FTL Communications

Communications are the backbone of any civilization.  Without the free and easy exchange of information, individuals and groups cannot share ideas, governments cannot control their territories and trade becomes limited.  In an interstellar civilization the need to communicate in a speedy matter is even more important so great resources are expended in the creation of effective Faster Then Light Communications (FTLC).

Hyperspace Radio:By their very nature radio waves are limited to the light speed barrier and are not considered effective in direct long distance communications.  In modern practice radio is used only in short range communications or in emergency situations.  However in the eras before the development of true FTL communications radio was still used to communicate across and between star systems.  This of course created delays based on the distance between sender and receiver dependent on the speed of light, but as is well known, no one knows the speed of light in hyperspace.

For over a millennium scientists have sought methods by which to measure distance and time in hyperspace with any kind of accuracy.  All efforts have been for naught, as no one can come up with an accurate reference frame.  It is well established that the speed of light in hyperspace, at least appears, to be much higher then in normal space.  Without accurate measurements however, this cannot be established.

Before ships could even travel through hyperspace the location of numerous hyperspace tears were documented and marked with navigation buoys to protect ships.  A curious anomaly soon became apparent concerning these buoys.  The signals transmitted by the buoys that entered hyperspace would be received by in other systems and by other buoys with minimal delay no matter their distance in normal space.  This formed the basis for the first FTL communication network.

While the radio waves were still limited to the speed of light in normal space they could transmit between systems with little to no perceived delay via modified navigation buoys at the jump points.  Signal degradation through hyperspace was minimal and usually only occurred when signals were stepped on by other communications or when hyperspace mass shadows drifted between sender and receiver.

Hyperspace radio is not used for communication much anymore having been supplanted by more reliable FTL communications systems.  However, it is still used as the primary medium by which buoys mark their location in hyperspace.  This is due to the fact that tachyon communications receivers pick up far too much background noise to be usable.  The reason for this is unclear, but the fact that radio is more functional in hyperspace has revealed that there are still countless undiscovered hyperspace fairing races and governments out there, or at least their hyperspace buoys are.
Tachyon Communications:Tachyon Communications formed the primary means by which the majority of races communicated over long distances once the ability became possible.  Tachyons are superluminal particles that do not violate relativity by the fact that they only exist faster then light, never breaking the light speed barrier.  For centuries their existence was theorized but left unconfirmed until it was discovered that they could interact with certain materials once brought up to specific energy potentials. 

This discovery led to the development of the first tachyon traps, which could temporarily contain tachyons for manipulation and encoding.  Tachyons thus ensnared, are then manipulated in much the same way as radio waves and are transmitted across vast distances at superluminal speeds.  The greatest conundrum of tachyon communication however is the fact that the more energy put into the signal, the slower they travel.  This because the more energetic a tachyon particle becomes, the closer it comes to the speed of light, much like how sub-light particles increase in speed as more energy is added to them.  For a superluminal particle this also means that tachyons theoretically will travel infinitely fast if they contain zero energy potential.  The problem for communication is that the more information pumped into a tachyon communication the more energy it takes and the slower it will travel.  While this is usually not a major issue it creates effective limits on message capacity over range in order to maintain real time communications.

Tachyon communications have other inherent issues as well.  Tachyon Communications require a direct line of sight between sender and receiver, any object that comes between them can disrupt the signal.  For long range communication between systems this requires the use of tachyon communications relays.  These relay stations can range from small automated satellites to massive arrays designed to intercept signals from all across the galaxy.  For smaller craft however it is more difficult.
Over short distances, on the order of ten light pulses or less, Omni directional transmission is able to function quite effectively.  Beyond that distance however, signal degradation can become a serious problem as background tachyon noise disrupts the transmission.  This requires a sending ship to first send out a locator pulse to determine the exact location of the receiving craft before it can send the main transmission.  This is normally transparent to the crew and seems instantaneous but is still an additional step that consumes system resources.  Additionally, tachyon communications can be jammed with ease by the excitation of tachyons in local space, filling all local tachyon receivers with indecipherable noise.
In current application tachyon comm. or tachcomm is reserved for in system communications only.  Tachcomm relays are still in use however for use by small colonies that do not support more advanced systems.
Psi-Comm.:No one knows just how fast telepaths can communicate, but it has been demonstrated that a telepaths tens of light years away can communicate in real time with no loss of content or clarity.  The volume of information they can convey has however has been illustrated, and even a mid level telepath is capable enough to handle the telecommunications of a mid sized city on their own.  It is this ability to instantaneously transmit information over vast distances that makes the use of telepaths as long range communications mediums attractive.

The Psi-comm relies on specially trained telepaths who spend all of their working time attached to a neural interface device while they “listen” to the void.  The addition of neural interface devices allows for a level of privacy and security between sender and receiver as all information that the telepaths transmit is encrypted and decrypted by separate computers.  A telepath has no need to know where they are before sending a message, but their location can be triangulated the instant they make contact with other telepaths, making them ideal not only for communication but long range exploration.

Psi-comm is extremely hard to bug because once a sending telepath makes contact with the receiving telepath there is no longer any signal bleed for anyone to listen in to.  Operator fatigue or injury can result in some transmission bleed, but even this is difficult to detect or pick up.  It is also neigh impossible to jam psi-comm.  The only known way is to create too much telepathic noise for the telepath to wade through, overloading their abilities and putting them into catatonic shock.

Psi-comm operators are for the most part volunteer telepaths.  Most volunteer for the willingness to serve and the prestige that goes along with being a psi-comm operator.  In the UCSB the greatest number of psi-comm operators are Donvarion.  This is because they are universally trusted and because they developed much of the psi-comm interface technology.  Individuals from other races also volunteer to be operators but none in as large of numbers as the Donvarion.

Research is underway to manufacture artificial psi-comm operators using telepathically linked animal brains, but so far little progress has been made.  On the Galactic Federation side of the border psi-comm operators are harder to come by and as such, most are not volunteers.  Criminal Telepaths are drugged into submission and forcibly attached to the interface units.  In some extreme cases, murderers who are telepathic, have their brains removed and their personalities stripped away so that the brain itself is used as the telepathic transceiver.

Quantum Entanglement:Quantum entanglement is a physical phenomenon that occurs when pairs or groups of particles are generated or interact in ways such that the quantum state of each particle cannot be described independently—instead, a quantum state may be given for the system as a whole.  For example, if a pair of particles is generated in such a way that their total spin is known to be zero, and one particle is found to have clockwise spin on a certain axis, then the spin of the other particle, measured on the same axis, will be found to be counterclockwise, no matter the distance between them.  This makes the use of quantum entangled particles ideal for communications due to the fact that there is no time delay. 

However, QE Links are not in common use for several important reasons.  Entangling particles is not an easy process and once entangled, moving the particles becomes problematic due to the fact that most are subatomic in nature.  Entangled particles are also subject to atomic decay making their useful life limited.  The limited ability to move entangled particles also mandates that QE Links only be deployed on semi-fixed emplacements, in most cases planets or space stations.  Starships move too much and too erratically to contain the QE Link matrix, transport of which between host planets must be carried out with great care.

In addition to limited mobility, QE Links are limited by the number of stations they can connect with.  Most entangled particles occur in pairs making the link viable only between two points.  To account for this, QE Link exchanges gather numerous entangled particles in a single location, routing the information between non-linked particles to connect locations that do shared entangled particles.  The location of these exchanges is kept secret in order to protect them from attack or outside incursions.

QE Links are also subject to limited bandwidth as each entangled particle can only transmit a single qubit (quantum bit) of data at once.  Depending on the particles in use, this limits QE Links to less than a Megaqubit per centipulse.

Research is ongoing by all major governments to create more robust and dissemination capable QE Links however because of the security they offer.  There is no way to tap into a QE Link message due to the point to point nature unless one taps in at the exchange.  The most hopeful theory revolves around a QE Cloud with a disseminated exchange system, but that would require the constant creation of Entangled Particles in each comm unit in existence, something that is not attainable at this time.