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How NGOs and Aid Agencies Can Protect Themselves from Infrastructure Failure

31 January 2017
How NGOs and Aid Agencies Can Protect Themselves from Infrastructure Failure

Hybrid solutions are nothing new in the telecommunications industry. The need for redundancy and backup solutions to ensure business continuity have existed since the early days. Normally done by duplicating capacity and infrastructure from additional providers, these solutions were often limited to governments and companies with the cash flow to afford them and the infrastructure to support it.

Now, new communication innovations provide NGOs affordable contingency connections. This new technology comes in the form of a hybrid solution between traditional fibre connection and satellite internet (VSAT).

But wait, isn’t internet by satellite expensive?

In the past, internet by satellite was one of the most expensive forms of communication. With a large upfront hardware investment, limited competition between satellite operators, a little amount of capacity (the amount of data a satellite can manage), high latency (time/delay to receive the data), satellite internet was reserved for governments, media organisations and large corporations.

However, newer satellites have much higher capacity, and, with lower latency from new orbits, new frequencies (Ka-band) and new transponders, this means that there is now an abundance of more
affordable capacity.

Ka-band satellites provide a cost-effective way to bring connections to markets that previously considered internet access too expensive. Unlike C-band and Ku-band VSAT internet, the upfront cost is lower for Ka-band and users can install the equipment themselves. Where C-band satellite internet would require a dish 2-3 meters in diameter, a Ka-band dish can be less than 90cm. Alongside making it easier, cheaper and quicker to transport and install, this smaller size also reduces power requirements – meaning Ka-band dishes can even be operated under solar and battery powered combinations.

OK, but why would I want a satellite connection alongside my fibre
connection?

The benefits of an internet connection are obvious to everyone. Nowadays, a reliable and fast internet connect is vital to reduce geographical distances that previously would have isolated organisations working in remote locations.

In areas where fibre is limited or only has one entry point to the rest of the world, it can put businesses in a perilous position. What if something happens to that connection – such as a natural disaster or government censorship? Many fibre routes traverse multiple countries – can the route be guaranteed? If fibre connections were cut, how long would it be before NGOs and businesses felt the consequences? Hours, days, months? That geographical distance just got a whole lot larger.

For countless operations, it would leave a severe negative impact if this occurs, even for a few hours. If you have fibre in a remote location, it is a gamble for businesses to rely on a sole connection from a single provider.

Adding satellite to the communications mix is no longer prohibitively expensive and can provide a reassuring back up for when things go wrong. It can be used as an alternative or in parallel to existing fibre, or dormant until the bandwidth is required in an emergency.

So, how do I choose a hybrid solution?

Not all VSAT services are made equal. While many companies can provide you with satellite internet – with many overpriced or offer a poor quality of service, an ‘occasional use’ satellite connection could provide the answer, only used when your fibre connection fails.

Alongside this, you need to consider how a service provider manages your connection:

  • Is there port-blocking or website blocking?
  • Is there a fair usage policy
  • Are you limited to a certain amount of data download/upload?
  • Is there a way to for you to monitor the service independently? Can you verify you get the service that you are paying for?
  • Is there prioritisation for certain services (such as voice over data)?

For the best possible quality of service, there should be no port-blocking or fair usage policy. But there should also be methods to monitor your satellite connection to ensure you are getting the service you are paying for, whilst being able to prioritise what form of communication an operation needs most.

Needless to say, Talia provides this solution for a variety of SME, NGOs and multinational corporations.

Talia will be participating at the Aid and Development Africa Summit 2017. For more information visit africa.aidforum.org

Image Source: Satellite internet can reduce geographical distance

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