Satellite speeds Internet to the field

A new satellite system that provides up to 2 megabit/sec data rates and

offers true broadband Internet service in remote locations is expected to

be formally introduced this month and has already been used by firefighters

in rural California.

The firefighters used the system, from San Diego-based Tachyon Inc.,

to access Web applications for planning logistics and operational strategies

across the many teams fighting a 5,700-acre fire that ignited in the southern

California community of Fallbrook in early February.

Tachyon's mobile network access provided the California Department of

Forestry and Fire Protection with high-quality broadband communications

at a remote site for the first time, said Curt Itson, the CDF's battalion

chief.

"[Internet service] has traditionally done poorly over satellite due

to latency, noise issues and so on," said Jeremy Guralnick, Tachyon's chief

scientist. "If you split a 1 megabit/sec cable in two and put regular satellite

communications between the two, you'd maybe get 20 percent of the available

throughput. With our system you can get up to 78 percent."

The system can take several hours to set up initially, depending on

how long it takes to get the system's dish lined up with the satellite.

Other than that, however, it's simply a case of hooking computers into the

Tachyon system through standard IEEE 802.11 wireless local-area network

connections.

Tachyon provides the satellite system box and a monthly subscription

service, priced according to the data rate needs of the customer.

The current 2 megabits/sec ceiling "is somewhat of an artificial constraint

and was picked more for marketing reasons because that's what people told

us they needed," Guralnick said. "But we do have much bigger pipes available."

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be

reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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