Users of the Globalstar satellite phones started experiencing problems with the service in 2007. This was the result of their unexpected degradation of S-band amplifiers on Globalstar’s satellites. The cause of the degradation hasn’t been identified for certain, but there have been speculations that the degradation might have been caused by radiation when satellites pass through the so-called South Atlantic Anomaly.
What has this meant for users? The S-band antennas are used for establishing two-way voice and data connections. Because of the problems, users started having trouble placing calls through Globalstar satellite phones and encountering frequent dropped calls. At the same time the one-way “simplex” data services have been unaffected. (Globalstar has intensified services related to this type of transmission, releasing the SPOT satellite tracking device.)
Still in 2007 Globalstar launched 8 spare satellites to “patch” the network. Users are able to track the location of these satellites using an online tool. This allows to predict when one or more unaffected satellites will be overhead at the users intended geographic location. The tool is called OSAT (Optimum Satellite Availability Tool) and is available at: http://calltimes.globalstarusa.com/.
Globalstar has declared that it will be able to keep its first generation satellite constellation operational until the second generation satellites are available for service.
When can users expect significant improvements?
The next generation satellite constellation from Globalstar is expected to be fully functional in 2012. However, 6 satellite have already been placed on orbit in 2010 and further satellites are planned to be installed throughout 2011. Once activated, these satellite are supposed to be gradually included in the old Globalstar network and improve call quality until full service is once again restored in 2012.