IRIS technology: VoIP call over the satellite

Few days ago, Cisco announced the results of the latest Internet Routing in Space (IRIS) testing, marking the first-ever software upgrade of an Internet Protocol (IP) router aboard a commercial satellite while in orbit. In addition, Cisco completed the industry’s first Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) call made without the use of any terrestrial infrastructure to route the call.

Cisco’s IRIS technology will let you make a VoIP call over the satellite  – and here’s the kicker – without using any terrestrial infrastructure to route the call. That’s a radical departure from current communications satellite technology, which relies on ground-based hubs to convey voice and video signals between satellites and end users. Cisco unofficially calls the capability “Dial Tone From Space,” though the moniker is not technically accurate.

Cisco wants to eventually offer these and other features as services to businesses and the U.S. government, which successfully tested IRIS for military purposes during Intelsat 14’s first trimester in orbit. It’s all part of an ambitious Cisco plan to transform satellite networks, growing a potentially massive new market by putting routers on the numerous communications satellites that orbit our planet, thus extending the Internet into space. Benefits will include the ability to route voice, data and video traffic between users over a single IP network in ways that are more efficient, flexible and cost effective than is possible over today’s fragmented satellite communications networks, Cisco says.

For now, IRIS is still in a testing phase that is chockfull of firsts. Case in point, the “Dial Tone From Space” feature successfully tested in October was the first use of Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express to make a VoIP phone call via a router in space, Pelton says.

Demonstration Facts:

  • IRIS is part of Cisco’s initiative to transform satellite networks. The initiative includes the Cisco 18400 Space Router, a radiation-tolerant IP router for satellite and related spacecraft. The first space router was launched on-board Intelsat 14, a geostationary communications satellite.
  • Cisco recently teamed up with Astrium to study the applications of space-based routers. In October, Cisco and Astrium successfully demonstrated IRIS services such as multicasting, which enables the delivery of information to a group of destination computers simultaneously in a single transmission.
  • Cisco updated the IOS® Software in the router aboard Intelsat 14 to enable a variety of capabilities for enhanced management that are already available for Cisco’s terrestrial products including Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express, IPv6, Mobile IP and SNMPv3 MIBs (Simple Network Management Protocol version 3 Management Information Bases). It also enables additional security features, including hardware-based encryption.
  • The demonstration was the first use of Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express to make a VoIP phone call via a router in space.



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