TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: XM's Satellite Radio Network Could Get Drafted for Military Use

XM's Satellite Radio Network Could Get Drafted for Military Use

Monty Solomon (
Fri, 15 Jul 2005 08:50:02 -0400

By Brian Bergstein, AP Technology Writer

BOSTON -- Customers of XM Satellite Radio Inc. aren't the only ones
who appreciate its digital quality and nationwide coverage. The U.S.
military might draft XM's service for homeland security purposes.

XM and Raytheon Co. have jointly built a communications system that
would use XM's satellites to relay information to soldiers and
emergency responders during a crisis.

The Mobile Enhanced Situational Awareness Network, known as MESA,
would get a dedicated channel on XM's satellites that would be
accessible only on devices given to emergency personnel. The receivers
would be the same as the portable ones available to consumers, with
slight modifications to make them more rugged.

The military often leases transmission space on commercial satellites,
but this collaboration between a massive defense contractor and a
fun-loving radio network -- XM's first two satellites were dubbed
"Rock" and "Roll," and its next two might be "Rhythm" and "Blues" --
is unusual.

It began last year when engineers with Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon
Co. were looking for an inexpensive system that would help emergency
responders and soldiers coordinate their actions after a natural
disaster or terrorist strike. Existing communications systems for such
scenarios can be bulky and expensive.

Commercial satellite radio receivers, in contrast, are lightweight,
battery-powered and cost as little as $99. Their digital transmissions
have enough bandwidth to carry maps and other imagery, which would be
displayed on portable computers that plug into the satellite
receivers. And the system can be programmed to relay information just
to specific devices if need be, so individual users can get messages
appropriate to their regions.

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