Crisis Management and Disaster Management face increasing attention by responsible organizations in various countries. When talking to potential users a common understanding shows that crisis prevention and management with the appropriate communications infrastructure is highly desirable. A communications network via satellite is obviously seen as an excellent backup and fill-in option. It is highly flexible, deployable, performing, and reliable.
The objective of this project was to implement a network which is ready at all times to immediately respond to the requirements of a crisis or failure of terrestrial connections.
With this objective, a number of specific hardware and software features were developed, typical user configurations built and a pilot network operated. The network has to guarantee availability as well as support the main applications of the user groups. By this shared usage, the operational costs are kept at an affordable level for all users.
The pilot demonstrated the idea of an always-on crisis management network to users of relevant organisations.
During the pilot phase, not only the operation was run with the initial user groups but the service was extended to other users and similar groups.
An intense assessment of the pilot operation was performed by the users during the pilot. It included operational use of the integrated applications. Evaluations cover the activities of the user groups, as well as the experiences of the system operation to gain information for network management of the service.
With the approach for a shared multi-use network, we overcome the users’ hurdle of the capital expenditure and operational expenditure concerns and make a positive decision towards the use of such a network easier.
A positive feedback from these user groups from their practical experience would mean an important move towards affordable crisis management networks.
In course of the pilot phase and according to the results of the technical and operational assessment, a commercialization strategy for the service shall be detailed.
Significant OPEX advantages are expected by a smart pricing policy which is enabled and fully supported by the integrated network technology.
In case of usage of the crisis network this traffic has a certain priority status and thus will be transmitted securely and with a certain guarantee. This mechanism will be backed by the respective contractual agreements between the customers and the service provider.
There are several user groups accessing the shared network. One is the group of crisis and disaster management, for instance a number of fire fighting organisations. They use mobile command trucks to communicate with their command centers, including applications like database access, voice and video transmission.
The shared network controls the efficient usage, including fully automatic assignment and management of the satellite transmission capacity, handling of traffic priorities and throughput guarantees.
Building blocks are:
- The multi user, multi applications satellite network operated for the pilot system,
- Network management features for capacity management, including load balancing, network extension handling and support of cross-strapped connections,
- A compact and highly automated, self-pointing mobile antenna system with antenna control (ACU) and antenna pointing (APS) which can be used on all types of cars.
- An integrated IP streaming system including IP/MPEG-4 encoding/decoding and antenna control.
Main features of the network are:
- The service is "always on", at any time each station can transmit or receive data;
- Automatic rerouting of backup traffic between terrestrial and satellite connections;
- Support of stations with occasional use, e.g. mobile stations used only in case of emergency;
- Stations enter the network automatically, without a need for manual configuration, line-up, or coordination, they are immediately reachable from the other sites;
- Ideally, stations automatically find the relevant satellite and point the antenna to that satellite;
- The network shall be able to distinguish priorities of different traffic classes;
- Guaranteed bandwidth for priority traffic when contention occurs;
- Capability to add capacity to the network in case of high demand, and reduce capacity again after an event.
The project consisted of a development phase, with the implementation of the building blocks, followed by a pilot phase, where a number of pilot users are provided with the equipment and the service is run.
The development of software and hardware elements included the design, implementation and verification of the defined building blocks.
During the development phase the pilot user acquisition was performed in parallel, with sales and marketing actions to win users and further evaluate the market.
After an internal factory acceptance test and the pilot qualification, the built equipment was rolled out to the pilot sites. When the network was established and again validated, the operational phase of the project started.
Finally, a pilot operation summary report was drawn at the end of the pilot. It includes the overall results of the pilot usage, as well as an outlook of the ongoing service operation.
The final review and presentation has been performed successfully.
The main achievements of the project are products and services for users in the crisis management environment.
A number of products for use in crisis management have been created:
- Software features for SkyWAN crisis management networks
- SkyRay Light auto-pointing antenna system
- Antenna control system ACU 5010
- SkyRay Light IPS integrated IP streaming system
A service is ready for access by users.
The SCCN network management centre provides network control, service monitoring, helpdesk to users, provision of occasional demo connections for video, telephony and internet access.