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Chapter 6. Wireless Access Networks > Low Earth Orbit Satellites

Low Earth Orbit Satellites

Geosynchronous satellites are not the only satellites orbiting the broadband access space. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites have garnered a large amount of interest and press because of their high concept and the participation of heavy-hitters Bill Gates and Craig McCaw. Some conflict has arisen between LMDS and LEO supporters regarding spectrum allocation. Though it is unlikely that the bandwidth of these systems will exceed 1 to 2 Mb, their potential role in RBB is to provide a ubiquitous return path for other one-way technologies. Another possible effect is to siphon off investment and consumer interest from higher-speed services.

Background

Unlike their geosynchronous brethren, which operate at 35,800 km above the equator, LEO satellites orbit the planet at low altitudes. Depending on the system, the altitude of these orbits ranges from 780 to 1400 km, which is above the earth's atmosphere but below the Van Allen radiation belt. At these altitudes, a LEO satellite is in view of 2 to 4 percent of the earth's surface, which means that the footprint of any given LEO satellite is 4000 to 6000 km in diameter.


  

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