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Router titan claims first VoIP call from space

Cisco this week said it conducted the first-ever software upgrade of an IP router aboard a commercial satellite while in orbit. It also claimed to complete the first VoIP call without the use of any terrestrial infrastructure to route the call, which is a requirement in current communications satellite technology. 

These were the highlights of Cisco's latest round of Internet Router in Space (IRIS) testing. IRIS is part of Cisco's initiative to transform satellite networks by offering a mobile network that continuously adapts without reliance on a predefined, fixed infrastructure. 

IRIS is intended to extend the Internet into space where it can exchange routing updates with Cisco ground routers, a feature Cisco says enhances the flexibility of the satellite network. 

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. 

The 18400 runs Cisco IOS software and can be upgraded in orbit. It also runs Cisco's Unified Communications Manager Express software, which Cisco says can provide backup call control capability to terrestrial infrastructure. 

This week's demonstration was the first use of Cisco Unified Communications Manager Express to make a VoIP phone call via a router in space. It was intended to demonstrate the ability to route voice, data and video traffic between users over a single IP network vs. fragmented satellite communications networks. 

Also, the ability to upgrade the 18400 in orbit allows operators to implement additional capabilities, which could increase the lifespan of the communications system, Cisco says. 

Cisco says it is working with satellite manufacturers, system integrators and end users to help enable them to deliver services globally to points outside traditional ground-based networks. In October, Cisco and European aerospace company Astrium demonstrated IRIS-based multicasting, delivering information to a group of destination computers simultaneously in a single transmission.

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