Communications

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Transmission

  • Basic EM transmission still viable for short-range communication, though in addition to speed-of-light delays, bandwidth is limited
    • Usually transmitted on the radio spectrum when used even in the modern era; thus commonly still referred to as RF (radio frequency) communication as well
  • Subspace radio provides for both faster transmission time and wider bandwidth
    • Basic functioning involves focused high-energy subspace fields to oscillate the underlying structure of subspace in the form of a directed packet holding the desired encoded information
    • Packet propagates linearly towards destination, not omnidirectionally; if not intercepted, eventually degrades back into normal space as a brief burst of EM radiation
      • Some (but not all) of the original information can be recovered from the degradation
      • Current physical limitations have degradation at 22.65 light years from point of transmission (Reference: TNG Technical Manual)
        • Theoretically distance could be increased through encoding message in deeper layers of subspace, but this would require much greater energy
    • Unmanned subspace relay stations established approximately every 20 light years in most territories to allow for greater communication range
    • Varying time delay seemingly independent of distance; possibly network stability or density a factor? Most likely subspace conditions a factor as well
      • Within Federation territory, seems to range from real-time to days
        • Real-time communication to distant locations seems always possible, just a question of some sort of resource: bandwidth? energy?
          • Possible that more informationally-dense packets legitimately take longer to arrive?
  • Lesser-known methods
    • Short-range ship-to-ship communication via tight-beam tachyon pulses developed by Romulan Star Empire c.2355, shared with Federation during Dominion War (SCE Short Story: "Cold Fusion")
      • Doesn't function on subspace substrate, allowing functioning during severe subspace disruption (SCE Short Story: "Cold Fusion")

Protocol

Hail

  • Standard handshake procedure prior to initiating communications with another vessel
    • Commonly referred to as "opening hailing frequencies", as hails are usually sent on devoted highband short-range frequencies to optimize transmission efficiency
  • Transmitting party sends request to open communications, including their basic communication protocol information (frequencies, bandwidth, status) to better facilitate connection
  • Return signal delivers communication protocol information of the receiving party prior to opening of communication channel by the receiving party
    • If both parties hold no record of the other, hailing protocols of most starfaring civilizations (upon integration into the greater interstellar community) include brief computer interlink of fundamental concepts, starting from mathematical or physical constants and building up, to construct basic translation matrix prior to initiating direct communication (TNG Novel: The Buried Age)
  • Communication channels can be opened without a hail, but without details of the receiving party's subspace communications implementation, this can require wide-band transmission across multiple subspace frequencies, reducing bandwidth and data integrity (VOY: "Prototype")
    • Even if basic protocols are known, this is usually considered not only rude, but potentially useless, as return hail is standard channel for basic ship communications status and can indicate technical troubles preventing higher-bandwidth communications that would not be received by direct transmission

Implementation

  • Individual transmitter contact specified by alphanumeric call sign (TOS: "Operation: Annihilate!")

Civilian

  • Comm bracelets commonly used by civilians for communication by the 24th century (DS9 Novel: Gamma: Original Sin)

Starfleet

  • Real-time holographic communication common in mid-23rd century, but eventually fell out of favor due to bandwidth requirements (DIS; DIS Novel: Desperate Hours)