SD and COMSAT join forces to support hurricane relief in Puerto Rico

December 11, 2017
Written by Satcom Direct
Satcom Direct and COMSAT have announced that the two organizations worked to ensure highly reliable satellite communications were immediately available for first responders in Puerto Rico to support the relief effort of Hurricane Maria. Amidst catastrophic damage and a major humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, Inmarsat’s Global Xpress service enabled first responders to communicate within minutes of arrival using rapid mission-critical high-throughput connectivity, thus allowing public safety, medical and other emergency response teams to swiftly and reliably fulfill their mission.

Inmarsat’s Global Xpress, the world’s first and only high-throughput commercial Ka-band network available from a single operator, enables first responders to benefit from Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN)-style ease of operation and immediate access to high data rate applications such as high-speed internet, live full-motion video and video teleconferencing. Delivered as a managed subscription service, Global Xpress SATCOM as a Service terminals are ‘out of the box’ ready – set up to service in less than seven minutes. Like a mobile phone service, SATCOM as a Service delivers an always on network and the ability to connect anywhere in the world without additional fees or premiums.

One-touch commissioning automated the process of setting up the Global Xpress terminals, removing the manual network commissioning processes required for traditional VSAT systems. Once deployed, high-data connectivity was established, consistently delivering rates up to 4 Mbps from the remote terminal and 14 Mbps to the terminal. No pre-configuration or pre-planning was required to establish connectivity. Both Satcom Direct and COMSAT were able to transport Global Xpress terminals as checked luggage, and then set up in minutes once on the island.

Once on the ground, the Satcom Direct and COMSAT teams rapidly set up and delivered SATCOM solutions that were responsive to coverage needs and easy for first responders to operate; essentially providing the first reliable connectivity since the hurricane.

Shortly after arrival in country, Satcom Direct technicians travelled to the Wyndham Properties in Rio Grande, on the north east coast of Puerto Rico, and deployed the Global Xpress service utilizing two Cobham 5075GX terminals. This gave the resort dearly needed communications – and the only means of connectivity on the island for a 60 mile radius. The Wyndham hotel has since replicated the Global Xpress solution at their St. Thomas resort—providing vital communications capabilities.

“We quickly assessed the situation and requirements and delivered a ‘turn-key’ solution familiar to BGAN users where first responders could simply set the terminal up in a few minutes and then plug it in to be on the network. Time is of the essence in serious situations like what we saw in Puerto Rico,” said Sean Stevenson, SD Land and Mobile Solutions Product Manager.

For several days, Satcom Direct and COMSAT technicians traveled with off-duty San Juan police officers helping restore communications by setting up hot spots for phone and texting services. The team stood up a communication solution using Cobham SATCOM EXPLORER 5075 auto-acquire flyaway Global Xpress terminal at the Puerto Rico Science, Technology & Research Trust to support the flow of humanitarian aid into Puerto Rico, and to connect local members of the community with working phones. In addition, the team pulled together the logistics required to install a communication package composed of Cobham EXPLORER 5075A terminal and a Cisco Rapid Response Kit (RRK). The logistics included helicopter transport to the PR Emergency Management Agency (PREMA) location at Ceiba, for the crucial restoration of communications to the city’s emergency operations center.

“When terrestrial and other land-based communication systems shut down, our teams were able to set up Global Xpress terminals quickly and easily, and support tactical command and control operations with completely reliable, resilient and interoperable voice, video and information system capabilities. This enabled first responders to spend minimal time installing, troubleshooting and configuring, and all time on the mission,” said David Greenhill, President of COMSAT.

There are a lot of high-throughput options out there, but none matched the ease of use, simplicity, and reliability of the Inmarsat’s solution.”

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