Satellite communication is based on ideas similar to those used for line-of-sight. A communication satellite is essentially a big microwave repeater or relay station in the sky. Microwave signals from a ground station is picked up by a transponder, amplifies the signal and rebroadcasts it in another frequency, which can be received by ground stations at long distances.
To keep the satellite stationary with respect to the ground based stations, the satellite is placed in a geostationary orbit above the equator at an altitude of about 36,000 km. As the spacing between two satellites on the equatorial plane should not be closer than 40, there can be 360/4 = 90 communication satellites in the sky at a time. A satellite can be used for point-to-point communication between two ground-based stations or it can be used to broadcast a signal received from one station to many ground-based stations as shown in Fig. 2.2.8. Number of geo-synchronous satellites limited (about 90 total, to minimize interference). International agreements regulate how satellites are used, and how frequencies are allocated. Weather affects certain frequencies. Satellite transmission differs from terrestrial communication in another important way: One-way propagation delay is roughly 270 ms. In interactive terms, propagation delay alone inserts a 1 second delay between typing a character and receiving its echo.