May 13, 2020

Satcoms: Prepare for the Unprecedented

Recent events have shone a light on just how important critical communications are for every business, organization, agency and individual. The global health crisis – COVID-19 – has rapidly brought the requirement for emergency communications into sharp focus as front-line workers communicate and share critical information from wherever they are operating, no matter how remote.

But not only this, there are emergencies and disasters, both natural and manmade, occurring worldwide every day, even at the same time as the pandemic. As a result, service providers and government organisations must continually evaluate how to be better prepared for the next emergency when networks are overloaded, inaccessible or destroyed. With the success or failure of recovery operations hinging on connectivity, organizations must be able to respond quickly and effectively – and satellite communications has a vital role to play.

Supporting the COVID-19 response with satellite

The global COVID-19 pandemic is sending shockwaves through every industry in the world. With the virus occurring in every corner of the world – no matter how remote – there has been a need for instant infrastructure in areas where none is available.

In these locations, satellite connectivity – with its ability to cover vast geographical areas and be deployed rapidly with no prior infrastructure in place – has been provided to set up facilities such as mobile testing centers. It has also proved to be integral to providing extra connectivity for organizations, including the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and other healthcare providers, for command vehicles. This is especially important for field hospitals where there is no available connectivity.

Satellite also enables backhaul, GPS navigation and timing as well as broadcast capabilities – helping to power the mobile cellular phone industry and report on the spread of the epidemic worldwide.

Other ongoing challenges

Unfortunately, the current pandemic isn’t the only emergency going on. Earthquakes, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, and floods take place all over the world and have the potential to occur every day, as natural and manmade emergencies and disasters continue. These other challenges faced by different regions of the world must not be forgotten – and the requirement for equipment that can be deployed rapidly remains.

In disaster response scenarios, for example, Cells-on-Wheels (COWs) and Cells-on-Light-Trucks (COLTs) are used to re-establish critical voice and data connectivity in times when traditional wireless connectivity is not available. The COWs and COLTs can be driven to the area where connectivity is required and instantly deployed, creating a network where one did not exist previously or was destroyed.

Today, satellite is also empowering new technologies, such as drones and the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, to further help first responders on the ground when cellular and fiber networks are down. Satellite can also be used to aggregate the information collected (images, GPS coordinates, video clips) to send back to HQ or to quickly analyze and form actionable intelligence.

Working with partners

The ongoing challenges of man-made and natural disasters, in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic, is exactly why ST Engineering iDirect supports first responder communities to get up and running with reliable, ubiquitous connectivity. This is done in tandem with our partners who are engaged with the NGO and government and defense communities.

Paradigm Communications has been making satcom simple since 1996. The company works closely with its customers in order to completely understand the challenges and complexities they can face when using satcom in the field. This knowledge is then used to improve, advance and sometimes completely redesign the technology.

“The current situation has certainly heightened the need for constant connectivity to ensure business continuity,” commented Ulf Sandberg, Managing Director, Paradigm Communications. “When travel becomes restricted or even forbidden, or when remote working causes existing comms to become overloaded, then reliable, easy-to-use and high-throughput satellite communication systems become vital for connectivity. With our fantastic network of partners we are not just experiencing a global demand for our terminals but also a global deployment of our satcom solutions in the harshest of conditions.”

Global RadioData Communications (GRC) is a specialist in satellite, RF, cloud and IP networking solutions. GRC designs, integrates and supports critical communication systems used globally by defense, government, emergency response, commercial businesses and the oil, gas and mineral exploration industry.

“We’ve always been a go-to for quick-turnaround solutions for our existing customers, but we’ve seen this extend to new areas as a result of COVID-19,” said Steve Slater, Managing Director, GRC. “With agencies and services being pushed to the limits, technology is being tested like never before too and as always communication is critical to coordinating all these efforts. We’ve had a history of working alongside ST Engineering iDirect teams on projects, assisting innovation and enhancing current technology to meet end user needs. Having robust business continuity plans in place and a “Plan B” is second nature to the way many of them operate and I think the current situation is just proving their worth!”

ST Engineering iDirect’s technology portfolio embraces the challenges and the complexity of emergency communications today and tomorrow. Our multi-purpose satellite VSAT platforms are highly scalable and flexible and offer government and defense agencies the opportunity to build and adapt their infrastructure according to the operations at hand, and regardless of the location.