The past is often prologue, and the history of satellite communications is no exception. The two earliest practical concepts of satellite communication were offered by Hermann Noordung, the Polish writer who used the pen name Potocnik, and Arthur C. Clarke. In articles published during the 1930s and 1940s, they formed the first specific image of what a communications satellite might be and what it might do. Certainly others, such as H.G. Wells, Everett Edward Hale, and Jules Verne proposed earlier concepts in fanciful fiction, but Noordung and Clarke had specific ideas based on scientific and even quasi-engineering principles. These first "practical" views included the idea of geosynchronous orbit, the use of radio-relay technology, and the belief that these space stations would be large, manned contrivances that would have on-board personnel replacing radio tubes and repairing electronic equipment.
The subsequent invention of the transistor, reliable solid-state circuitry, and high-speed computers served to alter the ultimate reality of communications satellites that materialized during the late 1950s and early 1960s. These technological breakthroughs allowed satellites to be smaller, cheaper, more reliable, and, most critically, unmanned remote-controlled versions of those proposed by Noordung and Clarke. The initial concept that these communications satellites essentially would be radio broadcast towers in the sky endured, however. Clarke's earliest vision, in fact, was a very convenient one for telecommunications carriers and broadcasters. These entities, which frequently were monopolies with huge investments in terrestrial networks, very much wanted communications satellites to become an adjunct or extension of their large and expensive terrestrial switching systems. At the dawn of the age of space communications, telecommunications moved through the key hubs of Paris, London, New York, and a few other key urban centers of the world, such as Tokyo and Rome. Thus, the early history of satellite communications was a story of the technical triumph of electronic and rocketry technology, as well as a political struggle to retain a global hierarchy for the dominant communications carriers of the day.
There was nothing sinister or even conspiratorial about this situation. The concentration of traffic through hierarchical switches for many decades was considered the ultimate network strategy. Suddenly, the network architecture dictated by wire and terrestrial switches was confronted with a new option--that of the communications satellite. The satellite did not depend on physical wire connection, but rather wireless links through free space. Network planners, however, saw satellites as long-distance trunk lines that simply augmented the terrestrial telecommunications network. Because the first ground stations were of necessity large, expensive, labor-intensive operations ($10 million each and staffed by forty people operating over a twenty-four-hour shift), the number of points where satellites and wire networks could link together were small in number. Even so, the new communications satellites immediately began to make a difference. Developing countries could build a national ground station to link via satellite not with  one or two major world centers, but with dozens of places. Chile could call Colombia or Brazil directly without going through New York. Nigeria could contact Ghana or Senegal without going through London or Paris.
Thus, by 1969, satellite communications, which began in large part with Intelsat's launch of Early Bird in 1965, had affected the form and structure of global telecommunications in a decisive manner. Chile, for instance, was the first country to initiate direct satellite communications in South America. Santiago Astrain, Intelsat's first director general, was the head of Entel Chile during the middle to late 1960s. For an investment equivalent to the purchase of a Boeing 707 jetliner, his country could enjoy global communications. Suddenly, we could connect directly with a growing family of nations, rather than transit through a handful of major powers.
The existence of national telecommunications monopolies and the high cost of large, high-gain ground stations, however, served to limit this "satellite revolution." Comsat's chief scientist, Sid Metzger, who then headed the team responsible for the technical design characteristics of Intelsat's ground stations, conducted a number of ongoing systems studies, which showed that the best "balance" of capital investment between Intelsat satellites and ground stations strongly favored the big and expensive thirty-meter Intelsat "A" stations. The key assumptions of these studies (which were indeed quite valid at the time) included the following:
This type of design engineering and charging policy remained in place through the 1960s, but as the next decade approached, the new and dramatically more powerful Intelsat IV satellite was being built by the Hughes Aircraft Company. This satellite, with about sixteen times more capacity than the Early Bird satellite, permitted new approaches to satellite communication. In an unusual move, Comsat organized a special study team, called the Intelsat IV Charging Policy group, within its system manager's organization. Instead of being an engineer, the head of this group was the director of the firm's International Division, John A. Johnson, who also chaired the Intelsat Interim Communications Satellite Committee, whose eighteen members from around the world decided overall management policy. That group recommended a new policy: a new family of ground stations of different sizes and greatly reduced rate adjustment factors for smaller, cheaper stations. The new policy envisioned the use of satellites for regional, national, and international communications services, as well as services to smaller terminals in rural and remote regions. Experiments supported by NASA and Canada through their joint Communications Technology Satellite program in such locations as the Brazilian Amazon supported the technical feasibility of such a concept.1
 The recommendations of the Intelsat IV Charging Policy group report were quite controversial. Some recommendations involving the use of excess Intelsat capacity for domestic communications had to wait approximately two years for Algeria to formally request this service from the Intelsat Interim Communications Satellite Committee in 1973. As it turned out, the United States also directly benefited from this policy. The committee decided that traffic between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii and Alaska could be considered under bulk lease for "domestic service."
As the "decentralization" of the satellite network went forward with the approval of the Intelsat Interim Communications Satellite Committee in 1971, during the following years Intelsat designed and built bigger and more powerful satellites, authorized smaller and smaller ground stations, and offered a full range of national, regional, and international communications services. Still, there was a feeling that much more could be done. By the early 1980s, Intelsat began to define a new type of international service that could use the Intelsat V and V-A satellites to go directly to customer premises. This became the Intelsat Business Service. Intelsat even defined a service for rural and remote services known as VISTA, as well as a microterminal-based service for medium-rate data called Internet, which could operate via a sixty-five-centimeter "desktop" dish about the size of a pizza pan.
This burst of new services occurred in close parallel with the 1983-1984 announcement of plans for competitive services. Critics claimed that Intelsat needed competition to develop and deliver new and innovative services. The fact that Intelsat's twentieth birthday was coming up on 20 August 1984 suggested to a number of people that Intelsat should do something particularly noteworthy and innovative to mark that upcoming anniversary.
This author was named the Intelsat director of strategic policy in 1983 and, in that capacity, proposed an activity to promote access to educational and health services in rural and remote areas via satellite. Because Intelsat did have spare satellite capacity for emergency restoration, it was possible to think of offering the space segment for free on the understanding that any such free demonstrations would be preempted in the case of a failure of regular commercial service.
It was not easy to convert a vague idea into a clear specific proposal acceptable to Intelsat management, Intelsat signatories from around the world, and the Intelsat Board of Governors. This Board of Governors replaced the old Intelsat Interim Communications Satellite Committee in 1974 under the newly negotiated Intelsat Definitive Agreements. It required a lot of hard work and a lot of cooperation among a number of people to make this vague idea truly workable. Marcel Perras of Canada, who was a former board chairman and at that time Intelsat's director of business planning, came up with the name: Project SHARE. SHARE was the acronym for Satellites for Health and Rural Education in English, but Intelsat operated with three written languages: English, Spanish, and French. Those involved could not get the same acronym or meaning to work in the other two languages. Finally it was simply decided that the name would have to be Project SHARE in English, Projet SHARE in French, and Proyecto SHARE in Spanish. After test-marketing the idea, it turned out that the English word "share" was rather universally understood around the world.
The advantages to Intelsat of making free satellite capacity available to test rural and remote health and educational services were not hard to understand. These were potential new markets. The extension of ground stations into more remote territories....
.....expanded the ever-increasing interconnectivity of the Intelsat system. The capacity was not being used for other purposes. Most importantly, it was a very good and exciting thing to do.
The twentieth anniversary celebration took on an important substantive dimension that went beyond throwing a big party. The rest of the world could celebrate also. The Intelsat signatories around the world had a somewhat different perspective. They needed to make available ground station equipment and terrestrial telecommunications systems to make the tests and demonstrations work. How would they be able to pick and choose? How much additional effort would this require? Would it interfere with paying commercial customers? If they allowed free service to start, how could they gracefully end the service when the tests ended?
Here, the Intelsat Board of Governors and the individual signatories were extremely helpful in working out a detailed procedure that limited requests in terms of scope and duration and that eliminated trivial or frivolous proposals. As a result, Project SHARE activities were meaningful, focused, and oriented toward participants who had a serious interest and intent to implement a test program. It took months of drafting and coordinating  these procedures for final approval by the Board of Governors, but eventually the formal authorization was in place.
Another serious problem, however, had to be addressed. Intelsat knew much about satellite communications, but very little about rural education or health care. Again, willing help was found in the international community. Intelsat approached the International Institute of Communications, headquartered in London, for help. This nonprofit organization, with a global span of academic, professional, and industrial members, agreed to help form an international advisory board to assist in assessing incoming proposals and even to help generate proposals from relevant global organizations, such as the Pan-American Health Organization, the World Health Organization, and the open university systems around the world. This advisory committee proved invaluable to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of ongoing Project SHARE activities.
After much hard work, the Board of Governors gave its approval, the application forms were printed, the Intelsat signatories' ground rules for participation were in place, and the stage was set for the launch of the program. Something special in terms of publicity and fanfare seemed appropriate. So, those involved turned to Charles Schulz of "Peanuts" fame. Research indicated that the comic strip "Peanuts" was perhaps the most widely read and recognized cartoon in the world. Because education and health care for children were key objectives of Project SHARE, United Features and Charles Schulz were contacted to ascertain whether he might donate a distinctive and appealing logo--one that would be appealing to a broad audience rather than just scientists and engineers. In characteristically generous fashion, he agreed. Within a matter of weeks, we had a Project SHARE logo featuring Snoopy atop a doghouse, which also served as the main body of an Intelsat V satellite.
The "launch" of Project SHARE subsequently occurred in August 1984 at the International Club in Washington, D.C., amid much fanfare. Snoopy presented an educational degree certificate to the Intelsat's director general. As it turned out, it was a very hot day, and the diminutive actress inside the Snoopy costume went to her changing room and promptly fainted. She was quickly revived. The press in attendance gave Project SHARE enthusiastic support. The framework was in place, the project was announced, and the advisory committee was on alert, but there were no projects. The people involved waited patiently for a couple of months and then began to wait impatiently. Finally, proposals were recruited on a very active basis.
The turning point came in the form of a delegation of the Post and Telecommunications Ministry from the People's Republic of China. They requested the use of an Intelsat transponder (or a full television channel) for a several-month test of a new National Television University. After some discussion, and a couple planning and coordination trips, the first major Project SHARE activity was launched with a signing ceremony at Intelsat headquarters in August 1985.
The first phase involved distribution of educational programs developed by Central China Television and the Ministry of Education. Initially, thirty hours of programming were distributed to some forty regional television receivers with a test audience of several thousand students and more than 100 instructors. The tests were so successful that the Chinese signatory requested a three-month extension, which was promptly granted. By the end of the second trial, China formally leased a transponder from Intelsat and began implementing a full-scale electronic university network across most of rural and remote  China, as well as in many other locations. As of 1996, this network is still very much in operation. Approximately 90,000 terminals have been built and deployed in every part of China, and the number of students now exceeds 3 million. Eventually, a target of more than 10 million teachers and students will be served by this satellite network started under Project SHARE. This is the world's largest single educational network, and even if nothing else arose from Project SHARE, one could claim that this program alone made it extremely worthwhile.
Fortunately, many other projects quickly followed. Everything started to come together. The advisory committee began to bring forward key projects. Signatories began to recognize from the experience in China that Project SHARE could attract new customers and favorable publicity. The early successes tended to breed new opportunities and innovative suggestions. The case of Dr. Max House of the Memorial Hospital of Nova Scotia and the Canadian signatory Teleglobe Canada was a key case in point.
In the 1970s, Max House started a highly innovative project to bring health and medical assistance to remote areas of Canada. His initial mission was to extend the treatment coverage of Memorial Hospital to drilling rigs off the coast of Nova Scotia. Using communications links, House helped assist with the broken limbs, diagnostic tests, and medical emergencies of workers on those remote off-shore towers. In light of this positive practical experience, House began to consult with hospital and clinic officials in East Africa and the Caribbean regarding the provision of their medical treatment needs via satellite links. Various suppliers of specialized medical terminal equipment and videoconferencing codecs (that is, encoders/decoders), such as Colorado Video, donated approximately $300,000 in equipment that could be used at remote medical facilities to help with medical testing and training.
In parallel, officials at Teleglobe Canada and Intelsat developed plans to set up the satellite links. The plan was to operate the Canada-to-Kenya medical link seven hours a day and then switch to a link between Canada and the Caribbean for another seven-hour shift. The link was designed for multiple purposes. The most frequent use was to be for training nurses and doctors on a variety of medical techniques. The link also could serve to relay medical information and records, such as the results of EKGs, EEGs, x-rays, sonograms, and blood serum or urine tests.
Intelsat approved the request, and the Canadian signatory implemented it without delay. The service operated for more than one year. In the case of the Caribbean link, the existing network serving the entire region, known as the UDIWITE network, was able to reach dozens of clinics and hospitals. During the test period, the network was able to provide effective new training to paramedics, nurses, and doctors, as well as diagnoses of many rare medical conditions that could not have been made at the remote locations. The narrowband link also was highly efficient. The use of slow-scan video over the equivalent voice channel was found to be adequate for most needs. When higher resolution and color images were required, air courier systems were employed instead.
Over a period of nearly two years, Project SHARE covered a large number of projects and involved more than 100 different countries. The intent of the project was to develop specific educational and health services for remote areas that were geared to specific needs and suited technically and financially to implementation on a practical basis. The range of projects was geographically, technically, and functionally diverse.
The largest single project in terms of coverage was the so-called "Day of Five Billion" global television production created by CNN. This show included footage from dozens of countries around the world and addressed the educational and environmental issues arising from the Earth's total population reaching 5 billion people. Its satellite distribution network reached more than 150 countries and showed the potential of developing countries being able to supply, not just receive, programming.
Rather than attempting to summarize or characterize the many dozens of programs that were tested, demonstrated, or evaluated during Project SHARE, it is more important to focus on what was learned from the collective experience and the trends it helped create for the future. In terms of key conclusions, the final review of Project SHARE seemed to suggest the following:
During the five years that followed Project SHARE, which ended in 1986, a revolution in satellite communications occurred. A host of new services sprang forth. These included customer-premise ground stations with apertures three meters in diameter (known as "very small aperture terminals") and even microterminal dishes 65 centimeters in diameter. Direct broadcasting also emerged. New commercial applications, especially the demands of oil companies, banks, and insurance companies, were the primary drivers behind the creation of these new satellite services and the demand for smaller ground terminals. Nevertheless, the vision of the future embodied by Project SHARE tests and demonstrations also aided and speeded this process. Their impact was large. Project SHARE exposed dozens of heads of state, ministers, and high political leaders to the potential of remote satellite educational and health services. Doctors, teachers, politicians, United Nations officials, broadcasters, and telecommunications experts around the world learned how to work together to create new and even remarkably innovative capabilities. The unique scope and reach of Project SHARE was truly a phenomenon. In some ways, the world of modern satellite communications did change the way we think about services to remote areas in an increasingly smaller and interconnected world.
Commercial telephone, data, and television requirements played a fundamental role in the rapid development of satellite communications and in the utilization of the 2,000-fold increase in satellite capacity from Early Bird in 1965 to Intelsat VI twenty years later. Nevertheless, the unique requirements for innovative social applications of satellite technology in developing countries and remote areas of the world strengthened, and possibly even accelerated, that trend. Key innovations expedited by the Project SHARE initiative included the bulk procurement program for low-cost Intelsat very small aperture terminals known as VISTA ground stations. Such bulk procurement programs clearly  advanced the cause of delivering educational and health services to remote areas. The development of spread-spectrum microterminals for remote data services again promoted satellite-based services in very rural and isolated areas. This started as technology for national satellite services by the Equatorial Communications Corporation, and it was very much the personal mission of former Stanford University professor Edwin Parker. In short, there are numerous examples of how business and entertainment requirements drove satellite and ground-station technology forward, but likewise there are important examples from Project SHARE, in which social and educational requirements helped shape the technical, operational, and market agenda as well.
Ultimately, only about one Project SHARE program in ten made it past the demonstration stage into operational service. This result is in a way still remarkable, given the project's highly experimental nature and the lack of a firm funding base for tests and demonstrations at the program's outset. As anniversary celebrations go, Project SHARE must be considered a significant success, for it created a new framework for international cooperation in providing educational and health services to remote regions, and it spawned dozens of projects that affected nearly 100 countries and millions of people.
1. It was the author's first important assignment at Comsat to head the Intelsat IV Charging Policy study in 1970, with a team of eight members drawn from the procurement, finance, legal, technical, operations, and international divisions of Comsat.