[soc.culture.soviet] Gonetz = E-mail via Soviet Satellite

antenna@well.sf.ca.us (Robert Horvitz) (06/22/91)

Last week I posted a query about "Gonetz," a store-and-forward
packet radio data network based on constellations of low earth
orbit satellites that the USSR plans to implement.
Jane's Defence Weekly had a brief passage about it in their 1
June 1991 issue.  It is apparently based on an existing
military/security system called Sextet, which Jane's described
as "the only truly operational lightsat system in the world."
(Gonetz is a Russian word meaning "messenger.")
Thanks to the magic of Usenet, Ed O'Grady (OGRADY_E@SPCVXA.BITNET)
saw my query and replied by email.  His company, DYJ Technologies,
was misidentified by Jane's as providing marketing services for
Gonetz.  They are in fact consulting on the project, but not
marketing it.  Anyway, he provided more detail about Gonetz, and
put me in touch with Vern Riportella, whose company is marketing
Gonetz services in North America.  Vern is well-known to ham
radio operators for his involvement in AMSAT-NA and hamsat
technology generally.
To summarize a series of phonecalls with both men, the idea to
market this technology outside the Soviet Union came from
Soyuzmedinform (the All-Union Medical Informatics bureau of the
USSR health ministry).  They originally saw it as a way to send
critical health information to and from areas not served by
conventional electronic communications, especially in rural
areas and developing countries.  But recognizing that this
application might not generate enough money or traffic to pay
for the system, they began thinking in more general terms.  They
organized a "Consortium of Small Satellite Constructors and
Service Providers (COSSCASP) to adapt the Sextet technology and
make it available worldwide.  In addition to Soyuzmedinform, the
current members of COSSCASP are:
  NPO Precision Instruments:  a Moscow-based organization that
  designs scientific equipment.  They will design Gonetz's space
  and terrestrial segments, and develop functional compatibility
  standards for user terminals produced by others.
  NPO Applied Mechanics:  a large production facility based in
  Krasnayarsk, they build most of the Soviet Union's satellites.
  (By the way, NPO is a Russian acryonym for "scientific
  production organization.")
  Network Services International:  NSI is Riportella's company
  (see below for address).
Many aspects of the system have yet to be defined.  They expect
the orbital configuration ultimately to involve 5 or 6 orbital
planes with 6 satellites in each plane.  (Sextets are launched 6
at a time on one rocket.)  That way, users anywhere in the world
would not have to wait more than 20 minutes for a satellite to
came into "view."
Gonetz is expected to serve both fixed and mobile terminals with
a variety of digital modes, primarily email, but also fax and
maybe voicemail.  Apparently the digital links in the USSR's
phone system use continuously variable slope delta modulation,
so they are thinking of using that for voice in the Gonetz
system.  Riportella is arguing for linear predictive coding, as
that requires much lower data rates.  But they are still unsure
what applications will be most attractive to users, and are
assuming the basic service will be email.
It is also unclear what radio bands will be used, or whether a
new international allocation is needed.  Gonetz was originally
planned for the 200-400 MHz range, but that presents some
coordination problems with US military systems.  The Sextet
framework is apparently flexible enough that the radio issues
don't have to be nailed down just yet.  O'Grady said they will
probably go along with whatever WARC-92 decides.
They hope to launch the first batch of satellites in the fourth
quarter of 1993.  Initially, all messages will be processed
through ground stations to reach end users.  The process will be
fully automated.  A computer will read the destination address
and determine which satellite provides the fastest delivery
route.  By 1995, they hope to have narrowband inter-satellite
links working.  That will eliminate the ground link in many
cases, speeding delivery and supporting two-way real-time
interactive channels.  They anticipate that handheld terminals
will communicate at 9600 baud, fixed terminals at 56KB.
Recognizing that the USSR has problems with quality control for
consumer goods, they will encourage third parties to design and
manufacture equipment for end users.  All of the handheld units
will be built outside the USSR.
No price schedule or rate card has been devised yet.  Because
the satellite technology is already mature, and Soviet launch
services are relatively inexpensive, they expect the entire
system to be built for around a billion ruples.  Pick your
favorite conversion ratio to figure that in dollars, but it
should be less than half the cost of Iridium, and the user fees
will hopefully be competitive with Orbcomm's.
For more information about Gonetz, contact:
	Vern Riportella
	COSSCASP VP for Marketing
	Network Services International
	P.O. Box 357
	Warwick, NY 10990 USA
	voice: 1-914-986-6904
	fax: 1-914-986-3875
	email: rip@cdp   <also>   sfmt: rip
	mcimail: 324-7389
			---Robert Horvitz
			   Internews Radio Consultant
			   Independent Electronic Media Program
			      for East & Central Europe
			   1122-1/2  E Street, SE
			   Washington, DC 20003-2232 USA
			   email:  antenna@well.sf.ca.us

(follow-ups to sci.space, please)
Robert Horvitz    1122-1/2 E St. SE    Washington, DC 20003-2232    USA
                      uucp:  ...uunet!capital!rhorvitz