Home >> July 2011 Edition >> Executive Spotlight: David Hartshorn and Martin Coleman
Executive Spotlight: David Hartshorn and Martin Coleman
Secretary General, GVF and Executive Director, sIRG, respectively

HartColeHead In order to tackle the ever increasing problem of interference, GVF established a global VSAT Installation training program, which has proven extremely successful, with many operators now promoting and sponsoring the initiative worldwide. The Satellite Interference Reduction Group (sIRG) has been focusing a great deal of its effort on helping to promote this worthwhile initiative.

Conversations with David Hartshorn, GVF’s Secretary General, and Martin Coleman, Executive Director of sIRG, have obtained their insights into the initiative and the problems surrounding satellite interference.

Martin, you have been actively promoting GVF’s global VSAT Installation Training Programme, why do you feel it is important?

Martin Coleman
Interference is a massive issue in our industry, with millions of dollars being lost each year. A great deal of manpower is tied up tracking down the causes we are experiencing that a lack of knowledge is one of the biggest causes of interference. Therefore it is definitely worth focusing our attention on improving that. Too often VSAT systems are installed by people who simply don’t understand the technology requirements of such an installation. This is mainly found with many small antenna installations, which are often not located in the best environment, badly pointed, constructed or any of the above!

Do you think that training will make a big difference?

Martin Coleman
Absolutely, a process of both training and certification is in fact by far the easiest and most effective way to overcome this. By giving those installers and indeed suppliers, the tools and skills to do their job effectively, we can greatly reduce the install errors. A system of installer certification can further incentivise that, but it also means that operators looking for installers know exactly who has received the appropriate training to install an effective, well thought-out transmission site. Our groups, with others, are working together to adopt similar processes across our industry in all operational areas of satellite transmission.

David, GVF has been focusing a lot of energy on its installation-training programme; how has that initiative been received so far?

David Hartshorn
We have been extremely pleased with the response to our installation-training programme. The industry as a whole is quite frankly fed up with interference and welcomes steps being taken to reduce the problem. For this reason, we are receiving the support and backing of a number of leading companies within the industry, including satellite operators, manufacturers, and value-added resellers.

We have had approximately 4,000 installers through the various courses, meaning that organisations now have a wealth of trained professionals to call upon, the details of whom can be obtained via the GVF Certified Installer Database at http://gvf.coursehost.com.

There is a global need for this type of training, how do you handle that on a practical level?

David Hartshorn
We place a lot of emphasis on our online courses. Naturally, there is a hands-on element and instructors can offer supplementary classes where needed, but by teaching a lot of the theory online, we can make our courses more affordable and widely accessible across the globe.

We recognise that developing countries also need this training, but are often not in a position to afford it, therefore for students and organisations in those areas there is the GVF Andrew Werth Scholarship Program, which offers a 50 percent cost reduction, making it feasible across the entire globe.

Of course, every student will require a different level of training. Do you have a structure in place to accommodate that?

David Hartshorn
Yes. Everyone begins with the basic level, a GVF Basic VSAT Installation Certification, which gives them the basic skills absolutely essential for all VSAT installers to help prevent interference. This is done through the completion of an online course and followed by a Hands-on Skills Test.

Expert VSAT field technicians can then go onto complete the Advanced VSAT Installation and Maintenance Certification, which is done through a series of online courses, and again followed by that all important, Hands-on Skills test.

For those installers who need that extra level of manufacturer-specific training and certification — for example, Gilat, Hughes, iDirect, Schlumberger, Seatel, and others — there are Speciality Certifications, which are available through a choice of online courses, depending on the requirement of that individual.

What effect is the training having on the industry as a whole?

David Hartshorn
The installers being trained through this programme are emerging with a much deeper understanding of the industry, effective VSAT installation and maintenance techniques, and the high level of performance that the industry expects of them. Further, the programme has proven that everyone benefits from Certification: The trainees advance their skills and careers, the operators can use those installers with confidence, VSAT service providers realise reduced costs and stronger network performance, manufacturers see increased sales, and the end users enjoy improved quality of service.

The industry as a whole is recognising the benefits of this training, and many organisations are only prepared to use certified installers now. There is more work to be done, however, to ensure we reach the ultimate goal, which is, of course, that only trained and certified installers are used. If we can get to that point, we really will see a great reduction on the level of satellite interference.

With that in mind, how do you see that ultimate goal being achieved, and in what sort of timeframe?

David Hartshorn
We have been working hard on increasing awareness of these courses, and of their importance, and that is an area in which other groups, such as the Satellite Interference Reduction Group have really helped and are continuing to assist.

It is starting to have a certain amount of positive effect, with Satellite operators beginning to co-ordinate with GVF to increase the delivery of training, as well as heightening awareness, as preparation for the day when Certification will become a requirement.

For the most part, satellite operators will actually wish to use a certified installer, however by making it compulsory we can be absolutely sure that happens. The first regions where this is being implemented are South America and the Middle East. Asia will probably be next. Everyone who completes the programme will receive Certification, so anyone commissioning a new install or amending an existing one, should ask their installer whether they are certified, or contact GVF for details.

About GVF
The GVF is the global non-profit association of the satellite communications industry. The association represents more than 200 Member companies involved in the business of delivering advanced fixed and mobile satellite systems and services to consumers, and commercial and government enterprises worldwide.
Full details about the GVF Certification Programme are available at http://gvf.coursehost.com

About Satellite Interference Reduction Group (sIRG)
Satellite Interference Reduction Group (sIRG) is the global industry organisation, established to combat the increasing and costly problem of satellite radio frequency interference. It also, as a group, focuses on the future of satellite communication technology and the effects or issues of that technology relating to interference.
For more information, please visit http://www.satirg.com