Hyperradio in AoTC


AOTC appears to indicate the existence of direct long-range site-to-site hyperwave communications. This is in marked contrast to the situation in the so-called "extended universe", or EU, in which the so-called "Holo-Net" communications network is required for all but short-range transmissions.

These conclusions are based on the fact that the Delta-7's hyperwave transceiver could communicate with Coruscant from Kamino, but not from Geonosis. We saw Obi-Wan crawling over the ship and inspecting the damage, and he said that the transmitter was working, but Coruscant was "too far". He asked R4 to try Naboo, which was closer. He discovered that Anakin was on Tatooine from his "tracking signal", so he sent a message there.

This leads me to believe that this is, quite probably, a Jedi-exclusive version hyperradio.  The Star Wars the Role Playing Game description of hyperradio fits the performance of this technology to a “t”.

  Hyperradio is an expensive, carefully guarded communication technology, limited almost exclusively to the Imperial navy -- in fact, only the most important command vessels have hyperradios.  Hyperradio allows ships to broadcast signals directly through Hyperspace, over almost limitless distances.  The energy requirements for these devices are outrageous, but the signals are more secure than some other communication methods, and ships are not dependent upon HoloNet relays to deliver signals -- a ship can broadcast hyperradio messages directly to other hyperradio receivers.

 -Star Wars:  the Role Playing Game (Second Edition), Chapter 6:  Space Travel, Communications, pg.:  114. Written by Bill Smith.  Published by West End Games, October 1992.

  So, no, you actually need to read more of the materials, before criticizing the Expanded Universe.  This does nothing to contradict anything.  With the fall of the Order of Jedi Knights, it is quite probable that the Emperor confiscated the hyperradio technologies, and made them the exclusive province of his new Imperial Navy.  They’re secure, don’t rely upon the hundreds of thousands of HoloNet satellites, and quite secure. 

The fact that range was an issue forces us to question whether the Delta-7's hyperwave transceiver uses the Holo-Net network described in the EU literature. If it is dependent upon Holo-Net nodes, why would it matter how far away Coruscant is? Were they outside the entire Holo-Net network? Even if they were, why would he express this by saying that Coruscant is "too far", instead of saying that they're out of the network coverage area? How would Obi-Wan even know if there's a Holo-Net relay within range without trying? Moreover, when Obi-Wan sent his message to Tatooine, he said that his long-range transmitter was down (he must have been talking about the short-range transmitter when he told R4 that the transmitter was OK), which further reinforces the speculation that the system relies upon a direct site-to-site connection.

You’ve pretty much answered your own questions.  If it is dependent upon Holo-Net nodes, why would it matter how far away Coruscant is?  Apparently, it isn’t a HoloNet communications device.  Which is probably why they didn’t say it was one. 

Were they outside the entire Holo-Net network?  Doubtful that the planet fell outside the range of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of satellites.

Even if they were, why would he express this by saying that Coruscant is "too far", instead of saying that they're out of the network coverage area?  A question you answered, yourself:  he said that his long-range transmitter was down…”.  This obviously prevented him from reaching other hyperwave/hyperradio transceivers that were beyond a certain range.

How would Obi-Wan even know if there's a Holo-Net relay within range without trying?  I doubt he was looking for them, and couldn’t have cared less as to where they were, considering he wasn’t using a HoloNet device.

The most straightforward explanation is that despite EU literature claims to the contrary, holographic communications do not necessarily employ the Holo-Net network, and that in this case, he was using a narrow-beam directed transmission instead, perhaps by using his hyperdrive ring in orbit as a booster relay.

Which is why the evidence is pointing more heavily toward the use of hyperradio, than HoloNet.  Nor does the EU literature say anywhere that all holographic transmissions utilize the HoloNet.  Also, the hyperdrive sled that he utilized was an engine; not a radio booster.  There’s nothing suggesting that it could be utilized for anything other than a Hyperspace propulsion device.

This would explain why he said the transmitter on his ship was working, but he told Anakin that his "long-range transmitter" was out; if the Geonosians destroyed the booster or he couldn't get a clear transmission to it through the dense orbital asteroid rings, he would be limited to short-range communications.

The more likely explanation is that his communications capabilities were damaged in his dogfight with Slave-1.

The existence of direct site-to-site hyperwave communications would make a lot of sense from a security perspective. Networked communications in a society of millions of star systems and countless trillions of sentient beings would be very difficult to secure, without wholly separate civilian and military networks. By establishing a direct end-to-end connection (possibly with encryption), he could cut down the number of potential eavesdroppers to those who happen to be situated along a straight line between Geonosis and Tatooine. Another advantage is the robustness of the system; there are obvious reasons why a navy would want to retain its communications if the network is damaged, and long-range hyperwave transceivers would allow them to do that. It may be that military communications tend to rely on straight-line transmissions while civilians, who cannot afford the expensive and power-draining hyperwave transcievers, must make do with the network (think of the difference between a cellular phone and a satellite phone in real life).

Which sounds more and more like hyperradio.

However, the existence of site-to-site long-range hyperwave communications is but one of two communications-related revelations in AOTC. The other comes from the fact that Obi-Wan was able to swiftly track down Anakin on Tatooine from his "tracking signal." But what generates this signal? It must not be too large, since Anakin and Amidala had only a few suitcases with them.

It makes sense to believe that the ship’s (the ship Anakin & Amidala flew to Tatooine in) own communications suite included hyperwave/hyperradio electronics, not anything hand-held.  Any messages that were received by hand-held devices were relayed from the ship to the hand-held.

Was it similar to the hand-held device that Obi-Wan used to track Slave-1?

Highly doubtful. Most likely, Obi-Wan Kenobi utilized an S-thread tracker/military grade homing beacon.

A military homing beacon is a small device that can be hidden aboard a starship.  It emits a signal from it’s internal Hyperspace transponder, allowing the “bugged” vessel to be tracked as it crosses the galaxy.  While very expensive, a homing beacon can reveal the target ship’s exact movements, which in turn can reveal the locations of enemy bases and fleet rendezvous points.

A homing beacon works by interacting with the HoloNet, a network that stretches throughout the galaxy and consists of hundreds of thousands of satellites that transmit messages through Hyperspace.  Each homing beacon’s short-burst, coded Hyperspace signal is recorded whenever it crosses a HoloNet communication signal known as an S-thread.  Since a ship travelling in Hyperspace normally crosses at least one S-thread per hour, a homing beacon can be used to track a ship to almost any system within the boundaries of the New Republic.

The signal is automatically logged into the HoloNet and forwarded to the beacon’s control computer.  After receiving the signal, the control computer knows the ship’s location and can determine possible destination systems.  When the ship leaves Hyperspace, the beacon automatically broadcasts a location update that is accurate to within one parsec.

While extremely expensive, Hyperspace homing beacons can play a vital role in intelligence gathering.  After Rebel spies stole the technical readouts of the Death Star battle station, an Imperial homing beacon hidden aboard Princess Leia Organa’s Rebel Blockade Runner, the Tantive IV, allowed the Imperial Star Destroyer Devastator to follow the ship to Tatooine and capture it before Leia could deliver the plans to Obi-Wan Kenobi.  After the Millennium Falcon was captured by the Death Star, Darth Vader had an Imperial XX-23 homing beacon hidden inside the smuggling freighter, and the beacon’s signal led the Empire right to the main Rebel base on Yavin Four.

Subspace transmitters offer an alternative to the Hyperspace-capable beacon, broadcasting a homing signal on standard subspace frequencies and allowing the targeted vessel to be tracked as it moves from system to system.  While subspace beacons have transmission ranges of only twenty to fifty light-years they are much cheaper an can be much more easily tracked, since most vessels have subspace transponders as standard equipment.

 -The Essential Guide to Weapons & Technology, “Homing Beacon”, pg:  130.  By Bill Smith.

Is it something that Anakin had to consciously carry with him for this mission, or is it something that all Jedi carry with them on all missions?

It’s part of the ship’s communications electronics.

How could such a small device transmit over interstellar distances?

A homing beacon works by interacting with the HoloNet, a network that stretches throughout the galaxy and consists of hundreds of thousands of satellites that transmit messages through Hyperspace.  Each homing beacon’s short-burst, coded Hyperspace signal is recorded whenever it crosses a HoloNet communication signal known as an S-thread.  Since a ship travelling in Hyperspace normally crosses at least one S-thread per hour, a homing beacon can be used to track a ship to almost any system within the boundaries of the New Republic.

Subspace transmitters offer an alternative to the Hyperspace-capable beacon, broadcasting a homing signal on standard subspace frequencies and allowing the targeted vessel to be tracked as it moves from system to system.  While subspace beacons have transmission ranges of only twenty to fifty light-years they are much cheaper an can be much more easily tracked, since most vessels have subspace transponders as standard equipment.

-The Essential Guide to Weapons & Technology, “Homing Beacon”, pg:  130.  By Bill Smith.

If all Jedi carry a location beacon or transponder some sort, how secure are the codes for these transponders?

Probably as secure as the fact of their rarity and whatever encryption is programmed into them.

Is it possible that Darth Maul had access to the codes required to trigger a response from the location transponders of Qui-Gon Jinn and/or Obi-Wan Kenobi on Tatooine, hence the ease with which he was able to locate them in TPM?

Probably. 

Or was the tracking signal associated with R2D2, who was supposed to be in close contact with Anakin and Amidala throughout the trip?

With a description like:  The energy requirements for these devices are outrageous,” it looks highly doubtful a little robot like an R2 unit could have anything to do with that, and if they’re supposed to be that secure through scarcity, nobody’s going to be stupid enough to install one in a robot that seems to end up everywhere he shouldn’t.

One possible explanation is that the tracking signal was actually associated with Amidala's yacht, and not Anakin himself. Obi-Wan might have pre-arranged communications through Amidala's personal yacht for security reasons, knowing that Anakin would be able to use it as soon as they arrived on Naboo. This fits certain onscreen visuals: Obi-Wan's cockpit display showed a picture of Amidala's yacht even before he managed to locate him on Tatooine, which strongly suggests that he was looking for the yacht all along.

Quite probably.

On the other hand, if the yacht was expected to stay on Naboo and function as a mere "hotline" telephone number, why would he have pre-arranged a tracking signal, and why would he describe it as Anakin's tracking signal rather than asking R4 to look for the yacht? A tracking signal presumes that you need to determine its location, and as far as the original plan was concerned, this yacht wasn't supposed to go anywhere. The best explanation may be a hybrid of this one and the previous one: Obi-Wan and Anakin pre-arranged communications through Amidala's yacht, so Obi-Wan tried to contact it (hence the onscreen display). When he couldn't find it, he looked for Anakin's personal tracking signal instead. When he located Anakin on Tatooine, his communications system was finally able to make a connection to Amidala's yacht.

More likely he called it “Anakin’s” tracking signal, because he was associated with the yacht, and he wasn’t trying to contact Amidala.


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