frequency band is at a significantly higher frequency than the second frequency band.
In operation, the user units, typically including personal computers, transmit signals in the second frequency band to the orbiting satellite system. The second signals are then relayed by the satellite system back to terrestrial ground stations which are connected to an Internet provider by the PSTN system or the like. In this manner, a user's computer can access, send data or information to the Internet, via the second set of signals passing through the satellite system. In reverse manner, data from the Internet is transmitted to a computer user. The Internet Service Provider is connected to a terrestrial ground station which transmits the Internet data in the form of the first set of signals to the satellite system. The satellite system relays the first set of signals back to the computer user enabling the computer user to decode the Internet information to download images, video, sound clips, business advertising or the like. For purposes herein, the first set of signals will be referred to as “downlink signals” as they refer to the signals which are downlinked from the satellite to a computer user. Similarly, the second set of signals will be referred to herein as “uplink signals” as they refer to the signals which are transmitted from the computer user.
As stated above, the transmission rate from the user's computer through the satellite system to the Internet Service Provider is slower than the transmission rate of information provided from the Internet provider to the computer user. This is generally acceptable as computer users typically need to download much larger amounts of data from the Internet than they send.
In a preferred embodiment, the hybrid satellite communications system of the present invention transmits the downlink signal from the satellite system to the user's computer in X band and/or K band. More preferably, the hybrid satellite communications system uses a standard Ku band Direct Broadcast System (DBS) satellite to send the downlink signals from the Internet Service Provider to the computer user. DBS refers to satellite transmission of signals dedicated by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in the electromagnetic spectrum from 12.2 GHz to 12.7 GHz for DBS broadcasting. This frequency band has been reserved primarily for the transmission of television signals. Meanwhile, it is preferred that the uplink signals from the user's computer to the Internet Service Provider be relayed by a Mobile Satellite System (MSS) satellite operating in L-band or S-band or both. More particularly, it is preferred that the return link be limited to the frequency band dedicated for mobile satellite communications between 1.0 GHz and 3.0 GHz, though between 1.9 GHz and 2.2 GHz is even more preferable.
In additional preferred embodiments, the hybrid satellite communication system includes at least two satellites, preferably a DBS satellite and an MSS satellite. A first satellite is provided for receiving and transmitting the downlink signals at the higher frequency band from the Internet Service Provider through the first satellite to the user's computer, while a second satellite is provided for receiving and transmitting the uplink signals at a much lower frequency band from the user's computer to the Internet service provider. As would be understood by those skilled in the art, one or more ground stations would typically be provided for relaying data between the first and second satellites and the Internet Service Provider.
In still an additional preferred embodiment, the hybrid satellite communications system includes a plurality of terrestrial nodes which cooperate with the second transceiver, which relays the uplink signals, to offload communications between the user's computer and the second transceiver. More particularly, the terrestrial nodes operate in similar manner to the second transceiver, such as an MSS satellite, and terrestrial communications system in that they relay uplink signals including Internet information from the user's computer to the Internet Service Provider. Depending on the number of computer user's on the system, atmospheric conditions, etc., instead of utilizing a second satellite for receiving the uplink signals from the computer user, the computer user transmits the uplink signals to terrestrial nodes which relays any Internet inquiries, information or data to the Internet Service Provider. In a preferred embodiment, the terrestrial nodes utilize a standard cellular telephone communication system which is connected to an Internet Service Provider by the PSTN. For example, where the computer user is capable of communicating with a terrestrial cellular telephone communications system, it would typically be less expensive to transmit the uplink signals to terrestrial nodes than to transmit the uplink signals to a second satellite transceiver. However, where the computer user is too distant from a terrestrial cellular telephone system to operate effectively, the computer user, automatically or based on manual instructions, transmits uplink signals to the orbiting satellite system. Of course, even where the computer user is in range and transmits uplink signals to a terrestrial node, it is an object of the present invention that the downlink signals still be relayed by the satellite system to the user's computer, as typical terrestrial cellular telephone systems operate at transmission rates too slow to be practical for most computer users.
Other aspects and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description and the accompanying drawings illustrating by way of example the features of the present invention.
While the present invention is susceptible of embodiment in various forms, there is shown in the drawings and will hereinafter be described the presently preferred embodiments of the invention with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an exemplification of the invention and is not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiments illustrated.
Of importance to the practice of the present invention, the downlink signals 30 are at a substantially higher frequency than the uplink signals 36. In order to overcome the disadvantages of the prior art, which provides either very slow Internet access or requires both a satellite link and a connection to the commercial telephone system, the present invention is a highly efficient hybrid communications system in which the downlink signals are preferably transmitted in X-band and/or K-band while the uplink signals are transmitted in L-band and/or S-band. For purposes of the present invention, these bands are defined as follows.
Even more preferably, the downlink signals are provided by a DBS satellite 6 transmitting at between 12.2 GHz and 12.9 GHz while the uplink signals are transmitted at between 1.0 GHz and 3.0 GHz to an MSS satellite 2. The use of two satellites which transmit and receive signals at substantially different frequency bands is ideal for practicing the present invention as Internet users typically require substantially higher frequency transmission rates to receive information from the Internet than to transmit information to the Internet, as computer users typically download far greater amounts of information from the Internet than they send.
OS: Outbound Satellite 30 (satellite to computer user)
OC: Outbound Calling and Command 32 (satellite to computer user)
IS: Inbound Satellite 36 (computer user to satellite)
IC: Inbound Calling and Tracking 33 (computer user to node)
Meanwhile, communication between the DBS satellite 6 and the user's computer 1 would typically be transmitted through frequency division multiple access (FDMA) which does not require two-way synchronization and tracking. Accordingly, the entire high frequency sub-band 25 can be dedicated to the transmission of Internet information on the sub-band designated outbound satellite 30.
Referring back to
Referring also to
The MSS ground station 3 receives the signal at its antenna 71, applies it to a circulator 73, amplifies 74, frequency demultiplexes 76 the signal separating off the composite signal which includes the signal from the user shown in
Referring now to
Preferably, MSS satellite 2 and DBS satellite make use of the highest feasible satellite antenna gain. In one embodiment, power gain on the order of 45 dB and beamwidth of under 1° are envisioned. This is depicted in
The terrestrial nodes operate in similar manner to the MSS satellite 2 and MSS ground stations 3 shown in
Typically it would be less expensive for a user's computer to communicate directly with a terrestrial node to transmit information or data to an Internet Service Provider than to transmit through an MSS satellite or the like. Thus, where an uplink connection is available with a terrestrial node, it is preferred that the user unit transmit its uplink system to a terrestrial node, while concurrently receiving the downlink signals transmitted by a DBS satellite. However, for this embodiment of the invention, where it is impossible to communicate with a terrestrial node, for example due to too many users on the system or due to terrestrial interference or weather fade, the computer's user may switch, automatically or based on instructions by the user, to transmitting the uplink signals to the MSS satellite 2.
The present invention provides for an inexpensive and simple way to provide communications using a computer. Moreover, the present invention is particularly suitable for use with connecting computers, and particularly mobile computers, with the Internet, though it is not intended that the present invention be limited thereto. While several particular forms of the invention have been illustrated and described, it will be apparent that various modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Accordingly, it is not intended that the invention be limited except by the following claims. Having described my invention in such terms as to enable those skilled in the art to understand and practice it, and having defined and identified the presently preferred embodiments thereof, we claim: