US satellite carrying the biggest commercial antenna reflector will support 4G for smartphones

BBC News reports the launch of a new 4G communication satellite. The mesh structure on the Skyterra-1 spacecraft is 22m (72ft) across. It will relay signals for a new 4G-LTE mobile phone and data system for North America run by Lightsquared. Callers whose networks are tied into the system will be automatically switched to a satellite if they are out of range of a terrestrial mast.

Two previous ventures ran into financial problems. Both Terrestar and DBSD North America had to seek legal protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy rules while they sought to restructure enormous debts built up as they rolled out their systems. LightSquared has promised a different approach. It says its business will be wholesale only. It will be selling capacity to carriers who wish to offer go-anywhere connectivity to their consumers, be they phone or data users

Boeing has more information.

When operational, SkyTerra 1 will combine with ground-based beam-forming (GBBF) equipment and ground stations to form LightSquared’s first Space-Based Network (SBN), which will enable faster service and broader access to smaller mobile devices for millions of users in the United States. The Boeing-built SBN will benefit from the satellite’s 22-meter L-band reflector, which reduces the need for larger antennas and battery-draining receivers inside mobile handsets.

LightSquared’s SBN will combine with a ground network of more than 40,000 base stations built to offer ground coverage, satellite coverage or a combination of the two. LightSquared plans to begin rolling out its nationwide wholesale 4G LTE wireless network in the first four markets in the second half of 2011.

LightSquared’s ground network of terrestrial stations in place is to serve 90% of the US population by the end of 2015.

The 22m-antenna on Skyterra-1 should be deployed by the end of the month. A second satellite, Skyterra-2, will follow in 2011.

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