Imagine being away from home for months on end in a strange place, away from your friends, family and everything that’s familiar. Imagine having little or no access to the connectivity that can bring you closer to those you miss. For the men and women of our armed forces, although working together as one team, life on operations can become extremely lonely. Time spent away from home for months on end and often operating in very stressful environments, can equal a tough time for many. For those on tour, when their operational day is over, precious downtime is critical for their mental and emotional wellbeing. Staying in touch with family and friends is essential, as is social media, entertainment and personal training. Therefore, the provision of Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) networks take on great importance.
The Spanish MoD provides an example of a military that recognizes the importance of MWR and they enlisted the help of Hisdesat Servicios Estrategicos and Telefonica de España to enable them, along with their partners Santander Teleport and ST Engineering iDirect, to provide new, advanced welfare and recreational services to their forces deployed on land and at sea. The satellite-based network, deployed across Africa, Europe and the Middle East, provides secured broadband internet access, telephone calls, e-Learning, live TV as well as on-demand content. Troops are also able to access these services through their own mobile devices. Santander Teleport runs the X-band satellite communications network that utilizes the capacity of the Spanish governmental satellite operator, Hisdesat.
“The network allows people to get connected back with family and friends and to have access to more recreational facilities,” explains David Andres, Business Development Manager at Santander Teleport. “They can watch live news and sports, get in touch with their friends and families regularly – the kind of things that connect them with home. The MoD also use it as an e-Learning platform. It’s been a great success. The reaction from the troops has been really positive. The statistics produced on the use of the network show that it’s a very popular service. It’s offering real social benefits.”
To date, the MWR network is serving around 3000 troops and also a number of Spanish navy ships on operations.
“The reaction from the troops has been really positive. The statistics produced on the use of the network show that it’s a very popular service. It’s offering real social benefits.” – David Andres, Santander Teleport
The contract, awarded in August 2019, utilizes the latest adaptive coding and modulation technologies and is powered by ST Engineering iDirect’s Evolution platform. The service provides the performance the MoD requires to run secure links using ST Engineering iDirect’s link encryption. It also provides voice, internet and video services at high quality of experience utilizing ST Engineering iDirect’s Quality of Service (QoS) management and bandwidth optimization technics. The Evolution platform allows the MoD to manage their traffic and to define different QoS classes for optimal traffic prioritization of their e-learning, and voice, internet and video.
The move to centralize the network has been met with great approval as the overall service consolidates all communications under a common network architecture, improving bandwidth efficiencies and tightening the security of all communications. “The Spanish MoD keeps saying that they want to continue having this great service that they didn’t have before,” explains David. “Previously, the networks were contracted to a local supplier and they have their own individual silos of networks. What we have done with this network is to centralize everything into a single network. The network is highly secured and a lot easier to control. Content and the satellite link are both encrypted using the latest security technologies based on AES256. The modem can also enable the segregation of user traffic, making it easier to securely manage user groups.”
ST Engineering iDirect was selected as the satellite communications technology for its innovative approach that combines security and the latest adaptive waveforms to provide maximum throughput, user experience and service availability.
David hopes that plans to expand the network will soon be able to progress to other locations and that there could be potential to perform upgrades when COVID-19 is under control. However, from user feedback, the network is performing well and is truly making a difference to those troops deployed far from home.
“We are delighted to contribute to the improvement of the morale and welfare of our brave soldiers who spend long periods of time away from their family and friends” – Luis Garcia, CEO of Santander Teleport.