Interview by Sue O'Keefe in the December 1997 issue of Telecommunications Magazine.
Other media coverage of Lloyd's satellite constellations is available.
Months before companies such as Iridium and Teledesic developed World Wide Web sites, Lloyd's satellite constellations, under the direction of 27-year-old Lloyd Wood, was informing people about the latest developments in satellite-based communication projects. While others may be watching the skies for competitive purposes, it's a personal interest for Wood, a postgraduate student in the Center for Communication Systems Research at the University of Surrey in Guildford, England. In late 1995, Wood launched a Web page that tracks the progress of global-based PCS companies such as Iridium, Globalstar, ICO, and Odyssey, as well as broadband companies such as Celestri and Teledesic. The Web site (www.ee.surrey.ac.uk/Personal/L.Wood/constellations/) is also the place to learn more about the companies planning smaller scale systems, the ones that aren't talked about in the mainstream media. Some of those companies, such as Constellation Communications, have recently received approval from the FCC and are working to develop their own Web pages.
Wood said he conceived the idea of the web page when he started researching satellite constellations work for his graduate thesis and realized the information he found on the web gave a much clearer picture of the "real world" industry than the academic papers he was reading. "I started bookmarking what I came across and began adding notes around the bookmark links as context to remind me what it was that I had found and eventually made the pages public," Wood said. "This was long before any of the commercial systems set up their own Web sites, so the pages built up a large audience fairly quickly."
Although the early information came from Wood's Web searches, today the site is more of a community-maintained effort, with contributions from people working in the satellite industry. "The popularity of the pages has reached a point where I'm much more likely to hear of a new resource or be asked by a reader via email if there is any Web information on a related topic," Wood said. He keeps up on the issues by reading industry magazines, closely watching FCC filings, listening to colleagues, and answering email from the readers of the site, "many who know much more about the systems than I do," he said. Five hundred to 1000 pages a day are downloaded from the Web site during the summer (the slow season, according to Wood). In the remaining months, the number of visitors increases greatly, particularly if the pages are recommended background reading for undergraduate telecommunication courses, he said.
Wood has narrowed his doctoral topic to the networking aspects of satellite constellations. He is much more interested in the possibilities of the broadband data systems, such as the low-Earth orbit systems Teledesic, Celestri, Cyberstar (Cyberstar was actually GEO, and Teledesic began as LEO and keeps rising... - L.) and Skybridge and the GEO orbit systems Spaceway and Astrolink than in the voice systems. Of the broadband systems, those with intersatellite links allowing satellites to talk directly to each other without going via the ground network are the most interesting, he said. "From a networking point of view, having the constellation as a stand-alone network running free in space raises interesting, albeit esoteric, possibilities," he said.