Spearheading a New Era of Satellite M2M Services

Phil Berry, Vice President, ViaSat, gives an update on its collaboration with Thuraya to develop a dedicated satellite machine-to-machine (M2M) platform to address the most challenging market requirements.

In recent years, there has been a surge of interest in M2M communications, and for good reason. Its vast business benefits, such as enabling higher production capacity and enhanced security, have spurred many companies to integrate M2M into their daily operations.

To tap into this emerging market, ViaSat recently entered a partnership with Thuraya to develop a highly secure, end-to-end managed M2M service to support diverse market applications. Targeted applications include the oil and gas sector, power grids, asset tracking and fleet management, as well as high-value point-of-sale and banking networks. The two companies aim to leverage their combined expertise to deliver a competitive M2M offering.

Phil Berry, Vice President, ViaSat, said: “ViaSat has a long history of programs that have enhanced and evolved military narrow-band technology in the United States and international markets. This invaluable experience is now being applied to our partnership with Thuraya. We believe Thuraya’s powerful satellite constellation and its RF gateway in Sharjah are key contributors to the superior capabilities our new M2M network can offer.”

ViaSat operates the latest state-of-the-art satellite networking that enables IP connectivity to small, inexpensive fixed and mobile devices. Together with Thuraya’s L-band network, this technology represents the potential for a disruptive M2M service that delivers more efficient utilisation of the satellite bandwidth. For instance, the ViaSat-Thuraya platform can accommodate a larger number of active M2M devices within a single beam, enabling energy, utilities, logistic and enterprise SCADA networks.

“We have developed a platform that can support a large number of M2M devices without requiring multiple satellite channels. In addition, the service brings greater value to customers with high security, high availability, low latency, multicast and push-to-talk capabilities. The combination of these unique capabilities in a single network enables new and improved M2M services for better situation awareness, and enhanced remote monitoring and mobile asset tracking operations,” Berry explained.

A core component of Thuraya and ViaSat's M2M strategy is to develop a secure service for government and military end-use. As such, this new M2M network provides the highest level of commercial encryption on all mobile data traffic, and can support the use of external encryption if required.

Berry is highly optimistic that the Thuraya-ViaSat service will have a profound impact on core M2M market segments, especially in providing M2M application developers with the ideal platform to develop new IP-based applications and services.

"This partnership has the potential to lead satellite M2M services into a new era. We will continue working with key industry players to improve on existing applications, and at the same time facilitate the development of new, innovative ways of managing and monitoring fixed and mobile assets," Berry concluded.

 

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Cyber-Hardening: why it is critical to satellite communications

Satellite hacking incidents can wreak havoc in areas ranging from terrestrial communications to military operations, oil and gas pipeline integrity, and financial markets. In this guest blog, Conrad Smith, Chief Technology Officer of SRT Wireless, explains the importance of hardening commercial satellite communications, and how SRT Wireless has implemented safeguards against hacking into the VIPturbo modem for the Thuraya satellite network.

The satellite communications industry is abuzz with concern about cybersecurity, and for good reason.

Last spring, cybersecurity advisory firm IOActive released
a much-publicized report detailing multiple vulnerabilities in a wide range of commercial and military satellite communications systems. These vulnerabilities include digital backdoors built into computer codes, hard-coded credentials that allow easy access to devices, insecure language protocols, and weak encryption of communications channels.

The firm found that these vulnerabilities could allow hackers to intercept, manipulate, or block satellite communications—in some cases even take control of the satellite itself through something as simple as a text message containing a malicious code.

“If one of these devices is compromised, the entire satellite communications infrastructure could be at risk,” the report said. “Ships, aircraft, military personnel, emergency services, and industrial facilities, which include oil rigs, water treatment plants and gas pipelines, could be affected.”

Consequences of a breached infrastructure

Satellite security breaches have been reported as far back as 1999, when a group of hackers in the south of England utilized a home computer to change the “characteristics of channels used to convey military communications, satellite television and telephone calls.”

In 2007, Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka successfully hacked a U.S. Intelsat satellite in order to send pirated radio and television broadcasts to other countries.

And in 2008, hackers gained control of the NASA Terra EOS earth observation satellite twice—for two minutes in June and nine minutes in October.

Today, commercial vendors and the U.S. government alike must embrace hardening of their satellite communications systems. An attack on global positioning systems (GPS) alone could wreak havoc on global financial systems, where stock trading systems use GPS to synchronize with each other. Even a momentary discrepancy could cause a “Flash Crash” such as the one on May 6, 2010, in which the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost nine percent of its value within minutes.

Delivering enhanced security for satellite communications

These real-life incidents illustrate the critical importance of hardening—the proofing of satellite software and communications against outside interference—particularly as attacks are increasing in both frequency and sophistication.

To guard against cyber-attacks and mitigate potential damage, SRT Wireless, a Thuraya Service Partner, hardens its satellite modems prior to deployment. As a company with more than 15 years of experience serving customers in national security and law enforcement missions, we want to bring that level of protection to commercial customers.

To be specific, our software undergoes a series of vulnerability analyzes by a third party to identify and help close off potential cyber-attack methodologies. The areas analyzed include logical vulnerabilities as well as attacks based upon malformed packets. 

Added security assessments and adjustments need not mean an increase in the costs of modems. SRT’s VIPturbo modem packs more features into a smaller box at a lower price than our competitors.

The warning signs are clear, yet the solutions are available. While hardening may require new actions on the part of satellite communications providers and customers, the benefits will greatly reduce the potential for cybercrime and attacks on your operations.

For more information on SRT Wireless’s mobile satellite solutions, please visit http://srtwireless.net.

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Guest Blog: Communicating conservation with the Sahara Conservation Fund by John Newby

In an exciting new development, the Sahara Conservation Fund (SCF) has joined forces with Thuraya to vastly improve our capacity to communicate while in the field.

SCF’s mission is to conserve the wildlife, habitats and other natural resources of the Sahara and its bordering Sahelian grasslands. The vision is of a Sahara that is well conserved and where ecological processes function naturally, with plants and animals existing in healthy numbers across their historical range.

Over the next six months, we will benefit from Thuraya’s support with their XT satellite phone handsets, Thuraya IP broadband terminal and a SatSleeve satellite adaptor for our iPhone. If you follow us on our Facebook page, you will see how we’ve used the Thuraya equipment during our recent fieldtrips to Chad and Niger. 


In the picture above, SCF’s Director, John Newby and colleagues transmit news from Central Chad.

Not only will Thuraya’s equipment significantly enhance our communications outreach but will also allow virtually real-time reporting from the field to our sponsors and supporters. Apart from communicating our work, the partnership with Thuraya will also address two other extremely important aspects of our work in what are often isolated and potentially dangerous locations.


Thuraya IP satellite broadband terminal

Keeping in close contact with our teams on the ground greatly improves coordination and perhaps more importantly creates a safety net should anything go wrong while out of regular contact, such as a vehicle breakdown, a sick person or an accident.

SCF thanks Thuraya and its service partner, Satellite Communication for helping us on our mission. To learn more about the SCF, subscribe to our Sandscript bulletins!

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Lessons learned through adversity: A look back on the Everest avalanche tragedy

For many, mountaineering is not a sport that is taken lightly. An expedition takes intensive training, detailed planning and teams have to be prepared for anything to happen.

In April this year, Thuraya, its service partner, Applied Satellite Technology Systems US (AST Systems) and reseller, SatPhoneCity, sponsored the Madison Mountaineering climbing team with mobile satellite communications equipment on their expedition to the summit of Mount Everest. The team received a Thuraya IP satellite broadband terminal as well as airtime service for their expedition.

Thuraya’s satellite equipment enabled the team to receive detailed weather forecast reports as they planned their climbing strategy.  The weather forecasts provided the ability to gauge wind speeds and other atmospheric conditions to determine a favorable summit attempt. This "weather window" was crucial as it only happens for a few days each year and climbers must be ready to make the attempt when it happens. In addition to planning, the team also used Thuraya IP to communicate with family, friends, and their online fans through regular updates on their progress.

Highly experienced, the six-person Madison Mountaineering expedition started well. Team member, American high altitude climber and wing-suit explorer, Joby Ogywn had planned to execute a jump from the summit of Mt. Everest with a wing-suit flight down to base camp while other members would climb both Mt. Everest and Mt. Lhotse.

Sadly, on April 18 tragedy struck. While preparing the route up Mount Everest for the throng of commercial climbers, 16 Nepalese guides tragically lost their lives to a deadly avalanche. The incident is considered to be the most deadly mountaineering accident to have ever occurred on the world's highest peak. The Nepalese guides were in the process of carrying tents, food, ropes and other supplies to stock the camps higher on the mountain, ahead of the main climbing activity that would follow later that month.

The avalanche occurred at around 6:45 am (0100 GMT) at an altitude of about 5,800 meters (19,000 feet) in an area known as the "popcorn field," which lies on the route through the treacherous Khumbu icefall. Assisted by rescue helicopters, teams of climbers searched for survivors, with at least seven people plucked alive from the ice and snow.

“In the wake of the worst mountaineering disaster ever, the Madison Mountaineering team was able to communicate with the outside world using reliable satellite internet access with the Thuraya IP. This allowed the team to be very effective in communicating the rescue and recovery efforts as documented in the Discovery Channel’s program Everest Avalanche Tragedy,” said Garrett Madison, President and Co-Founder of Madison Mountaineering.

Unfortunately, three of the team’s climbing Sherpa were tragically killed in the avalanche. For Garrett and others involved in the rescue and recovery, simply reaching the site of the accident proved to be harrowing as they too had to climb through the icefall. During their ascent, they helped recover as many people as they could. The tragedy was deeply affecting and, in the end, the expedition was cancelled and the members headed home.

AST Systems’, Vice President, Robert Lorenzana extended his condolences, “We are genuinely distressed and saddened by this tragedy. Having connectivity with the Thuraya IP enabled the Madison Mountaineering team and other survivors to reach out to get help quickly.”

“For users who work in remote areas or have a taste for adventure outside the beaten track, we recommend that they use a Thuraya satellite phone or even satellite broadband terminal which enables connectivity beyond terrestrial reach.  Thuraya’s mobile satellite services are an excellent way of staying connected and protected while working or travelling in remote areas,” he added.

For more information on AST Systems, visit: www.ast-systems.us.com
 

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Gulf for Good: Making a difference through adventure challenges

This month we sat down with Gulf for Good’s Governor in Dubai, Tricia Evans, to catch up on their activities. Thuraya has been a regular supporter of Gulf for Good, a Dubai-based charity organization for a few years now. We learned more about how G4G’s programs helps both its participants and its beneficiaries.

October was a packed month for the G4G team, with two separate teams embarking on eight-day challenges in Mongolia and Africa. The objectives of our cause are two-fold; to motivate participants to push their personal limits through extraordinary journeys while having fun and also make a positive change on the lives of underprivileged children.

G4G works with individual participants as well as organizations on adventure challenges which support worthy charities in the same country of the challenge. We provide trip and route planning, equipment, ensuring that travel conditions are safe and that there is always a senior member on the trip to oversee activities. We facilitate these challenges by helping participants prepare for their journey with endurance as well as survival skills training. Furthermore, each G4G adventure challenge is led by a challenge representative, who is well supported by a highly experienced local teams of ground handlers and local guides. Additionally, we provide our teams with mobile satellite communications equipment from Thuraya that helps them stay connected while they are trekking though terrain with no terrestrial connectivity.

The recently concluded Wilds of Mongolia challenge was completed with great success. Participants helped New Choice Charity by raising sponsorships that will be used to build a children’s health center. The Children's Centre will be built 30km outside Ulaanbaatar in the Gachuurt Village and will provide underprivileged children with long term medical treatment and care. The Centre will also provide a learning and recreational environment for children with down's syndrome. Participants on this challenge tested their mettle in a series of activities that included trekking, cycling and horse riding through Mongolia’s spectacular mountain passes, dramatic gorges and sparkling lakes in the fascinating land of Genghis Khan. I was part of the Mongolia challenge, my eighth life-changing journey.

In October, we also organized the Kilimanjaro challenge in Africa for one of Dubai’s leading media organizations, OmnicomMediaGroup. The OMG corporate challenge supports two charities, working for children’s welfare and education in Tanzania and PalestineThe quest to conquer 'Kili' (as she is affectionately known) or Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and fourth highest of the Seven Summits is one of our most popular challenge. Kilimanjaro is considered the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, rising 15,100 feet (4,600 meters) from base to summit. It is also the most prominent mountain in Africa. The team took the Marangu route on the eastern side of the mountains, where we trekked through dramatically varying terrains including rain forests, meadows, moorlands and 'The Saddle' - a high altitude, 5km wide desert. The journey took us to the renowned Gilman's Point (5,681m) and the glaciated summit at Uhuru Peak (5,895m).

These adventure challenges are often described as a life changing journey by participants who stretch their limits; pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone and most importantly enjoying the challenge and experience, as can we see from the pictures that they share regularly.  Even better, almost 60 percent of our participants return to do another challenge.

Often because of the nature of the challenge, the challengers are cut off from civilization and modern amenities like the internet and the phone for most of their journey. Mobile satellite communication becomes the best way of ensuring that the group is connected with the G4G ground teams in case of any emergency. This communication channel also acts as a back-up for teams to send regular updates and pictures to the G4G team in Dubai. Communicating via satellite provides us with a sense security and peace of mind; knowing that we reach out touch if needed.

Working in G4G has been an amazing experience. Helping people overcome their personal challenges as well as working with charities has been highly rewarding and fulfilling. It is an experience that I recommend people undertake at least once in their life.

For any budding participants who would like to take on a G4G Challenge, I recommend joining our social media pages and attending our events. All the information about the challenges and events is available on our website. Review the information with your family, friends and colleagues. Who knows, they may want to come along for a life-changing journey for good cause! You can also sponsor a friend who has signed up for a challenge to help them meet their target. And if you would like to see more of our adventures, become our social media support and share our stories via our Facebook page.

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Racing with the world’s best at the Palermo–Montecarlo Regatta 2014

Thuraya and its Service Partner, Intermatica, were proud sponsors of maritime satellite communications equipment for the B2 Monaco Racing Fleet

This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Palermo–Montecarlo Regatta, an international offshore race that attracted some of the world’s top teams. Held from August 21 – 26, 2014, the race ran along the breathtaking seacapes of the Gulf of Mondello through to the entrance of Monaco.

“The Palermo-Montecarlo is world’s most challenging and beautiful regatta. It is the only race involving three major islands in the Mediterranean Sea,” said renowned Italian sailor and former regatta champion, Mauro Pelaschier. “It is 500 nautical miles that departed from Sicily, with a transition in Costa Smeralda (between Sardinia and Corsica) that ended in the Principauté de Monaco, a spectacular but highly technical regatta.”

Organized by the Circolo della Vela Sicilia and the Yacht Club de Monaco, in collaboration with the Yacht Club Costa Smeralda, the Palermo-Montecarlo attracted a total of 40 boats, almost twice the number since last year. Illustrious participants included the fleet led by Pierre Casiraghi, son of Princess Carolina of Monaco and of Stefano Casiraghi, winner of the regatta in 2013. The awards ceremony was held at the beautiful Yacht Club de Monaco, with over 3,000 guests.

Race communications

Thuraya and Intermatica were proud to sponsor the Thuraya Orion IP maritime broadband terminal on the B2 Monaco Racing Fleet. Representing the Yacht Club de Monaco, the 16-meter boat was the recent winner of the Rolex Middle Sea Race 2013 and the 151 Miglia 2014. Its renowned sailing team included Pierre Casiraghi, Tommaso Chieffi and highly experienced crew from the America’s Cup.

The sponsorship enabled the team to obtain race and weather updates as well as keep fans and family abreast of their experience by posting videos and photos Facebook.

“Watching the videos, faces of the team and the beautiful Mediterranean Sea was very exciting. We all felt like we were part of the regatta with a highly skilled team,” said Claudio Castellani, President at Intermatica. Race media partner, Saily.it, published all the interviews and the videos on its website, generating strong support and new fans for the regatta.

In addition to the B2, the organizers participated in the regatta on the WB Five, led by Piero Majolino and Manuel Modena, who will be part of the Luna Rossa team in the next edition of the America’s Cup. The team exchanged information and coordinated safety routes with the organizers through their Thuraya XT handset.

Vital communications at sea

Being at sea, whether as part of a race team or simply sailing, is a fantastic experience. For the Palermo-Montecarlo teams, the race provided them a stunning backdrop unique to the Mediterranean. At the same time, the teams always had to be mindful of weather conditions and be quick to re-chart their course in accordance with these changes. For the safety and security purposes, Intermatica recommends keeping connected with mobile satellite communications such as the Thuraya XT and Orion IP. The Thuraya XT handset works best in cases of emergencies. Do remember to change and test your handset prior to setting sail. To ensure that your Thuraya XT is working, dial “11 11 2”, Thuraya’s free number which is a quick and efficient way of testing your handset.

For those who need to be connected online for leisure or work, the Thuraya Orion IP is a basic maritime-specific mobile broadband satellite terminal, which comes at a very affordable price. Easy to install, Intermatica believes this is the most ideal solution for data connectivity needs for maritime navigation.

For more information on Intermatica, visit: http://www.intermatica.it

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Dick Tauber Looks Ahead into the Future of Satellite Newsgathering

Thuraya recently had the opportunity to catch up with industry veteran Dick Tauber, who shared with us his perspective on the evolution of satellite newsgathering (SNG) and how new technologies can co-exist with traditional newsgathering platforms.

In various capacities at the CNN News Group—most recently serving as Vice President of Transmission Systems and New Technology—Tauber has more than 30 years of experience in the news media and broadcasting industry. His groundbreaking efforts in the use of Mobile Satellite Services (MSS) in newsgathering have been widely recognized, and he is a recipient of numerous industry awards, including being honored as a Mobile Satellite Pioneer by the Mobile Satellite Users Association (MSUA) in 2002.

From your extensive industry experience, can you share with us your view on the major impact of mobile satellite technology on news operations?

Tauber: Back when I started at CNN in 1981, MSS didn't really exist as a newsgathering technology. It would only be at the end of that decade before news organizations were able to begin addressing the needs they required for truly mobile satellite-enabled field gear. From the 1980s up until now, the pace of the technology change—from telex and fax to the rise of mobile and cloud computing today—has been amazing!

For satellite uplinking alone, we've gone from 32m and 11m sized dishes, analog C-band to Ku-band digital networks, and now, 60cm Ka-band mobile dishes. Compression technology has enabled faster transmissions with greater efficiency and increased throughput. Once limited to voice traffic, MSS is now routinely used to carry standard definition real-time video.  With improved compression technology on the horizon, ‘live’ HD and Ultra HD (4K and 8K) transmission may soon follow.

What are the major trends in news broadcasting today, especially in terms of the key features of satellite equipment that a broadcaster will look for?

Tauber: News producers are constantly looking out for the latest tools that provide significant improvement over what already exist in their inventory. They demand equipment that is compact and lightweight (smaller and lighter than what they're currently using); simple to operate and compatible with their present tools; and reliable and reasonably priced according to their needs.

Broadcast journalists are also expected to operate in conflict zones and potentially risky situations, where their safety can be compromised. Hence, an important consideration is that the communication devices and MSS equipment utilized cannot be easily hacked or expose the geolocation of the news team. At the same time for security measures, journalists should never attempt to conceal or hide the devices they are using to prevent the equipment from being mistaken as spy or surveillance gadgets.  ​

As the industry continues to evolve, what is the relevance of MSS in fulfilling new market requirements? Will MSS services be replaced?

Tauber: Not at all. With every new advance in technology, there will always be pundits forecasting the demise of existing tools and practices. But it just doesn't happen that way! The latest and greatest equipment, techniques and services simply expand the toolkit for newsgathering and the variety of choices for entertainment and sports content transmission. All the while, we are striving towards providing improved and superior visual quality for the end-users, and MSS will continue to have a big role to play.

There have been recent discussions about the deployment of fiber networks potentially leading to a decline in the need for capacity for SNG. What are your thoughts on this issue?

Tauber: While the price of fiber infrastructure has dropped considerably, even approaching a level close to being considered as a commodity offering, the use of cellular networks tends to work best in urban areas. Fiber simply does not have the complete reach of satellite. With smaller and smaller uplink transmission equipment packages for Ku- and Ka-band—and lower equipment cost—an increasing number of end-users can now afford to take advantage of satellite, especially for use in more remote locations. Whether doing a pre-packaged or live report, the type of equipment used will depend on the means of connectivity that is most easily available and at the best price for the customer.

Looking ahead, how do you see the role of MSS and L-band based technology changing for newsgathering services?

Tauber: Despite competition from other services, the place for L-band remains secure commercially, and MSS operators can still continue meeting the needs of media customers, especially as equipment on the ground and satellite capabilities keep expanding. For today's journalists, the smartphone is already widely used to deliver the raw immediacy of “frontline" reporting. As such, MSS operators need to develop new satellite solutions to support journalists who are moving away from the traditional live reporting format to a model where they can easily leverage the latest mobile devices to stay on the forefront of breaking news.

Having recently retired from a 32-year long career in CNN News Group, Tauber is now an independent satellite consultant (under Dick Tauber, LLC). He is known for his vast contributions to the industry, receiving numerous awards over the years. In 2010, he accepted the SSPI Industry Innovator award and was honored with the Technology Industry Leadership Award at the NAB conference in Las Vegas. He went on to receive his third Peabody Award in 2011 for his contributions to CNN’s coverage of the Gulf Oil Spill. Tauber also received three Emmy Awards, and was inducted to the SSPI Hall of Fame in 2013 for his service to the satellite industry and his singular career at CNN.

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Supporting Gulf for Good’s Trek to Kilimanjaro

Thuraya is a proud supporter of Gulf for Good, a Dubai-based charity organization, and its activities targeted at helping underprivileged communities around the world. In its latest expedition in July 2014, adventurers made the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro, marking the seventh time Gulf for Good has attempted to scale Africa’s highest peak. Polly Gotseva shares with us more about her experience in the expedition and how Thuraya’s mobile satellite equipment supported them throughout the climb.

The Trek to the Roof of Africa marked my fourth adventure with Gulf for Good. Aimed at supporting two charity initiatives, the Tanzania & Village Education Project and Larchfield Charity Organization, the funds raised by each participant will be used to build classrooms as well as a purpose-built children’s home that can accommodate up to 300 children.

The trek itself has been one of the most physically and emotionally challenging experiences I ever had, requiring each of the participants to push beyond our physical limits. Still, we managed to complete the trek in six days, taking the Marangu Route. We experienced extreme cold—with temperatures dropping to as low as -15⁰C—and had to cope with the lack of oxygen and fatigue as we got closer to the summit. Still, the entire team was enthusiastic and kept each other’s spirits up as the trek got more challenging every step of the way.


 

Having some fun interacting with the children before the real adventure, taken and posted with the Thuraya SatSleeve

Personally, it was one of those life-changing moments where you are faced with the unexpected. You ask yourself: How is your body going to react to the altitude? Will you even succeed?

I was really glad to have the Thuraya SatSleeve with me throughout the expedition as it allowed me to easily convert my personal mobile device into a satellite phone. Apart from its portability, its ability to connect in remote, mountainous environments further makes it the ideal communications device during the expedition. It helped me keep in constant contact with my husband, who provided the encouragement and words of assurance that I needed most during such a difficult climb.

When you’re up on the highest peak, the ability to simply get in touch with your loved ones can mean a lot. Knowing that I can make a phone call in any circumstance, the satellite phone becomes a pillar of emotional support—not just for me but also for my husband, who can be assured of my well-being.

When we finally reached the highest summit of Kilimanjaro, I was quite overwhelmed by the spectacular view from the top. The descent was equally challenging, but the whole journey felt more like a celebration. We were filled with immense pride and a sense of achievement after successfully summiting Mount Kilimanjaro.

More importantly, we managed to raise about US$80,000 for the children back at the village. Education is key to opening up more opportunities and improving the future of these children, and I can’t wait to see the money put to good use!

Prior to the expedition, we had the chance to visit the Village project. It was great to see the children running all around us, dancing with wide smiles across their faces and flowers in their hands. We spent some time together, having lunch and playing football. The children were also intrigued by the satellite phones we were using, pretending to make phone calls with it and posing for pictures. 

We were grateful to be equipped with Thuraya equipment as it not only allows us to communicate but also provides us a sense of security knowing that help is just a phone call away during emergency situations.

There will be an upcoming charity challenge in Mongolia in October, and I hope that Thuraya will be able to support us just the way they have been doing the past four years.

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Tenacity in the triumph over K2

In 2013, increasingly harsh weather conditions and endless obstacles prevented UAE-based Briton, Adrian Hayes and his six-man international team from completing their K2 expedition. In a triumph of grit and determination, Adrian and the team returned to one of the toughest peaks in the world this year to finish their climb. Thuraya and our Service Partner Xtra-Link were honored to have sponsored his trek up the second-highest mountain on earth, with the Thuraya XT, IP+ broadband terminal and SatSleeve to document his triumphant journey. We caught up with Adrian upon his return to get his perspective.

Congratulations on conquering K2! It looked like an amazing journey. What was different about the expedition this time as compared to last year?

In short, chalk and cheese. Everything that could possibly go wrong in 2013 went wrong – weather conditions, snow conditions, lack of numbers and support and even the terrible terrorist incident at Nanga Parbat. The result was a tragic 24 lives lost in the Karakorum last year. This year everything fell into place – a larger number of teams, more Sherpa support, great snow conditions and, above all, fantastic weather. We had an unprecedented weather window of 10 days from July 22, which largely accounted for the great summit success this year.

What were some of the new challenges that you faced?

With 2014 being the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of K2, that was the major reason for the larger number of teams on the mountain, with interest from Pakistan and Italy in particular – the two countries who worked together in 1954 to achieve the first ascent. Whilst that helped line fixing, it did create some problems of space on the mountain camps –Camps 1 (6000m) and 2 (6600m) are literally created from nothing on the steep sides of the mountain. Thankfully on the summit push – and due to the good weather forecast – teams spread out their attempts over several days, though we did have some bottlenecks on our summit day, the first attempt of the season.

You were pretty active on social media throughout the expedition, how important is having communication channels on such journeys?

I was actually taken aback both by how many people were following our journey and how many expressed their continued concerns for my safety!  And justifiably so – K2’s grim reputation is well documented. Posting daily on Facebook and Twitter, courtesy of the Thuraya XT, SatSleeve and IP+, was our means to both reassure the thousands of followers and also share what was an incredibly powerful journey.

What were some of the new challenges that you faced?

With 2014 being the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of K2, that was the major reason for the larger number of teams on the mountain, with interest from Pakistan and Italy in particular – the two countries who worked together in 1954 to achieve the first ascent. Whilst that helped line fixing, it did create some problems of space on the mountain camps –Camps 1 (6000m) and 2 (6600m) are literally created from nothing on the steep sides of the mountain. Thankfully on the summit push – and due to the good weather forecast – teams spread out their attempts over several days, though we did have some bottlenecks on our summit day, the first attempt of the season.

Now that K2 has been conquered, what is next?

Rest and recuperation! First is to enjoy some down time in the UK with my daughter and a lot of friends before I return to the UAE in late September. I already know my plans for 2015 – and they are big! We will be putting together proposals and hopefully finalizing plans in the coming months.  

Editor’s note: Adrian will be giving public presentations on his recent summit success of K2 in London on September 9 and Dubai on October 15, 2014. More details at www.adrianhayes.com

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Helping Global Voices Soar

Thuraya is continuing its efforts to support independent journalists through its latest sponsorship of Global Voices, an online citizen media community focused on amplifying voices from under-represented communities. The partnership focuses on empowering Global Voices through the donation of a Thuraya IP+ terminal and a full year of free connectivity, providing its community of correspondents with access to the Internet, email, social media, and VoIP applications in remote locations. Here, Eddie Avila, Rising Voices Director at Global Voices Online, discusses how the satellite equipment can support Rising Voices, their outreach initiative.

Over the past ten years, Global Voices' community of volunteer writers and translators have been scouring the web for the most interesting conversations happening online and presenting through careful curating, contextualization, and translation.

Through our news reporting, we have brought to light what happened during the Arab Spring. We listened to the voices of those families affected by the 2011 Japanese earthquake. And we sought to better understand the current landscape of the Russian internet by following and interpreting its unique context. All of these stories played out from our main source—the internet and the millions of digital storytellers around the world.

Yet, many underrepresented groups around the world are unable to take part in the conversation. Communities traditionally marginalized by society are often left out in the virtual world as well, without the ability to represent themselves on their own terms through digital means.

This is where our Rising Voices initiative comes in. Established in 2007, the initiative provides technical support, small-scale funding and mentoring to support underrepresented communities in using participatory media to tell their own stories, locally and globally.

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To date, Rising Voices has launched more than 40 citizen media projects across the world, including in:

  • Paraguay - Six rural Aché indigenous communities in Paraguay are using smartphones to document their culture and share news about what’s happening in their communities. This includes breaking the news on issues such as illegal land grabs, to ensure that the rest of the country, especially key decision-makers who are based hundred of kilometers away in the capital Asunción, remain updated on the current situation in these communities.
     
  • Argentina - Every Tuesday at the Provincial Neuropsychiatric Hospital in Córdoba, our volunteers gather with the patients to produce a weekly radio program focusing on topics chosen by the program participants. After dozens of radio shows, the participants saw the need to take these conversations to a wider audience by producing an audio podcast that can be shared online with other hospitals across Latin America.

With increased internet penetration and the availability of less expensive mobile devices, the ability to connect is better than ever today. However, mentoring and accompaniment can only go so far, and we’re aware that communities in areas with limited connectivity may continue to watch from the sidelines. Serious gaps in coverage remain, hindering the ability of millions of people from sharing their stories. 

This is why we hold high hopes about the partnership with Thuraya for our upcoming project in Asia, which would connect these communities to the rest of the world in ways unseen before. The combination of our two strategies: providing the access and the mentoring will help Rising Voices empower communities traditionally marginalized. As we develop the project in Asia with the community that will use the Thuraya IP+ terminal, we have the satisfaction that they will be an inspiration for other communities that will soon have the chance to share what is important to them. 

Let's Rise! from Global Voices on Vimeo.

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