Satellite Radio: Key to a New Communications Infastructure?

Loraine Lawson

Did you know weather is a contributing factor in a third of all airline accidents?


I didn't. But that statistic goes a long way to explain why 90 percent of all new aircraft are equipped with electronics that can connect with XM Satellite Radio -- or, to be precise, XM's weather satellite broadcasting service.


XM Satellite Radio is better known as a automobile luxury, a really nice gee-whiz option on more expensive GM vehicles -- or a mid-range Ford F-150, if you're my brother.


But as this Forbes profile of XM's vice president for advanced applications and services shows, the company has its eye on much bigger -- and lucrative -- markets.


XM Satellite has its eyes on everything from the next-generation air traffic control system to emergency calling for local government agencies. If that strikes you as an odd market for what's essentially a broadcasting company, it will all make sense when you consider XM's technology infrastructure.


XM has two satellites, backed up by 800 terrestrial repeaters boosting their signals. Cellular signals depend upon the nearest towers, but with XM's satellite signals reaches the 48 mainland states, plus 100 miles of ocean off the coast, as well as Canada's densely populated areas. (Sorry, residents of Nunavut.)


Now you get it.


It's interesting to see how the company is putting what is essentially an entertainment technology infrastructure to use in other markets. But this article also gives you a peak at what the next air traffic control system might be. That's pretty substantial, considering it hasn't been updated since World War II.

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