Tag Archives: INMARSAT

Inmarsat-4 F3 ready for launch

While this may not be of major interest to most folks working in the field it will interest those who are currently stationed in Oceania and SE Asia.  The third and final Inmarsat satellite is scheduled to launch on August 19th and will complete Inmarsat’s efforts to cover the earth.  It will add overlap coverage (see the bright blue area in the coverage map below) for countries like Indonesia, the Philippines and PNG.  From their site:

The current constellation of two Inmarsat-4 satellites delivers mobile broadband services to 85 per cent of the world’s landmass, covering 98 per cent of the world’s population.  A successful launch of the third Inmarsat-4 will complete the global coverage for Inmarsat’s broadband services.

Read the rest of the press release here

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“It still very difficult to get a call anywhere around the country right now.” – NPR

NPR’s Ivan Watson reports that Russian planes are continually bombing cell phone towers in an effort to knock out telecommunications networks and what’s left of the GSM network in the country only works sporadically.  Also, he reports that the INTERNET in Georgia has been compromised by a cyberattack.  This was reported earlier in the day by WIRED’s Danger Room. [Click here to listen to the NPR audio file.]

With an already limited GSM network in South Ossetia and Abkhazia now compromised by bomb attacks it seems that folks heading into Georgia have very little option other than Thuraya and Iridium satellite phones.  While networks may work from time to time I am not sure anyone is going to want to rely on them as their only source of communication.  With the INTERNET also under assault aid teams will also be relying on Inmarsat’s BGAN and the new ThurayaIP.

ThurayaIP Launched

It seems Inmarsat has a serious challenger in the arena of satellite modems.  With the recent launch of the ThurayaIP I am sure that many in the humanitarian community are now considering this newcomer as a worthy alternative to the BGAN.  Until now the BGAN was really the only option for remote INTERNET connectivity when heading to the field.  The spec’s are impressive (the size of an A5 sheet of paper, built in 802.11b WiFi, and Skype compatible) I think this new entry will give the venerable BGAN a run for it’s money.

Check this out:

  • “Standard” background IP service with bandwidth of up to 444 Kbps for Internet access, etc
  • Dedicated streaming IP services ranging from 16 Kbps to 384 Kbps for bandwidth hungry applications like video streaming.
  • Absolutely Portable – Exceptionally small in size (A5 size), ThurayaIP can be easily moved across locations and set up instantly.
  • Highly Competitive – Offers the most attractive and competitive service with volume based charging via various bundling options and unlimited usage price plans.
  • Robust – Conforms to IP 55 standard ingress protection standards; enabling outdoor installation in extreme weather conditions for extended periods of time.
  • Unmatched Flexibility – Easy to use in both portable and semi-fixed environments. Instant LAN setup through multi-user support allows an entire team to share a single unit.
  • Convenience– Simply connect ThurayaIP to a laptop, point to the satellite and enjoy satellite Broadband services.
  • Stand Alone – Easy to setup and start working- no laptop or PC is required to navigate setup. An embedded button and LCD in the terminal guides you through the whole setup control.
  • Complete security with GmPRS encryption algorithm (GEA2) – Connect seamlessly via your preferred VPN application.

Read on…

Google Earth and the case for ‘clickable countries’

I have been harping on this for some time and finally decided to lay out why I think it makes some sense for Google to consider making ‘clickable countries’ an option in Google Earth.  In the world of the aid worker communications bandwidth is the single most important factor.  We pay more for bandwidth than just about anyone in the world.  In an earlier post I pointed out that SIM cards in Myanmar cost $1500.  I can tell you that from experience a VSAT installation in the tsunami ravaged region of Aceh, Indonesia costs $1700 for service equivalent to a dial-up connection from the 1990’s and 1MB of data over an INMARSAT portable satellite modem costs aywhere from $4 to 8$.  To view http://www.cnn.com just one time costs about $5.

Bandwidth is the Achille’s heal of the aid community and while things are getting easier (aircards are replacing data cables) the rates are still through the roof and the networks are dirtier a more fragile than most folks can comprehend.  The question I always ask is, “Do you know how many syringes I can buy for $5?”

That being the case it would save all of us a tremendous amount of money if the folks over at Google took it upon themselves to implement for Google Earth what I have long referred to as ‘clickable countries’.  The idea is to give the user the ability to turn off the image layers for any country, continent or body of water.  If I am working in Myanmar all I really need to see imagery for is Myanmar and Thailand.  I don’t need North America, South America, the Pacific Ocean, etc.  The bandwidth savings, if we were able to drop out all unnecessary imagery, would be tremendous and that translates into money saved which is money that can be used to buy more syringes, medecines and medical equipment.

I am not sure how easy it would be to accomplish this from a technical standpoint but the benefit to the humanitarian aid community would be tremendous.  I have heard time and time again from various aid workers that while they love Google Earth there is really no way they can you use it in the field because of the slow speed and high cost of bandwidth.  Implementing ‘clickable countries’ in the Layers section would make a somewhat inaccessible tool readily available to the people who desperately need it – aid workers in the field – and Google could take full credit for the countless lives they would save by doing so.  Not only would such an action benefit humanitarian aid workers, it would also benefit the communities they serve.  They communities we work in around the world all suffer from the same low bandwidth fate as we do yet they do not have the same cash resources to resolve the problem.  Google Earth’s market penetration could be significantly increased were they to implement the ‘clickable countries’ solution.

I have a heard a number of times that caching imagery is a viable solution to the bandwidth problem but the reality is that most folks have no idea how to cache imagery and when the fabled ‘DVD full of imagery that gets shipped to the field’ solution comes up it takes about 30 seconds to convince the other person that it is really just a nice idea that has little basis in reality.  The tech community needs to learn the rules we play by and we need to learn the same about the challenges they face.

I am hopeful that somewhere down the road Google will implement the ‘clickable countries’ solution but if I have learned anything during my foray into the world of technology it is patience.