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Mobile Satellite Service Orbits

The MSS sector was created to address a specific market that was underserved by FSS: maritime voice and data, enabling emergency communications for ships at sea. Subsequent MSS systems tried to create ubiquitous coverage for land and sea customers, especially in areas that were underserved by terrestrial mobile telephony. For years, MSS systems were designed using satellites in GEO or LEO that were able to transmit low-data rate information to mobile receiving systems, such as satellite telephones or receiving stations on ships.

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Fixed Satellite Service Orbits

GEO satellites can broadcast a signal to one-third of the Earth’s surface. They are ideal for FSS operators, who broadcast to antennas spread across several continents. Of the ## communications satellites active at the end of 2013, ## were located in GEO and were primarily used for FSS. The dominant players in satellite communications have been Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat, and Telesat. These four companies have expanded their respective fleets through construction and launch as well as consolidation and acquisition of competitors’ satellites.

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Telecommunications satellites include all spacecraft whose main mission is to collect, relay, or broadcast data, which may include voice, video, and other information. Depending on the type of system, communications satellites range from very small to very large satellites and can operate from all Earth orbits. The vast majority fall into one of two categories: geosynchronous orbiting (GEO) satellites and large constellations located in Low Earth Orbit (LEO)/Medium Earth Orbit (MEO).

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