Cisco Makes First Ever VoIP Call From Space

by Gaurav Kheterpal on December 9, 2010

It’s often said that sky is the limit for VoIP technology. Cisco, a pioneer in VoIP, has now justified that statement by making the first ever VoIP call from space without using any terrestrial infrastructure. As part of its “Internet Routing in Space” (IRIS) program, the company also completed the first-ever software upgrade of an IP router aboard a commercial satellite while in orbit.

Though mobile VoIP is all the rage these days, the technology hasn’t found many takers in the space communication arena primarily due to technical complexities and high operational costs.

Cisco’s announcement is an important milestone for satellite communication as it lays the foundation for faster & reliable communication from space. Further, the ability to upgrade satellite software provides a long-sought solution to be able to modify the static functionality as long as the satellite remains in orbit.

Cisco accomplished this unique feat using the IRIS router aboard Intelsat’s IS-14 satellite stationed above the Atlantic ocean. The IRIS router passed the Department of Defense (DoD) satellite-orbit test (IRIS Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD)) in July this year. The Intelsat 14 geostationary communications satellite was launched last year with a radiation-tolerant Cisco 18400 Space Router on board.

Being able to upgrade the Cisco IOS software on the 18400 remotely from earth is a major accomplishment and is likely to catch the eye of all major space research programs across the world. The test call was made using Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express via a router in space to demo how voice, data and video traffic can be routed between users over a single IP network vs. fragmented satellite communications networks.

Though several companies have made similar attempts in the past, they’ve been unsuccessful because something or the other went wrong and it required re-launching the satellite to fix the same. Launching a satellite is a costly proposition so it’s understandable that it has taken several years for the world to witness the first ever VoIP call from space. Cisco has invested heavily in creating software-defined routers which are self-adaptable and I’m glad that Cisco’s efforts are finally beginning to yield reward.

Satellites are being used increasingly to offer internet services, especially in rural areas that have no other connectivity options. I’m sure that the recent announcement from Cisco will help satellite internet providers improve their services and lower their costs. Cisco projects IRIS to be a next generation of satellite communications technology that provides a flexible, adaptable mobile network without reliance on fixed infrastructure.

Every other day, some or the other scientist claims that there is life in outer space. Whether there’s life or not, I do not know. However, it’s refreshing to know there’s a VoIP phone that works in space!

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS>, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

JC December 9, 2010 at 6:34 am

Neato! I would love to see better service to rural areas.. since Ilive in one.

Jordan Richardson December 9, 2010 at 7:00 am

Your options are clear, JC. Move to Mars.

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