Many 'Fen went into space on little more than a wing and a prayer. Some of them forgot to bring even so much as a cellphone, or were unable to. Most 'Fen, in contrast, brought along at least one radio, since in Space, No one Can Hear You Scream. Others have been sold or issued wrist-coms by their factions.
This has led to a confusion of standards and frequencies and methods, though a few have gained prominence. As interconnections via Interwave increase, more and more individual 'Fen are becoming FCC compliant.
These cheap and readily available radios operate in the 462-467mhz range, and are theoretically unlicensed by the U.S. FCC. There are subtle differences between FRS(unlicensed) and GMRS(licensing required), none of which are terribly relevant in Fenspace. Almost all FRS/GMRS radios started as handhelds, though many have been 'modded into' installations or vehicles.
Citizens Band radios, operating in the 26.965-27.405mhz range, are a perfect match for Fenspace. The incredible diversity and commonality of CB equipment meant that a fairly large chunk of 'Fen had one on the way up, or brought one with them. Handheld, 'Mobile' and 'Base' units are all common.
Cellphones came up to orbit as well, and surprisingly, many of them work. Hephaestus is a cell site, as are many of the larger permanent structures. Cellphones operate on many frequencies and standards, including the following: 1710-1755 MHz and 2110-2155 MHz(3g data/voice), 1850-1990 MHz (PCS data/voice), 824-849MHz and 869-894 MHz (PCM cellular), and the '850, 900, 1800, 1900' GSM bands.
Cingular wireless has moved into orbit as well, and has behaved surprisingly well, after the first cell sites it deployed were returned to Cingular headquarters on earth, along with the entire Cingular storefront on The Island, and a note recommending they 'play fair'. Now, instead of charging four to five times the initial pricing and eight to nine times the contract pricing as compared to Terrestrial plans, Cingular's "sky prices" are actually somewhat cheaper. Cingular sites may be found at The Island, Stellvia, Phobos, and many of the permanent communities on Mars. SV Gnarlycurl also has a Cingular site.
British Telecom is also 'up', and has a storefront on Stellvia, as well as a 'roaming' agreement, that allows their GSM users to participate on the far-more-widely deployed Cingular network. BT has identical pricing between their terrestrial and 'fen offerings.
As of late 2013, the Grover's Corners has its own internal cell "network" (well, one antenna and an improvised, waved, switching station), originally intended for use as a mobile intercom system by its residents. However, shortly after its activation they discovered that it was somehow tied into Verizon Wireless's ground system. Attempts by both sides of the connection to sever it have so far proven fruitless.
Amateur Radio is spreading like wildfire through Fenspace. The massive amount of frequencies and equipment available to even an entry-level licensee, as well as the 'Hephaestus Grant' (Hephaestus resells many brands of amateur radio gear at list cost or below), have contributed to the acceptance and spread of the licenses and equipment. Also a factor is the FCC's attitude that "General Mail, Stellvia, L5 Earth-Luna" is a perfectly valid address for licensing purposes.
Amateur radio of various flavors can function in many bands from 1.8mhz to over 300ghz, providing an incredibly diverse array of frequencies and channels. Most common is 2-meter (144-148mhz), and 440 (420-450mhz).
While most of the previously named methods are almost exclusively voice, there can occasionally be heard a 'databurst', sounding like a UsRobotics modem being fed through a garbage disposal. This is usually two AIs communicating at high speed. Dedicated data is often transmitted via Wi-Fi (2.4, 5.8ghz), Wi-Max (variable from 700 mhz to 66ghz, depending on equipment), ISM (902-928mhz), and many dedicated licensed data-only radios anywhere from 2ghz to 60.
Aside from cell phones, almost all public communications in Fenspace are unencrypted Frequency Modulation (FM, yes) signals, providing very high voice quality. Cellphones use an encrypted digital transmission scheme, while secure comms can use any number of encryption or obfuscation techniques, usually AI moderated.
Main article: Interwave
In open space, radio signals travel at (obviously) the speed of light. Since space is big, this causes problems involving communications lag. A number of fen inventors have developed their own FTL radio systems. Each one is a bit different, but they all operate on the same principles as FTL travel.
The "standard" FTL radio used in Fenspace has an estimated signal speed of 10000.0c, bridging the gap from Earth to Pluto in just over a second (but calling the nearest star is a six hour round trip for one signal. Remember, space is big). As befits the patchwork that is the realspace radio network, the FTL system's total available bandwidth and general reliability depend on what device was handwaved to create the FTL transponder in the first place.
The system that's achieved the greatest penetration is the Interwave. Interwave transmitters are large and power hungry, but they provide enough bandwidth to act as the backbone for FanNet. Some notable Interwave nodes exist at:
- Crystal Tokyo
- The Island
- The Main Belt
- Greenwood (Rockhounds, Inc. Homebase)
- Starbase 2
Hooking it All Together
The most common method of 'mediating' between different communications types is to have an AI take care of it, as this sort of work appears to be a nearly-effortless task for most of them.
An AI connected to a communications transceiver finds managing communications traffic to be almost instinctive, to borrow a phrase. In virtually all cases, the AI handles communications traffic as a background task. (For example, the great web of communication nets used by the Fen when defending Serenity Valley was literally created from scratch for that battle.)
Addressing and Phone Numbers
The non-voice-only services, such as cellular and Internet, have extended their addressing conventions to Fenspace, rather smoothly, all things considered.
Cellphone and Telephone: Using US convention, users dial a '1' to access Long Distance numbers, then the country code, then the number. For example, 11-907-373-5309, which will reach a specific phone at Earth, Alaska, Wasilla from anywhere in Fenspace.
All other Fen cell calls are considered 'local', given the massive location changes that are not only possible in Fenspace, but easy. For example, to call The Jason, one would dial 867-5309, with no long distance or country codes.
For dialing from Earth, the country code for Fenspace is +42; for an individual on earth to call someone in Fenspace, he would dial (for example) 11-42-633-7655. The last seven digits are picked by the fen himself, as Fenspace has no governing body determining and assigning phone numbers as of yet. For that same individual to call The Jason, he would dial 11-42-867-5309. For billing purposes, all of Fenspace (from LEO to Pluto) is considered a single exchange, regardless of the actual numbers selected by the individual fen.
Shortly after it was clear that long-term habitats outside of Earth's atmosphere were both here to stay, and connected, the IANA assigned the .space TLD.
This met with resounding indifference. Applications for other TLDs were processed, and the current list of TLDs that are only available for people and organizations whose primary operations are off-planet is as follows.
- Lagrange or Libration points
- Asteroid and Kuiper belt
- Jupiter and moons
- Saturn and moons
- For all things fennish and off-planet.
The IANA only approved .fen after over a year of repeated applications (one application submitted a day, by several interested parties), the first .fen domain, Kandorcon.fen, went active January 10th, 2010. There are more .fen domains than there are all the other off-planet domains put together, and using one of the other TLDs is an indicator that the site's owner might be a fendane.