Thanks to the high technology of the Star Wars galaxy, beings can communicate across vast distances with ease and versatility. From comlinks and datapads carried wherever they are needed, all the way up to the galaxy-spanning HoloNet, any civilized being can get in contact with someone kilometers or even parsecs away with ease. Only when a character goes to a remote or undeveloped region does he face any difficulty at all in communications.
A comlink is the most basic and personal type of communications device. All comlinks use the standard com code system.
Most comlinks accept only direct voice communication, though they can be connected to datapads or other computers to transmit nonholographic data as well. Common models automatically scan local "Standard Clear Frequencies" (SCFs), used for emergency news bulletins by military and civilian authorities, and alert the user when such bulletins are broadcast.
The standard comlink has a base range of 50 kilometers, which can be increased by bouncing the signal through local communications networks.
Unencrypted comlinks can be jammed relatively easily; their short range and low power do not afford them much in the way of anti-jamming or security measures, making them unsafe to use when transmitting highly sensitive information. Attempting to jam an unencrypted comlink requires a Moderate communications check. It's also relatively easy to listen in to conversations on unencrypted comlinks. Such tapping requires an Easy communications check.
Military-grade and encrypted comlinks are more expensive, but are difficult to monitor or disrupt. Attempting to jam an encrypted comlink requires a Difficult communications check. Attempting to tap one requires a Very Difficult communications check.
A terminal is a computer or communications system hardwired into a planetary communications network. There are two types of terminals: public and private. Private terminals are usually found inside homes or businesses. They have com codes that function just like comlink com codes. Private terminals can be keyed to accept messages for the owner's comlink com code, should that comlink not be reachable.
A public terminal, on the other hand, is much more restricted and usually cannot be contacted externally. Public terminals can be used to send communications, connect to local information networks, search directories for individuals' com codes, link to a private terminal to retrieve data or stored communications, or make business and bank transactions (such as hailing a taxi or withdrawing funds from an account). Using a public terminal generally costs 1 credit per 5 minutes of use.
Almost all terminals can send or receive audio, video, and nonholographic data.
Because they are hardwired into their planetary networks, terminals cannot be jammed. They can only be tapped by directly accessing their communications wiring, requiring a Moderate computer programming/repair check.
Every starship comes equipped with a subspace transmitter as its primary means of communication. This allows it to communicate with other ships and planets within range. Starship transmitters generally have the same features and capabilities as terminals.
In addition to subspace transmitters, some starships also have HoloNet transceivers. Typically, such devices are capable of communicating directly with other HoloNet transceivers within range (usually 2 to 3 parsecs), and via the HoloNet satellite network to locations that are not within direct range.
Unencrypted starship transmitters can be jammed or tapped. Attempting to jam an unencrypted starship transmitter requires a Difficult communications check. It's also relatively easy to listen in to conversations on unencrypted starship transmitters. Such tapping requires an Easy communications check.
Military-grade and encrypted starship transmitters are more difficult to monitor or disrupt. Attempting to jam an encrypted starship transmitter requires a Very Difficult communications check. Attempting to tap one requires a Heroic communications check.
Every communication device is assigned a unique frequency, or com code. The code is factory set, and already programmed in when the device is purchased.
To contact someone, a being must know or be able to find the target's com code. Com codes are long and complex, so typically they're stored within communication devices. A com code can be downloaded directly from one com unit to another, or from a datapad or computer.
There are two common means of obtaining someone's com code. The first is simply to communicate with that person via comlink; his code is automatically captured in your comlink. The second is to look the code up in a public directory, generally through a terminal. You can then download the code directly from the terminal into your comlink.
Most communications devices are constantly functioning, even when they aren't activated. A comlink switched "off," for example, is actually simply set to a standby mode. In that mode, it can store messages. Anyone contacting that com unit gets a message indicating that the owner isn't available, and can leave a message that remains stored within the com unit until retrieved.
To receive a message, of course, the communications device must be in range of the sender. If the com unit is out of range, anyone calling it simply cannot make a connection. Some people set up their terminals to accept messages for their comlinks. In such cases, if the com unit is out of range, the message is instead stored on the terminal.
It is possible to change the com code on a communications device like a comlink. Doing so requires a communications check. The difficulty is Difficult for a "borrowed" com code - a code that might actually belong to another person. In general, borrowed codes work just fine, so long as the actual owner is not within the same system. If he is, the com unit has a 50% chance of failing to operate every time it is used.
Programming a "clean" code - a code that does not correspond to any other com code in the galaxy - requires a Heroic communications check.
When entering a civilized area, such as a relatively large city on a developed planet, transmission boosters and information routers handle most communications. These boosters allow communications from comlinks or terminals to bounce their signals over their network, effectively increasing the range of such communications devices to cover the entire area of the city and usually as far as 50 kilometers beyond its edges.
Additionally, most planets have communications lines that interconnect the major cities and towns, creating a global communications network that can link almost any location to any other. This allows two beings on opposite sides of the planet to communicate with one another via comlink. The communication leaves the comlink at one point, bounces first over the city transmission booster and then across the global network, travels across the destination city's booster, and is routed to the receiver's comlink. This assumes, of course, that both the sender and the receiver are within 50 kilometers of urban area.
Using a communications network like this is automatic; the user does nothing special, simply activating his comlink as if contacting someone just down the street.
Local communications systems handle huge volumes of communications and data, and must compress the information to carry it all over the network. Jamming a local communications hub requires a Heroic communications check. Tapping an individual message over a local communications system requires a Heroic+10 communications check simply to access the message. If the message originated from an encrypted comlink, the difficulty increases to Heroic+20. (An encrypted communication sent over an urban or planetary network remains encrypted throughout its journey.)
Most planetary communications systems feature locator service. The communications network tracks the location of all comlinks within range of the system, and any user with an appropriate communication device can pinpoint the location of any other comlink on the system.
To use the system, one sends a query for the desired com code. The communications network instantly determines where on the planet the comlink (and presumably its owner) is. If the comlink is outside the range of communications network, the system indicates that fact along with the comlink's last known location.
A being who values her privacy can block the locator service. Locator queries for a blocked com code simply come back with an "information unavailable" response. Alternatively, a being can allow limited locator service. Locator queries from a list of com codes set by the user (such as those belonging to friends, family, or business partners) are honored, but those originating from any other com code are blocked.
Using a locator service requires an Easy communications check. Success provides an accurate coordinate for the comlink in question, so long as the locator service is not blocked.
Moving up to a galactic level, communication between the millions of planets in the galaxy is considerably more complex than communications on a local level. Comlinks rarely have the range to perform interplanetary communications, and the signal boost required to send information across the stars dilutes a comlink signal to the point of being incomprehensible. As such, only global networks and starships are able to send transmissions to other planets and systems. There are many ways to go about doing so.
The most commonly used method of interstellar communication uses a subspace transceiver. Subspace transceivers can send audio, video, and nonholographic data throughout the galaxy by bouncing their signals off of the various satellites placed both in deep space as well as in inhabited systems. This means that communications are relatively fast at short ranges (within 5 parsecs) but begin to get slower and slower as the distance grows, taking hours or days to travel from remote regions of the galaxy to the Core, and even longer to span the galaxy.
Because the subspace network connects to local communications systems, it is possible to use a comlink on one planet to converse with a person on a nearby planet, so long as the transmission time isn't prohibitive. It's also possible to access the locator service on another planet, to find someone's location.
Most planetary networks connect to subspace transceivers to send communications off planet, as do all starships.
The subspace network operates with compression and encryption even tighter than that used in local communications systems. Jamming a subspace hub requires a Heroic+10 communications check. Tapping an individual message over a local communications systems requires a communications check (difficulty is Heroic+20; Heroic+30 if the message was encrypted at the source).
The other method of interstellar communication involves a system known as the HoloNet. The HoloNet is an interconnected group of satellites spread throughout the galaxy that are capable of transmitting holographic data through hyperspace at faster-than-light speed. This allows instantaneous holographic communications between two beings on completely opposite sides of the galaxy. However, from the beginning of the Clone wars until the signing of the peace accord between the New Republic and the Imperial Remnant, the HoloNet is restricted to governmental and military use.
The HoloNet is a highly secure and closely monitored communications network as well, requiring a Heroic+10 communications check to access without a code cylinder or a terminal at a sector hub. A special transceiver is required to access the HoloNet, which can cost thousands of credits and must be maintained due to its delicacy. Though the HoloNet is occasionally used to transmit time-sensitive material is data or simple audio/video form, it is often more economical to use subspace transmissions rather than use up the resources of the HoloNet.