Electronic Weapons: April 13, 2005

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While satellite phones are popular in combat zones, they are still expensive to operate. But in emergencies, like the recent U.S. Navy relief effort in Indonesia (after last Decembers earthquake and tidal wave), they proved worth the cost. Sailors went ashore with Inmarsat satellite phones. Inmarsat is the main supplier of satellite communications services for ships. Normally, a special satellite antenna (that can deal with salt water and the constant movement of the ship) is installed, and the satellite phone service is plugged into the ships communications system. Inmarsat also has portable systems, weighting about five pounds. These were what American sailors took ashore, allowing them instant phone and internet service. The main problem with satellite phones remains the price. The costs vary from system to system, but were still talking per minute charges of twenty cents and up (to about a dollar). Thus, at sea, email is popular, although some satellite communications providers will charge you by how many characters you send. Theres no free lunch, or cheap prices, when it comes to satellite communications. But military forces world wide finds that satellite phone service gives them a world class international communications at modest cost. This is particularly useful when a country sends off some of their troops on a peacekeeping mission. 

 


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