by Ulrich Kiebler
During the recent G8 Summit in Heiligendamm, Germany, (June 6-8, 2007), the heads of state and governments from the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations held their annual meeting. More than 500 volunteers from the German Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW), Germanys official civil state disaster protection organization, provided their technical assistance. During mega events, THW staff members, together with fire departments and mobile medical units, ensure smooth operations among all of the responder teams.
As part of the G8s security plan, the THWs first responders were on site to support fire departments, the German Federal Police and the German Federal Foreign Office in activities such as communication, electricity for field hospitals, illumination of operational sites (such as airport and helicopter airfields), security fencing and mobile checkpoints, logistics and maintenance of the infrastructure.
In the event of a crisis or disaster, of utmost importance is the officer-in-charge of first responders to be informed up-to-the-minute of the required details to make systematic, sustainable decisions. For this reason, the THW staff members in Heiligendamm were connected, via satellite, to their headquarters in Bonn to constantly assess the situation, report back to headquarters and authorities, and be prepared to react in case of an emergency.
The THWs operation site in Heiligendamm offered neither terrestrial lines nor reliable, permanently available, GSM connectivity. Satellite communications enabled site first responders to remain independent of any traditional terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure or radio link systems. Moreover, for a short-term mega event such as the G8 Summit, when additional and secure communications equipment is only needed for a limited time, communication via satellite allows for the most mobile, cost-effective and flexible infrastructure. The setup of complex and expensive conventional communications infrastructure for a single use event is no longer required.
In general, a satellite link is the only means available to guarantee reliable communication under any circumstance, even if the terrestrial infrastructure fails due to technical problems, a natural disaster or, in the event of a governmental mega event, a politically motivated threat.
From a box wagon to a mobile emergency control center
Together with the international fire and rescue equipment supplier Gimaex-Schmitz, ND SatCom equipped a mobile communications van supporting THWs need for onsite telephony (VoIP), Internet access and data exchange via satellite. The mobile communications van is based on a Mercedes Benz box wagon and offers first responders a communication area and a meeting room with projector and screen equipment.
The satellite link SkyWAN® as the technology of choice
The satellite communications equipment employed is based on ND SatComs core technology SkyWAN, a versatile MF-TDMA VSAT system that enables various end-user communication applications. SkyWAN offers instant bandwidth-on-demand through dynamic bandwidth allocation. The THW command center in Bonn, and the mobile unit in Heiligendamm, was equipped with compact fixed and mobile satellite terminals using SkyWAN Indoor Units. The network between Heiligendamm and THWs headquarters was established by ND SatComs SkyRAY Light antenna subsystem, which was integrated into the communications van. The antenna subsystem is robust, quick to deploy and easy to use features which are of utmost importance for critical and secure government applications. In addition to the plug and play concept, antenna pointing is based on ND SatComs Antenna Pointing System, which works using a one-button operation and is suitable for non-technical personnel.
Benefits and user feedback
With its disaster response vehicle in Heiligendamm, the THW provided first responders on site with flexibility for changing circumstances, an always-on network, plus a variety of office communication tools for its tasks during the G8 Summit. Via satellite link, the system offered full office communication capabilities with as many as 96 telephone extensions (transmission speed 0.8 Mbit/s) and one data line with download speeds of up to 2 Mbit/s.
We received very good feedback from the THW users. The first responders, all volunteers and not satellite communication professionals, pointed the antenna by pressing a button, were on air within minutes, and started telephoning and accessing their home databases. Georef-data, press reports, satellite maps, radio recordings, pictures and mission data were transmitted to THWs headquarters in Bonn, reports Ulrich Kiebler, VP Government & Commercial of ND SatCom.
Successful management was the end result, courtesy of satcom innovation and ND Satcom.
Ulrich Kiebler is the Vice President, Government & Commercial of ND SatCom, a leading global supplier of satellite-based broadband VSAT, broadcast, government and defence communication network and ground station solutions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.