Satellite communications are an integral part of Australia's Antarctic telecommunications system. Various systems are used to provide links between the stations and the rest of the world, for communications between field parties and a station, and for email transfer between AAD Head Office and chartered ships.
The main telecommunications links between the four permanent Antarctic and subantarctic stations and Australia is via Intelsat satellite, over a network owned by the Antarctic Division called ANARESAT.
The ANARESAT network supplies major support to AAp scientific programmes by providing the means for the transfer of scientific and meteorological data. It is also used for the transmission of administrative and personal traffic, email, web browsing and telephone calls.
ANARESAT is a permanent link between the station and AAD Head Office in Kingston, Tasmania. The available bandwidth to each station is:
- 256 kbps between AAD and Macquarie Island
- 384kbps between AAD and Davis
- 384 kbps between AAD and Mawson
- 384 kbps between AAD and Casey.
Each circuit uses IP, and prioritisation is used to ensure that telephone and other time-sensitive data packets are passed in a timely manner.
ANARESAT operates in C-Band and uses 70 MHz IFs. The dish, which is 7.3 metres in diameter, is enclosed in a radome to protect it from the harsh and unforgiving environment.
Eight Inmarsat M terminals are used by the Australian Antarctic programme. Four of these are held at Kingston and are allocated to remote field parties as required. The remaining four provide a back-up to ANARESAT for use in the event of failure of the main earth station. Mini-M, the main small INMARSAT system used in the rest of the world, is not suitable for use in Antarctica because the spot beams that the service uses do not cover the area.
Three Inmarsat B terminals are used by the programme. One terminal is a marine terminal installed on the Aurora Australis and is used for email and data transfer between the ship and AAD head office, and for telephone calls. The other two units are field units and perform a similar function for larger field parties.
Two Iridium handsets are held at each station for issue to field parties as required. Iridium handsets are also used on Aurora Australis and a number of Iridium handsets are held at Kingston for use by major field parties.