back to article Crazed buy-a-satellite-for-the-poor scheme raises $16k

An online appeal to raise $150,000 to buy Terrestar-1 and rain bandwidth down on the Third World has already topped $16,000, despite the obstacles ahead of the project. The plan is to buy Terrestar-1 off the bankrupt TerreStar satellite phone operation, then drive it round to somewhere over the developing world and offer …


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  1. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    A new take perhaps?

    A new take on the old 419er? Only instead of targeting an individuals greed, theyre targeting a persons extreme stupidity.

    Seems like its already off to a successful start...

  2. Martin 19
    Paris Hilton

    What? A 'charity' wants to receive lots of money;

    obstensibly to achieve an impossible aim that only appears possible to people utterly ignorant of the issues involved? Say it aint so!

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Really, where does it state it's a Charity? Where's it's Registered Charity number? Heck it's not even a not-for-profit as far as I can see.

      Charities have to follow very strict guidelines, this would NEVER get charity status (well not in the UK)

  3. UBfusion

    How on earth is this going to help?

    I am not a troll, but please consider my way of challenging the whole idea: Could somebody convince me why the Internet would definitely improve the life of citizens in Africa? Namely:

    1. Will it help find food, find water, fight diseases?

    2. Will it help build schools and hospitals?

    3. Will it help provide decent homes to the homeless?

    4. Will it help fight injustice and corruption, prostitution and slavery (and please give me no Wikileaks examples)

    5. Will it really help children education or just promote the american way of life?

    6. If none of the above can be ascertained, who will profit from the whole operation?

    I am not a Luddite but I am forced to challeng the whole idea because I live in an underdeveloped third world country (Greece) and fast Internet not only didn't help at all in the aforementioned directions, but it can be argued it actually accelerated bankruptcy. Children use it to pirate media and games, facebooking and entertainment, while in schools the level of Internet use for EDUCATION is almost negligible. Evidence from the University where I work show that students are totally unable to find information not only via Internet, but also via printed matter (which they did 20 years ago very successfully, thank you). The working classes use it for piracy, online shopping of gadgets, gossiping via FB (2,898,180 members i.e. >25% of the population), online betting and other similar online cultural activities.

    In addition, somebody please enlighten me how did the Internet help Ireland to prevent its current decline, and how it will help Portugal and Spain not get bankrupt too.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      uhhh... what?

      Aside from the fact that in Africa, mobile phones are being used for small-scale banking, communication between farmers and sellers, and quite a few other things, your argument is bizarre to say the least. The fact that a medium -can- be used for useless things doesn't mean it is -only- used for useless things. Your same arguments could apply just as readily to the personal computer - after all, what did the PC do to prevent the Euro zone debt crisis?

      Not only that, but by your logic, any given technology that fails to solve the problems you listed (or, presumably, any given problem whatsoever) has no justification. Telephones? They certainly didn't prevent the banking crisis.

      And what has the automobile done to fight corruption? Not a damn thing!

      Then you start talking about how the internet has done nothing to prevent the euro's problems spreading to portugal and spain... Well... Yeah? What? Huh? Who ever said that the internet's purpose was to stabilize currencies and limit bond market uneasiness leading to high yield spreads?

      And, having entirely run out of ways to continue new paragraphs - what in the name of God does that have to do with Africa? Is there some soverign debt crisis in Chad due to insufficient fiscal restraint vs. the major Euro-zone economies? Did Namibia join the Euro while I wasn't looking?

      This plan is absurd, but the goal itself isn't. Open and inexpensive communication have self-evident - at least to most selves - virtues. For people in remote sections of Africa, having access to publications like El Reg can only help, despite the presence of posters who probably blame their refrigerators for failing to prevent the deterioration of the cedar siding.

    2. P Saunders

      It would help them to access porn

      Otherwise they would have to resort to using their imaginations and that is just not the same.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Biggest drivers in most 3rd countries:

      1 Weather forecasts

      2 Crop prices

      3 Reduce local buyers monopoly

      4 Reduce state monopoly on news

      (in order of importance)

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Not how orbital mechanics works

    I agree with your underlying sentiment, but you need to do some fact-checking....

    It takes very little fuel to move a geo satellite to another location, and doesn't really affect the life of the satellite; it's done all the time. Note that Galaxy-15, which you make reference to, is changing orbital locations right now, and is burning no fuel.

    Also, the remote terminals aren't really "earth stations", unless you consider something like an Iridium phone or modem to be an earth station.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      I assume you mean that all it's got to do is shift out of geostationary orbit, drift around the planet, then shift back in to a geostationary orbit?

      Spin a globe. How's that going to get it over Africa?

    2. lglethal Silver badge

      When talking Orbital Mechanics you should really know what your talking about...

      Galaxy 15 is drifting out of its assigned orbit, this is correct, but it moves at only about 0.85deg/ year, and it is drifting towards one of the 2 equilibrium points on the geosynchronous orbit. It will not swing all the way around the earth, and even if it did, this would take a hell of a long time (only 420 years by my rough back of the envelope calculation).

      Changing satellite location in geosynch/geostat orbit without getting in the way of other satellites takes a significant amount of effort (most likely moving either towards earth or out beyond the geosynch orbit and then moving back the other way when you get to your new location). And i dont know the details but i doubt any comms sat carries enough fuel to do that sort of maneuver and then still have enough propellant left for station keeping at the new location, to justify all the expense.

  5. Goat Jam
    Paris Hilton

    The Mind Boggles

    That is all

  6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    No high speed

    "*No, we don't know how to provide high-speed internet over a satellite phone, but let's not be negative."

    You don't, at least with this satellite. Per Terrestar's own specs, a regular handset provides 64kbps. They (Terrestar, not the buy-a-sat people) claim using a larger vehicle-mount device they may get 400kbps, but don't actually have a device that does this.

    There's the big problem -- they are not going to find some customers to subsidize this by paying for high-speed services, because these satellites DON'T SUPPORT high speed services.

    I think it'd be great if internet services could be provided for those who currently can't get them, and this satellite could do it (64kbps isn't great but it's surely better than nothing), but I don't see the subsidy model working out.

  7. Adrian Esdaile

    My business plan to buy a satelite

    1. Raise $150,000 from internets

    2. Buy new McLaren sportscar (to impress prospective investors, of course! Legitimate business expense, tax deductible as advertising & research, no-one will take you seriously if you turn up in a Yaris will they?)


    4. PROFIT! Oh, and provide third world nations with cheap access to doing their own 419 scams.

  8. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


    Well, I've already posted that I think this satellite is not really a viable solution (since it doesn't support high speed data, there won't be someone subsidizing via buying high speed connections to subsidize the slower ones, since 64kbps is it.) That said:

    "1. Will it help find food, find water, fight diseases?"

    Yes, there's information online on how to treat diseases that the locals may not have access to otherwise. As well, satellite imagery helps farming and could help with water management.

    "2. Will it help build schools and hospitals?"

    A lot of the existing schools in some of these areas don't even have books; so having access to online books and such could help have something *to* teach.

    "3. Will it help provide decent homes to the homeless?"


    "4. Will it help fight injustice and corruption, prostitution and slavery (and please give me no Wikileaks examples)"

    I'm sure it will, there's numerous cases of injustice and corruption that'd otherwise remain hidden being exposed online.

    "5. Will it really help children education or just promote the american way of life?"

    Probably both.

    "6. If none of the above can be ascertained, who will profit from the whole operation?"

    Noone will profit. In fact, I don't think this is remotely workable.

    Regarding Greece, it's too bad the Greek educational system doesn't take advantage of the internet. But although I personally find Facebook frivilous (as you obviously do), the fact of the matter is that it does bring people together that otherwise never would even know each other. I think bringing widespread internet connections to a lot of these countries could have a large effect on things; the widespread deployment of cell phones has already had unexpected effects (the cell phone banking systems for instance.) No it's not going to solve famine and poorness but I think it'd improve things.

  9. Anonymous Coward

    I donated - You should too

    I donated $51

    Yes, it may not work, but heck $51 is what most of us spend on smokes and beers in a week. So one week of not smoking or drinking aint gonna kill me. And I got ( may get ) that stupid Tshirt in exchange for that

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @A/C I donated

      Can you give me a couple of hours, I need to knock up a website for...errr...

      "Buy a desalanation plant for Africa". yes this will do...

      I aim to stick a desalination plant in sub-saharan Africa and provide clean water to all.

      I need to raise £250,000 to see if this can be done.

      As they say, Money and Fool....

      PS look for the Registered Charity / Not-for-profit registrations.....

  10. You're all dinosaurs

    So wrong it's hard to know where to start

    As already pointed out, moving a satellite doesn't cause a massive drain in fuel, and many satellites have lived long and productive lives despite being shuffled about several times during their lives.

    Terrestar-1 is intended for use with small, portable handheld terminals using an aerial, not a dish, because it uses S-band instead of C-band or Ku-band.

    And is it useful? Well, if you think offering low-cost communications to the poor is a good idea, then duh! Africa is building cellphone networks fast, but for remote locations they're still expensive compared to satellite, especially a satellite that's already in orbit. Unless you;re as patronising as UBFusion, that is.

  11. Clyde

    internet - gift or curse ?

    I absolutely understand what you're saying, UBfusion, and I share your disdain of how the interent is being used in reality.

    But I see back a couple of hundred years and see how people of my family, my background, my area, used books and newspapers to learn. They taught themselves in many cases, and went across the world doing good, or doing business, or even doing harm. But they used the resources they had to LEARN.

    I'm sure there were lots of books and pamphlets that were porno at that time, and I'm sure they were very popular with many people. Same analogy here. The technology is not to blame, it's the people around you.

    Cheap internet can definitely help the poor and under-privilieged in this world.

  12. Bobajobbob

    Africans deserve pRon too

    Can RedTube stream over 64kbps?

  13. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

      If you put wires up,

      People nick them for scrap metal value.

      It's happened IN BRITAIN in the last year or two or three, except that they got fibre optic data cable instead that they couldn't sell and cut off Birmingham or Manchester or somewhere from the Internet until it was replaced.

  14. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    For 10x speed,

    Buy 10 satellite phones. No?

    And for the poor village, one satellite phone with a wi-fi hub? The phones that we donate to Oxfam (or whoever) must include ones with wi-fi by now. Or, just an isolated phone base station.

    Let's imagine further. The satellite currently is geostationary? How far does it have to be moved, and how soon do we want it to get there?

    Wikipedia explains that "The Clarke Orbit is about 265,000 km (165,000 mi) long." So you can fly all the way right round the earth in one year (if you see what I mean) at around 30 km/h. Remember that you also have to stop (if you see what I mean). But you don't need a continuous thrust.

    That's Clarke as in the late Sir Arthur C. Clarke, who has written - and testified to Congress, I think - about the importance of communications, including general educational satellite television, in the "development" of "the developing world", for instance India. Which has been going quite well, I believe, give or take "honour killings" and inter-religious violence and such.

    But, yes, this presumably isn't one of those small satellites that costs < $1,000,000, such as

    which helpfully explains that each four-kilogram satellite weighs less than ten pounds. And which design is maybe what this project could go for instead, or something like.

  15. Colin Miller

    Avanti's old bird?

    Two weeks ago, Avanti launched a new bird to provide 8Mbit/sec to rural UK; their old bird provided 0.5Mbit/sec. If the old bird is no longer required, surely it would be better to point it to cover sub-Saharan Africa, as it is in the right location above the equator.

    Are the separate dishes on the birds for ground-station and general access, and can they be steered independently?

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      Title ?

      All geostationary satellites are (approximately) over the equator. There is but one tiny ring where an orbiting object will go round the earth at the same speed as the earth is turning below it. It cannot be north or south of this thin line or it would cycle north-south across the equator. It cannot be any higher or lower or it would no longer go round at the right speed.

      As others have pointed out, shifting position isn't as big a deal as you might think. You don't "drive round" using fuel all the time, what you have to do is shift orbit slightly. If you descend a little and speed up (to stay in balance between gravity and centripetal action), then you will orbit just a little faster and will move east - the further you move out of orbit then the faster the relative movement. You then wait until you are in the right place and shift back up again. Or you can shift outwards and slow down a bit to travel west - with the advantage that you don't pass between the earth and all those other birds in geostationary orbit !

      So a short burst to set off, then another to park up again. In between you just wait.

      OK, a bit simplified, but that's the jist.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    some things never change

    another group of modern carpetbaggers. Raise a bunch of cash, then do some "research", and when it can't be done, disappear. Perhaps claim to donate remaining proceeds to some charity but never back up the claim. Or, pawn the whole project off on another group after proving the "business model" of getting cash for free worked, take their cut as "payroll" or "consulting" and run away. Someone else gets the blame when it tanks, and this group is emboldened to try again for another similar trick.

    A fool and his money, or many fools and their money, are easily parted. Especially those claiming to be "smarter" than everyone else because they're rich.

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