Linux powers Australia's largest satellite network

Computerworld Today |  Mobile & Wireless

"In 1999 when Telstra began its satellite service we used routers from the U.S. but they were unsatisfactory for Australian conditions," Cover said. "We also tried to develop an interface with Windows but got too frustrated as (we found it) too unstable." Ursys routers use Debian GNU/Linux as the base operating system and developed a networking application suite for it in Sydney.

"We source a variety of Intel, VIA, and National Semiconductor hardware and have developed our own TCP/IP stack as standard (TCP/IP) doesn't function well with satellite," he said. "We also use open source software for other applications like firewalls, QoS, IPSec VPNs, mail and DNS. All management is done via a Web interface so the client doesn't see the Linux interface."

Ursys chose Debian because of its packaging support, which facilitates the ability to push updates to the routers remotely.

"We have three experienced Linux maintainers and a lot of our work has been pushed back into open source," Cover said. "Some satellite software is proprietary but our IP lies in our package and integration work."

The Rural Link network uses the diskless BusiBox routers, which can be solar-powered.

"Some solar regulators have weird power regulators so we had to build our own," he said. "We're now integrating voice for voice over satellite which is difficult. We have balanced the latency and taken out the echo. Industries like mining want to run phones across satellite links."

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