WINDS satellite may launch teleradiology into new orbit

February 27, 2008

The launch of the experimental Japanese WINDS satellite February 23 could also boost teleradiology into a new ultrahigh-speed communication era.

The launch of the experimental Japanese WINDS satellite February 23 could also boost teleradiology into a new ultrahigh-speed communication era.

If the technology proves successful, the geostationary Ka-band communications satellite would offer Internet speeds of up to 1.2 Gbps. Such a backbone would address many bandwidth limitation issues that currently plagueteleradiology operations, particularly those in remote locations difficult or impossible to serve with existing surface communication infrastructures.

Ultrahigh-speed Internet communications would also facilitate remote education, connecting students and teachers separated by great distances.

The satellite carries high-gain antennas and a high-speed asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) switch, according to the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Ultrahigh-speed data transfers of 1.2 Gbps would be available to clinics and offices with 5 m antennas.

But even residential or home office subscribers with small 45-cm satellite dishes, such as those used by Dish or DIRECTV customers, will be able to connect to the Internet at speeds many times faster than what is now available over residential cable or DSL services. WINDS' maximum speed of 155 Mbps (receiving) and 6 Mbps (transmitting) would interest many radiologists reading remotely from home.

Current cable or DSL speeds range between 384 Kbps and 1.5 Mbps. The speed of a full T1 line connection is 1.544 Mbps.

One attractive feature of the new satellite is its immunity to terrestrial disasters, such as the widespread Internet failure in late January that created chaos in much of Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa. Many business and telemedicine operations came to a halt, and others were left staggering for days on degraded bandwidth after an underwater cable was accidently severed by a ship anchor.

Eventually, the satellite's operators hope WINDS will bridge the digital divide by providing universal Internet connectivity, particularly in those areas where major ground communication infrastructure is difficult to establish.

The satellite is a joint project of JAXA and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries.