Mobile Satellite Ventures has been a pioneering company in the field of communication systems. In 2003, they received the first Federal Communications Commission license for their hybrid satellite and ground system, but they had been tapping the possibilities of the concept even before that. Among the approved patents deriving from their inventions was a hybrid system adapted for the future rovers or even astronauts that would roam on the surface of the Moon and Mars.
The main concept developed by the company involved an Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) which would mix signals incoming from satellites with those from ground-based repeaters, ensuring a two-way voice and data communication process. This could be successfully applied on a large scale, by creating an extraterrestrial communications system which would be comprised of a satellite orbiting a planet, a ground base station on the respective planet, as well as the repeaters which would transmit data across the planet and back to the satellite.
Of course, they would be capable to communicate with Earth's stations and satellites, too. This idea came to Peter Karabinis, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Mobile Satellite Ventures and Lon Levin (who left Mobile Satellite Ventures and is currently the president of SkySevenVentures) in 2004, after they talked about the rovers Opportunity and Spirit landing on Mars earlier that year.
“When we got back to the office, we imagined a future architecture that would enable communications as we expanded our presence on a planet,” shared Levin, quoted by Space. “This architecture would not only provide efficiently expandable communications on the surface of a planet, it would also provide an efficient and effective means to have many simultaneous communications between Earth and other planets.”
But until the developing technology actually allows for the devices to be built, parts of the concept could be introduced on Earth's current communication systems in order to enhance them. For instance, their concept has the ability of sensing the frequency used by nearby similar systems and adjust its own accordingly in order not to interfere with them. Naturally, this operation is done manually for the moment.