Local News

Satellite Problems Affecting Pagers in Triangle, Nation

Posted May 19, 1998

— Most of us probably don't realize how dependent we are on technology until it's not there for us to use. That is what's happening to millions of people whose pagers are on the blink because of a satellite problem. WRAL OnLine reporter Tom Lawrence has the latest on the dilemma and how it's affecting people in the Triangle.

For some pager users things are better, but Galaxy 4, the satellite that went out of control yesterday, serves many uses.

PamAmSat, operator of the satellite, says it still has not been able to establish control and that's leaving millions of people unable to receive pager messages.

PageMart Wireless' Wayne Stargardt says "the satellite that most paging carriers use to transmit messages is not working."

The problem began last night when the satellite control system and its backup failed. Doctors, hospitals, police, the CBS television network, PBS and data transmission providers are affected.

Paging transmitters send pages to the satellite, which then re-transmits them to ground-based transmitters in other areas. Stargardt says the satellite is a major link in the system."And as a result we've all had to prepare back up plans to handle the failure of a primary satellite."PageNet, the largest pager company, moved to another satellite overnight. A representative in Raleigh says most pagers in the Triangle were operating again by 8:00 a.m.

PageMart says it re-routed all Galaxy 4 traffic. That's the answer for all users of the satellite. PanAmSat and Hughes Communications are trying to move another satellite into the Galaxy 4 position but that could take a couple of days.

Triangle hospitals have not reported problems. They have back up systems and doctors are using telephones and cell phones. Eighty to 90% of pagers, that's more than 40 million, lost service.

The disruption also affects data transmission, so various financial markets may be affected.

Weather information has been affected including that which is used by pilots. Maps used to brief pilots about weather are not available so they've had to go back to old-fashioned written briefings.

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