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The ICO system will comprise ten operational satellites and two in orbit spares operating in intermediate circular orbit at an altitude of 10,355 km. These are divided between two orthogonal planes, each 45 degrees to the equator. Each satellite will be able to handle 4,500 simultaneous telephone calls. ICO plans to be operational by 2000

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- November 5, 2001 ICO Global Limited, the satellite holding company formed by telecommunications entrepreneur Craig McCaw, today announced that it has reached final agreement on its merger with New ICO Global Communications (Holdings) Limited. ICO Global, previously known as ICO-Teledesic Global Limited, also has agreed with Teledesic Corporation to end their proposed merger to allow both companies the greatest flexibility in the current economic market.

In May 2000, ICO Global, based in Kirkland, Wash., proposed the mergers of ICO and Teledesic with ICO Global. Bellevue, Wash.-based Teledesic is developing a global broadband satellite communications network. London-based ICO is developing a mobile satellite system to offer high-quality mobile voice services and medium-speed wireless Internet and other packet-data services.

"To maintain maximum flexibility in this market, it is prudent to keep ICO and Teledesic independent as the needs for satellite services continue to evolve in the changing international landscape," McCaw said.

Both ICO and Teledesic will continue to aggressively pursue their independent - yet complementary - business plans. It is possible that a merger between the two entities may be re-evaluated in the future.

The ICO Global-New ICO merger is subject to ICO Global shareholder approval.

ICO-Teledesic Global and Ellipso Agree to Collaborate
to Help Stabilize Mobile Satellite Industry

KIRKLAND, Wash., and WASHINGTON - March 14, 2001 - In a bid to stabilize the mobile satellite industry and bring advanced communications services to the under-served, ICO-Teledesic Global Limited, a holding company that controls the satellite assets of telecommunications pioneer Craig McCaw, and Ellipso Inc., a mobile satellite communications company, today announced that they have reached a definitive agreement to collaborate on building a successful mobile satellite system.

ICO-Teledesic Global, through its affiliate New ICO, and Ellipso will collaborate on technical, financial, business and regulatory issues related to the deployment of spectrum-efficient satellite systems capable of providing a broad array of telecommunications services on a global basis. The agreement ultimately could lead to a strategic alliance and the merger of ICO-Teledesic Global and Ellipso assets.

"The mobile satellite industry has failed spectacularly in delivering on its promise to users," said McCaw, ICO-Teledesic Global's chairman. "Creative changes in both the customer proposition and service-delivery philosophy are clearly necessary to deliver on the potential. We continue to be compelled by the scope of the market and the importance of providing services for the under-served in the United States and around the world. We look forward to pooling our talents and creativity with our peers in the industry to overcome the challenges that have dragged down those who have launched before us."

By working together, ICO-Teledesic Global and Ellipso will be able to provide ubiquitous voice and data services to all parts of the United States and the world, including rural areas that have previously been denied a full range of advanced wireless and wired telecommunications services because these markets cannot be served economically by terrestrial means.

"By bringing together our combined resources and our collective talents during this troubled period in the industry, we're working to prepare mobile satellite services to meet the needs of future customers around the world and to bring a rich, varied and affordable array of digital services to market as soon as possible," said David Castiel, president and CEO of Ellipso.

Ellipso, Inc., headquartered in Washington, D.C., is developing the Ellipso satellite-based global communications system that will provide low-cost and high-quality digital voice and data services worldwide. Utilizing unique and patented elliptical orbits, the Ellipso system will provide a full range of advanced communications services to subscribers at prices significantly lower than competing systems. The Ellipso project includes the participation of The Boeing Company, the Harris Corporation and L-3 Communications. The Ellipso team is also involved in the development of the Virtual Geo broadband satellite system that will replicate the characteristics of satellites in geostationary orbit, efficiently reusing valuable spectrum without interference.

ICO-Teledesic Global has proposed mergers of New ICO and Teledesic with ICO-Teledesic Global. The mergers remain subject to shareholder and regulatory approvals. New ICO, a private mobile satellite communications company based in London, acquired the assets of ICO Global Communications (Holdings) Limited. The business was renamed New ICO following the successful $1.2 billion McCaw-led acquisition of the former ICO group, which was completed in May 2000. Building on its core capabilities of high-quality, mobile voice services, New ICO will also offer wireless Internet and other packet-data services. Boeing Satellite Systems, the world's leading satellite systems provider, is building New ICO's satellites. Separately, Teledesic is developing a global broadband satellite communications network



"The design of the ICO system integrates mobile satellite communications capability with terrestrial networks. ICO user terminals include, among others, handheld mobile telephones which, in outdoor environments, offer services similar to normal cellular phones. It will route calls from terrestrial networks through ground stations (called Satellite Access Nodes or "SANs") which will select a satellite through which the call will be connected.

Calls from a mobile terminal will be routed via the satellite constellation to the appropriate fixed or mobile networks or to another mobile satellite terminal. Handsets will be produced by major manufacturers of telecommunications equipment, benefiting from terrestrial cellular/PCS technology. Single­mode satellite­only versions will be available, but most are expected to be capable of dual­mode operation with both satellite and terrestrial cellular/PCS systems. Dual­mode handsets will be able to select either satellite or terrestrial modes of operation automatically or under user control, subject to the availability of the satellite and terrestrial systems and the user's preferred service arrangements."

From ICO Homepage

The Space Segment

A constellation of 10 satellites in medium earth orbit (MEO), 10,355 km above the earth's surface will be arranged in two planes of five satellites each, with one spare satellite in each plane (i.e. 12 in orbit). Hughes Space & Communications International, Inc., is currently building the satellites under a contract signed in July 1995.

ICO Satellite Constellation

The configuration has been designed to provide coverage of the entire surface of the earth at all times and to maximise the path diversity of the system. Path diversity is the availability to a user of more than one satellite at the same time, and provides an alternative path for transmission in case one satellite is obstructed, increasing the likelihood of uninterrupted calls.

The satellites will be linked to a ground network (the ICONET) which will interconnect twelve SANs located throughout the world. SANs comprise earth stations with multiple antennas for communicating with satellites, and associated switching equipment and databases. The ICONET and SANs will implement the selection of call routings to ensure the highest possible quality and availability of service to system users. Gateways are the points of interconnection between terrestrial networks and the ICONET, and are located throughout the world.

Satellite Constellation

The orbital pattern is designed for significant coverage overlap, ensuring that usually two but sometimes three and up to four satellites will be in view of a user and a SAN at any time. Each satellite will cover approximately 30 per cent of the earth's surface at a given time. The satellite orbits have been selected to provide coverage of the entire globe on a continuous basis, while allowing high elevation angles to users, averaging 40-50 degrees.

Satellite Design

The satellites are based on the proven HS601 geostationary satellite bus. The communications payload is of transparent design, allowing flexibility to transmission format, using a high degree of digital technology for functions such as channelisation and beam generation that have traditionally been performed by analogue technology. The digital technology provides a very flexible satellite configuration, while having significant advantages over analogue technology in terms of production and manufacture for the comparatively large production run as compared with more conventional geostationary satellite orders.

Another key feature of the design is the separate transmit and receive antennas for the service link antennas, allowing easier manufacture and better intermodulation protection than a combined transmit/receive antenna.

Links between individual users and satellites will be established via service antennas mounted on each of the satellites. To provide robust radio links with handheld units, the satellites use antennas with an aperture in excess of two metres. The use of multiple service link beams on each satellite also allows frequency re­use and increases the efficient use of spectrum allocation.

Each satellite is designed to support at least 4,500 telephone channels using time division multiple access (TDMA). TDMA technology was selected after careful consideration of other technologies.

The life span of ICO satellites is expected to be approximately twelve years.

Satellite Technology

Service link and number of beams: The system performance will be well in excess of that required to provide the desired level of service. The 163 transmit and receive service link beams will provide links with a minimum power margin in excess of 8 dB.

Feeder link antennas: Feeder link antennas support the link between the satellites and the SANs. At any time, each satellite will usually be in direct contact with between two and four SANs. Before a satellite falls outside the line of sight of one SAN , it will establish contact with another SAN. This SAN will then track the satellite whilst it is in its line of sight.

Satellite mass and power estimates: The total satellite launch mass, for a 'direct injection' into the final orbit, is about 2600 kgs allowing multiple launch vehicle capability. Direct injection allows some simplification to the HS601 as no apogee motor is needed to achieve final orbit. The solar arrays will use the latest Gallium Arsenide cells to provide end of life powers in excess of 8,700 W.

Service link spectrum requirements (for connection between user terminals and satellites): The choice of bands for the provision of service links for MSS systems include 1.6/1.5 GHz, 1.6/2.4 GHz and around 2 GHz.

The World Radio Conference 1995 (WRC-95) made a number of important modifications to the original allocations at 2 GHz. The most relevant of these was that the date of access to the bands by the MSS was brought forward to 1st January 2000 (previously 2005), and that additional spectrum was made available in Region 2 (the Americas).

Feeder link spectrum requirements (for connection between satellites and SANs): For feeder link operation, ICO has chosen to operate in the 5 GHz and 7 GHz bands. These bands form part of a pair of new allocations made by WRC-95 for feeder links to non-geostationary satellites providing MSS.


The satellite control centre (SCC) will manage the ICO satellite system by tracking the movements of the satellites and adjusting their orbits to maintain the constellation. IG will also monitor the general condition of the satellites by collecting data on the power supply, temperature, stability and other operating characteristics of the satellites and will also have the ability to manoeuvre satellites to realign the satellite constellation in the event of any satellite malfunctions. In addition, at the outset of the ICO system implementation, the SCC will support the launch and deployment of the satellites.

The SCC will control the transponder linkages between the feeder and service antennas on the satellites. This process will dictate, among other things, frequency reconfiguration within feeder link beams and optimal channel allocation between high and low traffic spot beams.

Selection of Orbital Configuration

The generally known technically feasible options of providing a communication service to handheld satellite phones are:

  1. low earth orbit (LEO - up to 2,000 km altitude);
  2. <>medium earth orbit (MEO - 8,000 to 20,000 km); or
  3. <>geostationary orbit (GEO).

To cover the earth fully, LEO requires around 40-70 satellites, MEO needs 6-20 satellites, and GEO needs 3-6 satellites.

The choice of orbital configuration has to take into account not only the quality of service which will be delivered to the user, but also the feasibility and technical risk of the satellites themselves, and the problems of procuring and managing the required number of satellites.

It was concluded that the MEO configuration could offer best overall service quality for the desired market. This is because of the orbital properties, which confer, with a reasonable number of satellites, the following benefits:

  1. high average elevation angle from user to satellites, minimising probability of blockage
  2. a user being in the field of view of more than one satellite hence offering good satellite path diversity
  3. slow-moving satellites (about 1 degree per minute across the sky as perceived by the user).

The technology studies of the LEO, MEO, and GEO satellite constellations concluded that MEO represents a reasonable implementation and schedule compromise. The large number of LEO satellites which would be needed, taken with their relatively short lifetimes in their expected radiation environment, present logistical and manufacturing problems in maintaining the constellation. GEO satellites become very complex in view of the high number of beams which would be needed from each one, and services are characterised by a relatively long transmission delay.

From ICO Website


Satellites 10
Cost per Sat $275 million
Altitude 10.335 km
Planes 2
Orbit Circular
Mobile MHz 2000/2200
Ground MHz C/Ka Band
Channels/sat 4,500
Min El Angle 22o
Stabilization -
Weight -
Antenna -
>25o Vis 96.2%

Further Information

Web Site: http://www.i-co.co.uk   (also http://www.ico.com)

ICO Global Communications
1 Queen Caroline Street
London, W6 9BN
Tel: (44) 181-600-1000
Fax: (44) 181-600-1199

Last updated: March 2002

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