For decades, the satellite industry has achieved steady growth by meeting end-user demand for reliable, cost-effective communications for a wide variety of applications. Each day, thousands of corporations, broadcasters, government agencies and other organizations worldwide depend upon immediate access to satellite networks for Internet connectivity, video conferencing, LAN/WAN interconnections, distance learning, point-of-sale transactions and VoIP.
Over the past several years, Radio-Frequency Interference (RFI) has become a critical threat to satellite communications. The many RFI incidents reported each year create obstacles for daily operations. Ultimately, end users pay a high price as RFI disrupts television signals, data transmissions and other customer services hindering business growth.
To promote an interference-free space environment, Intelsat recently launched the Intelsat Interference Management Initiative (I3). As the worlds leading provider of fixed satellite services, Intelsats I3 team is driving a far-reaching effort. The initiative will ensure technicians obtain proper training. It will increase the quality of data and communications regarding RFI events within the satellite community. It will also guarantee proper alerts are implemented to reduce reaction times when RFI occurs. This initiative includes industry-wide activities to reduce RFI on a global level, as well as Intelsat-driven activities focused on enhancing customer and operation-center expertise.
The first step toward maintaining an interference-free space environment is to actively provide the means to train the user community. This will ensure they have the technical knowledge to responsibly access global satellite networks, without creating unintended interference for other users. To meet this goal, Intelsat is endorsing programs to train VSAT installers and satellite newsgathering (SNG) field operators.
Training For VSAT Installers
For VSAT installers, Intelsat is endorsing training from the Global VSAT Forums (GVF) training and certification program. The GVF courses educate technicians on proper equipment installation and operational parameters of VSAT networks.
Intelsats goal is to train 1,200 customers through 2011, free of charge. Additionally, Intelsat negotiated a discounted rate to encourage all Intelsat-customer technicians to be trained.
Likewise, GVF is providing a 50 percent discount on training for technicians who work for organizations based in developing countries. The discounted rate is part of the Andrew Werth-GVF Scholarship Program.
The GVFs VSAT Installation Certification training program has served as the industry-standard since 2002. The program has been continually updated and is now delivered via a combination of online, interactive, simulator-driven training modules and formal hands-on skills testing all managed through the GVF training portal at www.gvf.coursehost.com.
The new GVF510 (Core Skills for Satellite Technicians) online course includes intensive instruction and practice using 3-D simulators. Upon completion of the course, and demonstration of their hands-on skills, technicians will receive the new GVF Basic VSAT Installer Certification. The certification indicates that a technician understands the importance of interference mitigation and has the skills to minimize interference when installing a VSAT.
Training For SNG Field Operators
As part of Intelsats customer-driven initiative, we also have purchased a number of sessions on BeaconSeeks SlingPath SNG online training program. After evaluating a number of training programs against Intelsats technical requirements, we selected SlingPath as one of the I3s approved training programs. Over the years, employees and contractors of Fox News, ABC News, Al Jazeera and Arqiva, among others, have successfully completed the SlingPath training. We believe SlingPath is ideally suited to meet the complex technical requirements of SNG field operators. Similar to the GVF program, Intelsat will offer this training, free of charge, to our customers. We will also continue supporting our customers by facilitating this training course at a reduced rate.
Improving Industry-Wide QoS
In addition to comprehensive customer training, Intelsats I3 strategy includes a wide range of industry initiatives. These include the establishment of a robust Carrier ID System, a Data Sharing program and a Satellite Operator RFI Alert Network.
Carrier ID System
Intelsat, along with other satellite operators and the Satellite User Interference Reduction Group (SUIRG), is working with hardware manufacturers to implement a Carrier ID system. The system will ensure each signal uplinked to a satellite has an embedded identification signature similar to an electronic fingerprint. This signature will provide the emergency contact information of the interference source to satellite operators, allowing satellite operators to quickly resolve the interference incident.
Data Sharing Program
The open exchange of operational data is imperative for numerous critical satellite operator procedures, including interference ID, analysis and RFI geolocation. The Data Sharing project will create a central depository where satellite operators can standardize, formalize and automate these procedures.
Satellite Operator RFI Alert Network
The Satellite Operator RFI Alert Network is designed to assist operators who have exhausted their preliminary investigation and suspect that the interfering signal may be from a source outside their particular network. The goal of the Satellite Operator RFI Alert Network is to reduce the duration of customer-impacting RFI events.
For the I3 initiative to be successful, satellite operators, manufacturers, industry organizations and end-users must prioritize interference mitigation within their own technical operations and ensure that field technicians and engineers have appropriate skills.
By sharing critical information on interference incidents and resolutions, and properly training technicians, the satellite and end-user communities can gain significant ground in mitigating RFI. Together, we can ensure the effectiveness of end-user operations and continued strong growth for everyone involved in global satellite communications.
Opening graphic courtesy of Grand Canyon University