Government comms
Issue 5 | April 2014
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THOUGHT LEADERSHIP
Robert Demers, Vice President for Government Services at Thuraya, outlines how the Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) industry is adapting product offerings for government communications and responding to emerging BYOD trends.
What are the main communications challenges facing government end-users today? And how is the MSS industry responding to these challenges?

Demers: A number of things are happening simultaneously. With the global economy still in a slow recovery mode, government budgets will remain constrained. At the same time, governments have to ensure that their ICT infrastructure deployed for national interests is properly secured. Correspondingly, the government sector also needs to leverage the rise of the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT). This shift towards an interconnected network of devices, which will enable users to “control” devices from other devices, will further drive up security requirements for government users.

For government organizations, the ability to stay connected is mission-critical. MSS operators therefore need to develop practical, cost-effective and secure solutions to help governments work around constraints and respond to emerging challenges — solutions that are compatible with dynamic markets and architectures. Increasingly, the MSS industry has an important role to play in enabling government users to address “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) demands, by empowering end-users to use their own smartphones, apps and address book for work-related purposes over a satellite network. With this type of technology end-users are able to employ a familiar communications device in a new and efficient manner, enabling them to focus on their work tasks and increasing their effectiveness in conducting their primary mission.

Indeed, the hot topic at the moment is the impact of BYOD on the government sector. What kind of role does a MSS operator play in facilitating the use of personal devices in, say, remote deployment and harsh environments?

Demers: BYOD appears to be here to stay. It is important for MSS operators to ensure that their service offerings are compatible with government users’ requirements, architectures and BYOD policies — and then, innovate around devices that users depend on and are familiar with in their daily lives. For government users, the key here is that the devices being used are interoperable with other devices and end-user architectures without them having to change their Concept of Operations (CONOP).

There is great potential for MSS operators to play a more proactive role in customizing new, value-added solutions for government use, as well as enable BYOD devices for multi-modal use: native networks, satellite, and mixed use.

Thuraya is focused on collaborating with our government customers, developers and distribution channels to gain a deeper understanding of evolving user requirements, and ensuring our products are compatible with their communication needs. This is reflected in how we developed the Thuraya SatSleeve, a satellite adaptor that pioneered the BYOD concept in the satellite industry. Today, the SatSleeve is increasingly used by government organizations and was recently deployed in aiding humanitarian relief operations during Typhoon Haiyan. This unique technology allowed first responders to utilize effective, interoperable field communications, and concentrate on their relief mission. Satellite technology became more than a tool: it became a real enabler.

A critical concern when it comes to government communications is security. Can you update us on how the mobile satellite sector can help ensure secure networks to facilitate BYOD for government users?

Demers: Government users require assured, secure, and reliable mobile satellite communications to connect to their headquarters and communicate safely within closed user groups. As such, MSS operators need to employ a high level of communications security across their networks to ensure that the security characteristics of its satellite systems and products are compatible with the operational security requirements of the government sector.

Thuraya is committed to ensuring the safety and security of government end-users in the countries where we are licensed to operate. We pride ourselves in constantly upgrading our satellite networks, and delivering satellite communications systems that boast industry-leading security features. And, by leveraging our deep understanding of the latest MSS developments, Thuraya is able to support government users by delivering the highest standards of infrastructure security.

A good example is our collaboration with our service partner TrustComm to develop “Starlight”, a MSS platform that provides advanced capabilities with added security features to meet the expanding requirements of the Department of Defense (DoD) in the United States. Thuraya is also capable of reconfiguring our network to allow government users to access our services in a manner that significantly reduce the risks of tracing and hacking. The importance of having qualified and disciplined personnel should not be overlooked too. At Thuraya, we have a highly experienced team of engineers who have the necessary expertise to support government users in addressing security issues.

What are other emerging challenges in the foreseeable future of government communications that satellite technology can help address?

Demers: Moving forward, I believe that national governments need to consider collaborating more extensively with the MSS industry to address the increased demand for seamless integration between terrestrial and satellite communications. Instead of building their own satellite networks from scratch, government users can explore the option of working with commercial satellite operators to design, build and launch specialized solutions in a more efficient and cost-effective manner — or at least provide the commercial sector with access to government-level discussions.

When this happens, the potential for satellite operators to develop scalable capacity offerings to support current needs, as well as facilitate future Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and mobile applications. Another benefit is that there is a greater ability to achieve some degree of long-term cost stability. Finally, as engagements evolve, interoperability among joint, coalition and government partners will be critical.

To keep pace and stay in front of new developments, the MSS industry is developing tailored government communication solutions that are adaptable to changing environments and interoperable across disparate network infrastructures. Thuraya is currently exploring ways to enable flexible network arrangements, such as self-forming networks/ nodes, so that end-users can quickly and easily set up network coverage in the wake of a disaster or other types of coalition operations. This is an efficient hybrid wireless solution for communications within pre-defined user groups integrating different technologies.

Another trend is the MSS industry supporting the government sector in building new devices to meet emerging communication needs. The recently launched VIPturbo Module, with its Software-Defined Radio (SDR) technology, is a product that will potentially disrupt the industry and help governments develop some degree of cost stability. With this, we are able to significantly reduce development timelines and lower costs for new satellite terminals. We are confident that new technology capabilities and products such as the VIPturbo Module will transform how government communications are being developed and used today and for the foreseeable future.
ARTICLES
OPENING MESSAGE
Transforming Government Communications with Satellite

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Steering the Next Wave of Connected Vehicles

TrustComm and Thuraya Launch Starlight Mobile Satellite Services

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Facilitating the Future of Government Communications

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Saving lives with mission-critical communications

Accelerating Product Development, Unlocking New Opportunities for Innovation

Securing Communications with Vocality’s ELITE Fusion