Image Number 4 for United States Patent #6661996.
Disclosed herein is a method for operating a satellite communications system as well as a method for providing a larger effective gateway coverage area, and a system that operates in accordance with the methods. The methods include steps of (a) establishing a call connection between a terrestrial telecommunications network and a user terminal via a first gateway and at least one satellite; and (b) while the call connection is established, coupling the user terminal to the terrestrial telecommunications network via a second gateway and at least one further satellite. The step of coupling includes a step of conveying call speech or data information between the first gateway and the second gateway over an inter-gateway communications link. By so linking multiple gateways each gateway experiences an increase in its effective coverage area, as an on-going call can be continued even after a user terminal moves from a first gateway's coverage area into a second gateway's coverage area.