Why L-band makes sense

by Guest Columnist | April 29th, 2013

Sue Rutherford, Director, Market Development, Skywave Mobile Communications

Ku-band and C-band technologies offer bandwidth for streaming applications like video, voice and broadband connectivity. In many cases, however, high data throughput capability does not make financial sense for applications such as SCADA monitoring and control, fleet management and asset tracking. L-band is often the most cost-effective solution for these kinds of applications.

L-band messaging terminals are a third of the cost or less of Ku- and C-band systems while ongoing airtime costs can be an even smaller fraction

This type of satellite communication offers real-time visibility to monitor the status of equipment and production between a remote point and the front office. It is often the answer when the goal is to meet increasing demand for richer information in M2M applications because it allows businesses to share data across diverse operations without the added cost associated with continuous connectivity required for internet, video and voice applications.

L-band satellite messaging terminals provide a fiscally responsible way to automate machine-to-machine (M2M) communications by sending and receiving the equivalent of text messages. The technology meets the increasing demand for richer information in remote applications and data sharing between diverse operations without the added cost associated with continuous connectivity. L-band satellite messaging terminals offer many features that make them very attractive for remote monitoring and tracking SCADA telemetry applications:

Right size investment:L-band messaging terminals are a third of the cost or less of Ku- and C-band systems while ongoing airtime costs can be an even smaller fraction. Choosing L-band terminals allows you to stretch communication budgets while enjoying complete visibility.

Pay for data, not overheads: L-band terminals are available that use a special messaging protocol allowing users to only pay for the data that is sent over the satellite. It isn’t necessary to waste money sending bulky TCP/IP and other protocol overheads over the air.

L-band terminals operate at a lower frequency, which means they are not susceptible to the interruptions in communication that plague Ku and C-band equipment

Rain-fade resistant: L-band terminals operate at a lower frequency, which means they are not susceptible to the interruptions in communication that plague Ku and C-band equipment. The result is a reliable connection to your equipment regardless of the weather.

Small footprint: Ku-and C-band antennas can be up to 2.4 metres in diameter which is problematic if installation space is at a premium. [L-band] terminals are available that are less than 0.16 metres in diameter, which provide more installation flexibility.

No more pointing errors: Ku- and C-band systems need careful pointing to the satellite to ensure a reliable connection. L-band satellite terminals are not bound by these strict requirements. Installation is significantly easier and connections are more reliable since general pointing towards the satellite is all that is needed.

Energy efficient: With the right solution, L-band messaging terminals can operate on small solar panels or even AA batteries making them less expensive to power and install. This means there is no need to install and operate generators to run equipment.

Unlike Ku- and C-band antennas, L-band satellite terminals do not look like a TV satellite antenna and are not attractive to thieves

Inconspicuous: Unlike Ku- and C-band antennas, L-band satellite terminals do not look like a TV satellite antenna and are not attractive to thieves. This allows businesses to protect their critical communication link.

Smart: Beyond being a simple communication modem, L-band messaging terminals can function like a Remote Terminal Unit (RTU), allowing users to programme local intelligence. This allows users to dictate under what conditions information should be sent over the satellite and keep airtime costs down while still receiving urgent communications instantly.

Connected: In addition to being smart, L-band messaging terminal technology can be sourced with analogue, digital and serial interfaces built right into the device. Monitor sensors, talk to existing RTUs using Modbus and more without the costs of external controllers.

On the move: Because L-band terminals only require general pointing, they can be used for mobile assets like trucks and offshore supply vessels. This results in simplification of the procurement process by expanding a communication platform to track vehicles, text-message drivers and monitor fuel efficiency.

The features of L-band technology offer businesses many benefits. For instance, it is a cost-effective way to improve workflow.

Communicating scheduled or one-off diagnostic data via satellite eliminates the need for manual data collection and immediately draws attention to degrading equipment and necessary maintenance and performance visits.

Because L-band terminals only require general pointing, they can be used for mobile assets like trucks and offshore supply vessels

Maintenance visits become more productive and are more likely to result in a first-time fix because diagnostics and preventive maintenance can be performed before sending a technician. This ensures the right equipment to complete repairs will be available on site. The reduction in time spent and a quicker resolution alleviates workflow demands.

Communicating through an L-band satellite solution can also increase production. Vital data can be sent and received in real time to manage and improve production. For instance, pressure, volume and flow collected at regular intervals can trigger remote adjustments to run assets most efficiently. In other situations, real time data can uncover maintenance issues before an outage occurs or equipment fails.

Data communicated via satellite can also be seamlessly integrated with enterprise back-office systems. This positively affects ERP, service management and parts management systems. It also automates billing, scheduling and time and expense reporting. From a macro perspective, it also improves service analytics for performance, HR and sales.

When operational decisions and actions can be made in the moment, lag costs can be eliminated. Immediate satellite communications can also prevent escalating costs caused by lost resources from leaks. As an added benefit, companies are better equipped to reduce risks and increase employee safety by minimising the number of visits to remote areas.

Remote monitoring and operations management requires technology that delivers consistent reliable communication service. When L-band satellite messaging technology is integrated into the automation processes, businesses have the communication tools to increase productivity and decrease costs across the enterprise.

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