Satellite Communication and Society in the Third World

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The importance of communication in any country whether developed or developing is so obvious. Every human society, from the most primitive to the most advanced; depend on some form of communication network. It will be virtually impossible for any group of people to define their collective identities or make decisions about their common and binding interests, without communications. In fact, the inter-relationship between the economic development of a country and effective communication services is so interwoven that it is difficult to tell which one comes first. Suffice it to say however, that most developed nations have the more developed infrastructures and services.

According to James Wood in his book: Satellite Communications Pocket Book (Wood, 1994), there have been four epochs in communication broadcasting which are categorized as follows: • • • • The wire age between 1840 -1900 which is described as the period of undersea telegraph The wireless telegraph age; this was the time of long-wave telegraph and transmitters The age of sound broadcasting which began in 1920 The age of broadcasting from 1930 to the present day

Additionally, we have the satellite age which came into fullness in 1965. The era is commonly referred to as the age of fibre-optic communications. The satellite technology emerged following the dream of a science fiction writer: Arthur L. Clarke. In 1945, he saw the possibility of a spacecraft in orbit about 36,000 kilometres (22,000 miles) above the equator (a dream fired by the war-time rockets used by the Germans).

In 1964, the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT) was formed. The INTELSAT devised a system, which linked the continents to ensure same day news coverage from virtually anywhere in the world. The first satellite in the INTELSAT series was known as Early Bird and “birding” has become the accepted term for the entire process of transmitting news by satellite. INTELSAT with its headquarters in Washington D.C. has in its membership well over 100 countries, most of which are represented by their national telecommunications organizations. There are many other satellite organizations in the world apart from INTELSAT. These include the international Marine Satellite Organization (INMRSAT), British Telecommunications (BT), and Hughes Communications Incorporated. Also among the various manufacturers of satellites are Aerospatial, Alcate Espace Marconi GEC, and Hughes Space and Communications. The advent of satellite made it possible for sounds of other cultures to be received across national boundaries. Satellites permitted radio, television, telephone and data communication to be transmitted with the speed of light anywhere in the world.

The satellite is the communication technology, which operates by receiving electronic messages from the ground “up-links” on earth stations and re-transmitting them “down-links” to other earth stations. Satellites not only pass signals from and to ground stations, but also to other satellites. Powerful launch systems like the Ariane rocket are used to launch communication satellites into orbit. The satellite acts like a sort of mirror in the sky. A message is originated from the earth station and transmitted uplink. Here the signal (message) is converted to another frequency. This is to ensure that the transmitted message does not interfere with incoming messages. The new message (converted) is boosted into power and transmitted back to earth. An on-board apparatus called transponder performs the reception and transmission functions. Satellite relay information with relative ease because they are placed in synchronous orbit approximately 34,200 kilometres above the earth. They...
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