author: Martin Coleman, Director, Colem
Spotting interference when it occurs is great and helps to reduce interference, but better than reduced interference would be no interference at all.
Carrier ID + Training
Carrier ID and the training initiatives are, without doubt, an important step to reducing interference and, in fact, they are the first step and should become standard practice. By issuing an ID to all satellite carriers and ensuring they receive a decent level of training, interference can be stopped at source with immediate effect.
That said, with effective implementation of carrier ID throughout the transmission chain and training as an integral part of all installation and operational practises, then what?
We need to look beyond current thinking and remember that more must be done. We need to start new initiatives now, not wait until we have ID and training in place. Better than reducing interference surely would be to stop it completely, that is possible but only if we get in control.
According to the Satellite Users Interference Reduction Group (SUIRG), as much as 80 percent of satellite interference is unintentional and short-lived with a whole host of different factors leading to errors being made. Of course, that is natural people make mistakes and equipment goes awry.
In a broadcast environment, for example, any operation is vulnerable those at most risk are the SNG vehicle, Flyaway and VSAT terminals. To avoid, or warn, of impending errors is a must! Better prediction, error reporting, and automation of the RF transmit chain is mandatory.
Indeed, I often find it surprising broadcasters dont already have more tools integrated into their uplink functionality. To some extent, tools for the simplest tasks could make a difference, such as logging events and operations. Such would make it quick and easy for any operator to have an overview of all the happenings of that ground station and quickly flag up any operational errors.
Through discussions within SUIRG, World Broadcasting Union - International Satellite Operations Group (WBU-ISOG) and at trade shows, I have been focusing our own products on some of those areas that will help our clients. I am a strong believer in bringing together and sharing those ideas of others to get new thinking and solutions to market.
In my opinion there are three areas that should be tackled immediately...
i.Improved systems, to allow predictive and preemptive error reporting and full monitoring and automation of the RF transmit chain;
ii. Cost effective add-on tools to allow automated detection and analysis of impending problems and thus avoid interference at source;
iii. The future design and capability of the satellite itself to detect problems directly from its orbit.
Taking each area in turn
I have, personally, always been a great advocate of automation or simplifying the operation of any transmission system, which significantly reduces both equipment and human error. For items 1 and 2 automation, quality monitoring and reasonable control is fundamental.
To predict or preempt a problem, you must first have a reasonable monitoring system in place. Surprisingly, many broadcasters have little input from the RF Transmit chain. Without flexible Monitoring and Control, it will difficult to add tools to help operations improve their ability to get things right, every time.
Broadcasters constantly use the term workflow but rarely apply that philosophy to anything outside the editors domain. Workflow should be inherent in all parts of the broadcast system.
Item 3 is something that often is discussed in closed military circles but this thinking should be applied to all future commercial satellites. We have to start thinking now, so that we may have the hope of getting new features for satellites being considered, bearing in mind a minimum time of 10 years to change.
During the SUIRG conference this year, members started to think about on-board satellite technology that could directly help trace incoming transmissions such as
iv. On-board Predictive and Scheduled transmission planning
v. On-board geo-location
vi. The ability to optically view the source.
Combining this with current efforts to reach the shop floor, rather than have discussions behind closed doors, has proved to be invaluable.
Incorporting The Colem Supremacy
The key in my mind to combating interference is to not limit our view to current efforts. It is not simply about the video group but about the other groups of SUIRG (VSAT and Data) and those within the industry introducing the latest training programs, who, equally, are taking that initial but crucial step towards the common goal of eradicating interference.
In order to do that effectively, we need to use carrier ID and training initiatives as a building block, rather than as the entire solution. These measures will reduce interference but once in place, we as an industry need to building on those. That thinking process that started at the SUIRG conference, especially regarding satellite technology, is just the start and needs work. The hope is that a working group of members in 2011 will engage and formulate such future thinking. It is imperative.
As we continue to deliver the basics, we also continue to grow our products and technology and, for once, share that information with the industry.
By enticing people to discuss and share their information and ideas is the only way to make a significant impact on solving the interference challenges, once and for all.
About the author
Martin Coleman is the Director of Colem