Nortel, MSV to build Hybrid Satellite-Terrestrial Network

We’ve seen the future, and it contains uninterrupted service.

Mobile Satellite Ventures (MSV) and Nortel this week announced that they are partnering to deploy the first integrated 4G and satellite broadband network:

"This trial is a significant step toward next-generation mobility," said Drew Caplan, MSV chief network officer. "Nortel’s 4G and IMS expertise will help us demonstrate our transparency network architecture to support hybrid satellite-terrestrial communications on the basis of a 4G broadband platform, enabling new dimensions of service for our customers."

The trial with Nortel, which will be conducted in the Reston, Virginia area, will initially feature high-speed wireless voice, data and Web access, file sharing, and VoIP connectivity using residential gateway devices and PC Cards for users in fixed and portable modes of use. Subsequently, MSV expects to incorporate push-to-talk, video calling, picture-caller ID, and presence capabilities, full MSS/ATC integration, and support for a range of mobile devices. Nortel will integrate its WiMAX and IMS connectivity as well as devices and ASIC technology from Kyocera, WiNetworks, and Runcom Technologies.

The Ottawa Business Journal also has coverage of the joint venture, which was announced this week at the CTIA Wireless 2007 Conference in Orlando, Florida. (Some other interesting and hip tidbits from CTIA: Nokia had one of the cooler displays, and AT&T’s COO was spotted with an iPhone.)

Although MSV  was the first company to get an Ancillary Terrestrial Component license from the FCC, which provides the legal permit for the hybrid system, they’re certainly not the only company pursuing the promise of a network that combines the best of tower and satellite mobile communications. TerreStar Networks is building "North America’s first all-IP enabled, next generation mobile communications network over an integrated satellite-terrestrial system" that "will provide universal access and tailored applications to millions of users throughout North America via mass market commercial wireless devices." Low-Earth Orbit satcom company LeoTerra is also involved.

Whichever company gets there first with a hybrid system, however, the 4G broadband marketplace is likely to be tumultous in the coming years, as we wrote earlier this month. In January of 2008, the FCC will be auctioning off "the last beachfront-property" spectrum in the nation — the 60 megahertz spectrum being vacated by television broadcasters when they cease analog broadcasting in 2009 — and there are some big names — including Yahoo! and Google — that are lobbying the FCC to allow bidders to aggregate enough licenses to create new national 4G networks.

It truly is a brave new world.