Category Archives: Technology

iDirect Year in Review

As 2014 comes to close, the satellite industry can reflect back on a year of great Mary Cottonopportunity and working transition.

Front-and-center throughout the year was the topic of high throughput satellite (HTS). But HTS remains a long-term endeavor. Looking ahead, much work will focus on how HTS changes the ways in which networks are designed, services are offered and operations are managed.

Aside from HTS, this past year brought forth continued growth within key satellite markets, as well as increased demand for high bandwidth networks across many traditional markets. Markets like cellular backhaul and mobility present ample opportunity for satellite to display its unique set of value propositions.

Mary Cotton, CEO of iDirect, expounds on both topics and more in a featured satellite year-in-review article published by SatMagazine. Click here to read this exclusive piece.

Why an NMS is Critical to Service Quality

We recently sat down with Chris Burdick, iDirect’s Vice President, Product Management,Chris Burdick NMS, to better understand the importance of the Network Management System (NMS) as the critical “glue” that binds all parts of a satellite communications platform together.

iDirect:  Have Network Management Systems (NMSs) have been underappreciated by the industry?

Chris:  I think service providers have always understood the importance of network management because it’s essential to the deployment of their networks and operation of their services. The more sophisticated the service provider, the more they see the need for a powerful NMS, especially when they start looking at combining terrestrial links with satellite to form a complete end-to-end network. This has been one of the reasons iDirect has been successful:  we understood from day one how important network management is. Our customers saw the NMS tools we provided and were impressed by how easy it was to set-up and run a network; it was very compelling.

But as for equipment and network element manufacturers in general… quite often, the NMS has been considered an afterthought. I think manufacturers are in love with the technology of transferring bits across a satellite without really thinking about how that scales for a service provider. For them, the NMS becomes little more than a series of check-boxes. They don’t take the time to truly understand how service providers will use the hardware and manage their business day to day. But at iDirect, we’ve made it a point to work closely with our customers and understand how they operate, because we know that an NMS touches every aspect of a service provider’s business and can have a major impact.

iDirect:  As an example of that impact, how are monitoring and service quality closely linked?

Chris:  The NMS establishes the configuration that governs how the various pieces of equipment work, individually and together, and a critical part of that configuration is quality of service. End users buy a certain type of service and they expect it to work as advertised. You can’t possibly offer any type of guaranteed or even contended service on a TDMA network without being able to specifically define how that service is supposed to behave, and then being able to prove to yourself and to your customers that it’s actually behaving that way. Read More

Essential Network Management

We recently sat down with Chris Burdick, iDirect’s Vice President, Product Management, NMS, to better understand the importance of the Network Management System (NMS) as the critical “glue” that binds all parts of a satellite communications platform together.

iDirect:  What is a Network Management System (NMS)?

Chris:  A Network Management System controls and manages the components of a communications network. We call all the separate components of hardware in a network, such as satellite routers, “network elements.” An NMS controls all these interconnected elements, similar to the way an operating system controls the services on a computer.

iDirect:  What are the key functions the NMS provides?

Chris:  At its core, an NMS provides configuration, control, monitoring, and reporting capabilities. Configuration allows users to define the operating parameters of all network elements, and ensures that the configuration is consistent across all the parts of the network so network communication is properly maintained. Control refers to the process of making specific configurations operational on the network elements, and also ensures the correct version of software/firmware is applied to those elements.

Monitoring allows users to examine the performance of elements, detects any anomalous conditions that may raise alarms, and offers real-time debugging tools to investigate those alarms and resolve them. The NMS also provides longer-term reporting capabilities, allowing for trend analysis, usage based accounting, and other types of historical reporting on how network elements have behaved over time. Read More

The ARC to Success

Dave DavisDave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, iDirect Europe 

The recent Global MilSatcom conference was a roaring success.

For the uninitiated, Global MilSatcom is THE annual catch up on all things military and Satcom. As always, there are generic themes that weave their way through the conference and this year was no exception, with notable mentions going to Comms-on-the-Move (COTM), Aero platforms, the additional requirements for training and welfare, SWaP, and of course UAS.

However, there are constant themes that reappear on an annual basis and this is summed up using the acronym ARC, or Affordability, Resilience and Capability. Some even suggested we should start a drinking game and every time a speaker mentions one of these three, we all sip from a glass of our chosen tipple. If we did do this, I doubt many people would make it to day two of the conference.

Affordability-Resilience-Capability

Affordability is absolutely key in today’s constrained budgets. I, for one, was surprised to see the figures on the declining percentage of GDP spent on military communications. Don’t get me wrong, a smaller percentage of an increasing amount is still very, very significant, but it’s an indicator of the economic times and even the mighty BRICS still have to be frugal and get the most bang for their buck. Read More

Talia US Launches Mobile Comms Vehicle and Global MPLS Expansion to the Americas at OilComm 2014

From Talia

Oilcomm-2014-Talia-smart-carTalia looks set to turn heads at their exhibition at OilComm 2014, by launching their new Mobile Communications Vehicle, which is sure to take remote communication to the next level.

OilComm, the Oil and Gas Industry’s annual expo, which sees professionals from both Oil and Gas companies come together to view the new technologies and solutions available to them, is running over 3 days in November and is the leading forum for oil and gas industry experts. The conference and expo will host some great keynote speakers and displays of new and improved technology, tailored to making the industry smarter. Talia will therefore be likely to catch the eye of many of the attendees here by showcasing their Mobile Communication vehicle at their exhibition space.

The global communication experts, who have recently set up a regional office in The Woodlands, Texas, headed up by ex Orange America’s Kurt Spindle, have long been providing solutions to those in need of remote comms. Their main service offerings are to those in the Oil and Gas and Construction industries, and have put their expertise to good use by developing this vehicle, which will be enable a satellite connection to be driven to almost any location in the world. Read More

Find a Satellite the Easy Way with SatMotion Pocket

Dave DavisBy Dave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, iDirect Europe

In my last blog, “Advanced technology comes with challenges,” I discussed three challenges that come with employing advanced satellite technology. As well as interoperability and the requirement to manage divergent networks, one of the key challenges facing troops on the ground is the increasing complexity of satellite technology and the training required to be able to set up a satellite terminal and commission it into an existing network. Add to this a high-pressure environment and you have the necessity to be able to set equipment up rapidly and with ease.

The next-gen remotes iDirect offers, the 950mp and 9350, will not only be more powerful than anything on offer currently, but they’ll also be easier to use. However, there’s a very powerful tool already on offer, which already makes commissioning remotes that much easier.

Some of the satellite terminals containing the iDirect board product, the e850mp, are designed to reduce the amount of interaction required, but the user still has to align the antenna and carry out basic commissioning protocols.

With a traditional VSAT (made up of an indoor router and an outdoor antenna, BUC and LNB), the issue becomes more pressing with a full line up required. Also, a knowledge of how to operate a spectrum analyser is needed, along with a back channel method of communications with a Network Operations Centre (NOC) to carry out the test, requiring a satellite phone, or similar. Read More

Advanced Technology Comes with Challenges

Dave DavisDave Davis, Sr. Systems Engineer, iDirect Europe

There has been a massive explosion in the amount of data being passed across satellite technologies over the last few years. In the military environment, the drivers are broadly the same and a need for high quality, or high volume video imagery is at the forefront.

Military surveillance is getting more and more sophisticated and technologies like Ultra High Definition (UHD) 4k imagery are being used to give an ever clearer picture of what’s happening on the front line. The requirement of backhauling this imagery from remote or temporary locations means that satellite links are the go-to technology.

Another technology driving the throughput of satellite links is cellular backhaul, where deployed bubbles or puddles of coverage, be it 3G or LTE, are used to connect the devices that are already deployed into the wider network seamlessly.

These devices operate as you would expect in any well served street at home. This is known as Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD. This also means that devices can be upgraded, replaced or adapted and will still connect anywhere, any time. The key word is interoperability, but it produces an increased reliance on satellite technology.

It is critical that we future-proof these satellite links for the next cellular generation, 5G. Although 5G, is “beyond 2020,” work has already started and it will no doubt, produce data requirements way above and beyond the current needs. A scalable, flexible platform is an absolute must to be able to cope with growth and change. Read More

VSAT Mission for Defence: Network Interoperability

Eric-WatkoBy Eric Watko, Vice President, Technology Initiatives

Throughout the past two decades, the telecommunications industry has transitioned from delivering dedicated circuits to now providing end-to-end services. Access networks are converging onto a common architecture, and satellite is following a similar course with full network convergence in its sights. However, when it comes to the defence and security sector, the idea of full network convergence becomes a bit more complicated.

The access landscape for defence looks like such: defence satellite Ka, Ku, X, commercial satellite Ka, Ku, C, and terrestrial access networks. Add to this the variety of infrastructure of secured teleport and commercial teleport, and you begin to see where things get a bit more complicated.

Let’s paint the picture with a common scenario. A national ministry of defence wants to launch a Ka-band defence network. It may wish to operate on a commercially available platform to cover the areas of operation that are not covered by its own satellite network. Roaming onto the other satellite networks might be an ideal choice.

However, this requires a level of management and control across satellite networks of various operators. This level of interoperability doesn’t quite exist today.

Of course, interoperability challenges are coupled with other challenges, including the high cost of capacity, no common management plane and interface, and ease of use and performance.

At iDirect, we believe the strategy requires addressing the issue of convergence across multiple fronts. Read More

Preparing for a Network 2020 Environment: The Industry Responds

Cisco_Watko_Hi_RezOver the past two weeks Eric Watko, iDirect’s vice president, telecoms and space systems, has helped set the framework for satellite’s ultimate role in the broader converged end-to-end network. And the industry is responding in a positive manner.

Presenting at VSAT 2014 on the topic ‘Preparing for a Network 2020 Environment’, along with a follow-up webinar hosted by Via Satellite last week, Watko outlined the opportunity for satellite playing a broader role in the converged end-to-end network. As communication demands continue to evolve and the need for every access technology to work together within the network becomes more apparent, satellite provides the global reach, resiliency and specialized services necessary for achieving this global IP connectivity.

Watko addressed the technical details associated with gaps that exist with regards to helping satellite become part of this core network, including the need for this industry to embrace modern IP networking standards, among others.

Following the webinar Watko fielded a series of questions related to the topic. Attendees were interested in a wide range of topics, including what this will ultimately mean for the future of the value chain, new markets and enabling technologies. Here is a sample of this dialogue with the market, post webinar:

The role of the satellite service provider: When asked how the role of the satellite service provider will change in this new environment of the converged end-to-end network, Watko outlined a landscape where they become more aggressive with the ability to discover new opportunities. Whereas in the past the terrestrial service provider would be in position to leverage more opportunities, he sees the satellite service provider being able to move up the value chain, expand their influence and offer additional services. Read More

An NMS Must Extend Across All Systems

By Chris Burdick, VP Product Management NMS, and Guy Adams, VP Systems Architecture NMS

During this blog series, we’re taking time to explore iDirect’s vision for what an ultimate Network Management System (NMS) would look like and how it should positively impact your business. In the last two posts, we examined improvements in operational productivity and the customer experience.

In order to produce the maximum benefit, the NMS should be integrated with other operational and support systems, in order to effectively communicate with the terrestrial networks that are part of a customers’ total communications environment. Then you can operate at peak performance and serve customers at the highest quality possible.

Open yet secure Web Service API technology plays a key role here. It enables the NMS to connect with other business systems, such as those that manage billing and inventory. This further streamlines NOC operations by synchronizing multiple independent systems and reducing human error. For example, if a remote is being deployed at a new customer site, an integrated NMS would be able to automatically upload remote specifications from the inventory system and then modify the inventory records to indicate when the remote has been provisioned and to what customer assigned.

NMS4-iDirectThe NMS should have a modular design that makes it easy to upgrade components without disturbing the entire platform. This would be true whether developing code to further customize NOC operations, incorporating an off-the-shelf plug-in that enables interaction with a popular billing package or adding a core module tailored for mobility networks that can launch a new mobility-based service plan. Read More