Military Interference

by Clayton Vallabhan | November 17th, 2014

When it comes to satellite interference, the military has for a long time featured in the discussion. As one of the biggest users of satellite technology, it is a vitally important user area if we are to gain real traction with solving satellite interference. However, we are only now beginning to see them get involved with the various initiatives and there is a lot still to
be done.

The lack of involvement is not through a lack of interest, but it is a complicated arena. Of course, the biggest barrier by far is the need for caution when exchanging information. Look at Carrier ID, for example; mention to military personnel that you want them to put an ID on all their satellite transmissions, and understandably they refuse. This year, IRG has reached out to the various organisations covering the military arena, some being IRG members. From informal conversation and formal meetings we have found a procedure that meets the needs of both commercial and military processes and thus makes Carrier ID workable for these military commercial services, simply by separating commercial IDs from military IDs held in their own protected environment. If we have an unidentified interference when compared against the commercial database, we simply pass it through a secure connection to the military operations centres. They handle the rest and cooperate with commercial entities through the normal channels.

Of course, it is important to remember that the CID database will only contain a unique identifier and the name of the satellite operator to which that ID belongs. No other information is necessary, as in the commercial world even that is sensitive and can only be accessed by satellite operators. So despite concerns, the information is limited and the database has a high level of security to ensure protection. Bear in mind that CID is currently being implemented across the globe, with a number of measures in place to ensure widespread implementation. If the military is the only user which doesn’t adopt CID, then surely it will stand out much more than if it used CID.

That said, even if we get every single user on board with Carrier ID, according to Mark Steel of Inmarsat at our recent workshop, that will only account for around 20% of interference problems. By far the largest cause (50% of all instances), according to Mark, is poor quality equipment. For the military this is naturally a concern, as they mainly use VSAT and comms-on-the-move terminals, which are more often that not auto-deploy. For manufacturers to produce these products so as not to cause satellite interference, especially as they will be often moving during operation, is by no means simple. With more and more products in the marketplace and manufacturers facing stiff competition, that challenge is becoming all the more apparent.

The Global VSAT Forum (GVF) has a system of type approvals for VSAT systems, meaning that if all users ensure that new equipment has been type approved, the amount of interference will instantly be reduced.

According to Mark Steel, the remaining 30% is down to lack of training. GVF, speaking at our workshop, talked about a planned delivery of auto-deploy training to militaries. We also had an in-depth discussion about other options around training; there are a number of suppliers doing some great training courses, many specifically targeted at the military.

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