There are a wide variety of communication references throughout Battlestar Galactica and the terms are somewhat confusing.
The term Comm Line refers to ALL the various communication lines used by the Colonial ships. Both military, civilian, secured, scrambled and public.
Comm-Tell, short for Communications and Telemetry, is the term used for the Communication Division or department of a ship, whether it is military or civilian. Sensors are considered a part of Comm-Tell.
A Scrambled communication is coded and broken down by a computer into an otherwise incomprehensible data stream. It requires a specific computer and programming to unscramble the message.
A Secured Communication is aimed or beamed directly between sender and receiver.
A Uni-Directional signal is NOT secure, though it may be scrambled. It is broadcast in all directions simultaneously.
The Alpha Channel or Fleet Comm Line Alpha, is a secure, scrambled, military channel used for communication between military ships. This is NOT normally used for controlling and communicating with Vipers and shuttles, though it can be used for such.
Beta Channel or Fleet Comm Line Beta, is used in the Fugitive Fleet for communication between the civilian vessels and for the military ships to talk to the civilian ships. This is not a channel for public use. It is used for ship to ship communication only in regards to matters of navigation, tactical issues, maintenance, etc. Beta Channel is secure but NOT scrambled.
Tellecom: Intra-ship Communication. This comprises the ship’s hard wired intercom system and computer network as well as the short range transmitter/receivers worn or carried by all officers. It is a Uni Directional broadcast, but the ship’s hull and the strength of the signal is such that it is only detectable a few metrics beyond the hull. Transmissions are generally NOT scrambled BUT the communicators can be switched to scrambled if desired.
IFB – Inter Fleet Broadcasting: The news and entertainment service of the Fleet. IFB is an entertainment and information service that is broadcast between the ships of the Fugitive Fleet. Begun by Commander Adama as a morale measure and to aid in educating the children scattered through the various ships it is today a major part of Fleet Culture. Consisting of 56 ‘Channels’ of both audio only and Audio/Video broadcasts. It uses Very Short Range Frequencies to reduce the risk of Cylon detection. Even so, broadcasts are shut down when the Fleet approaches a star system. Normal broadcasting is around the clock. See the section below on the IFB for more details.
Uni-Comm – Communication network linking all Vipers to each other, to their base ship and to Flight Control. It is Uni-Directional and always scrambled. Uni-Comm also controls and links shuttles in transit. The Marker Beacon built into Vipers and shuttles, which serves as a Friend Foe Identification system, is linked to Uni-Comm as is the Outer Marker signal, a transmission beacon that indicates the point where a Viper or shuttle is beginning its final approach to land. A pilot should not pass the Outer Marker without Flight Control’s permission except in the event of a severe emergency.
Gamma Frequency – This frequency is considered obsolete by the Military because there is too much background noise to support modern scrambling without degrading the signal to the point that it cannot be unscrambled. However, it still has some limited use for ‘clear’ transmissions and low grade scrambling. It is used most often by civilian ships and private yachts for ‘private’ chatter. It can be secure or uni-directional.
Aerian Merchant Code: An obsolete communication code used by Aerian’s transport fleet yahrens ago. It is a simple pulse code using combinations to represent alphabet letters and numbers. (Similar to Earth’s Morse Code.)
Harmonic – A radio wave that has traveled through space for a very long time.
Spermal Goad – A wide angle communication technique used in secure transmissions when the receiving point cannot be used as the beaming or reference point.
Argonlons – measurement of the strength of a transmitting frequency
Wavelon – unit of wavelength
Inter Fleet Broadcasting (IFB)
IFB is an entertainment and information service that is broadcast between the ships of the Fugitive Fleet. Begun by Commander Adama as a morale measure and to aid in educating the children scattered through the various ships it is today a major part of Fleet Culture.
Consisting of 56 ‘Channels’ of both audio only and Audio/Video broadcasts. It uses Very Short Range Frequencies to reduce the risk of Cylon detection. Even so, broadcasts are shut down when the Fleet approaches a star system. Normal broadcasting is around the clock.
Nine channels are devoted to education use. They broadcast classes, training sessions, demonstrations, lectures and study guides for all levels of student from pre-school to adult education and technical studies.
Twelve channels are ‘commercial’ and are used for shopping and merchandising. Since travel between ships is time consuming and subject to scheduling issues, this form of catalog shopping is the standard used by most people. These are interactive and search able catalogs that allow customers to browse and shop. Holographic display functions make it possible to see all sides of a product.
Two channels are ‘Library’ channels. These allow users to browse the electronic libraries and archives of all the ships in the Fleet. Generally L1 is for fiction and entertainment while L2 is for non-fiction and research use.
There are seven music channels. These are audio only and are favored by workers and crew doing jobs that prevent them from ‘watching’ a screen. The various music channels group the music into various types, though there is one channel that plays ‘Mixes.’
There are four News channels. These are maintained by the Fleet News Bureau (FNB) and are designed to keep people informed as to the who, what, where and why of day to day activity in the fleet.
Two of the channels N1, which is an a/v version and N2 which is an audio only, broadcast constantly. N3 (a/v) and N4 (audio) are special event channels for things like ceremonies and sports events such as Triad games.
Twenty channels are used for general entertainment. This includes programs from the Fleet’s extensive archives from the Colonies, recent productions done in the IFB studios as well as plays, concerts and such performed live on various ships in the Fleet
There is two ‘Fleet’ Channels. (One a/v one audio only.) These are used to broadcast sessions of the Council of Twelve. Public Service Announcements, Emergency Instructions (seen on all channels) general safety instructions (How to use an airlock. How to fix a hole in your vacc suit. Etc.) The Commander, the Council President and other officials will use this to address the people, (usually carried on the News channels as well.)
Aside from the archived content found in the various ships libraries and computer banks, programming for IFB is produced in dozens of studios scattered throughout the Fleet. Most of the passenger liners have some form of production capability, programs and live entertainment broadcasts were a long time staple for passengers. Similarly, the Galactica has its own production capacity for training and morale purposes. These facilities, inter linked and coordinated from a central studio on board the Canopus are broadcast through the Fleet.
The day to day operations of IFB are overseen by Techs, editors, producers and such. Standards, terms and goals are set jointly by the Councilors for Public Affairs (Paulus) Culture&Arts (Delain) and Education (Selius).