As 2005 begins, there are a number of products on the market which enable Emergency Response Units to have internet connectivity at remote disaster locations. The products marketed this year mount on vehicles from Fire Rescue units to most any type of truck or van, on specially designed trailers utilizing portable generators and in transportable boxes which can be shipped by UPS or Fed X overnight to most any location in the U.S. A response team's greatest challenge is to know enough about how this mobile satellite internet technology works and what the differences are in quality of transmission based on the equipment chosen and services provided by the Satellite Internet Provider.
To make the right decision at the onset of the process of buying vsat mobile satellite internet equipment will save your Government Agency thousands of dollars in the long run. How do you evaluate what the best combination of equipment and service will be? Here is the process I recommend to the Government Agencies I speak to around the country:
1. Determine what you will need to do on the internet in an emergency.
Will you need to send digital pictures to other locations? Will you need to establish a VPN connection to Headquarters? Will you want to "live stream" a camera over the internet? Do you need telephone capability over the net (VOIP) in a very remote location that has no cell phone connectivity? Do you need to connect multiple computers at the remote site engaged in the above activities or engaged in heavy emailing? All but emailing requires either low latency (1/2 second or less) or fast upload speeds (sustained speeds above 128kbps)?..some of these activities need both!
If you need ANY of these capabilities, you need to look seriously at the Enterprise Class of equipment available today. This is not Direcway or Starband powered equipment! They are fine companies; however, in spite of all they can do, the important fact is: These companies can't or won't provide enough upload (in-route) speed or low enough latency to work effectively at the tasks listed above ? period!
2. Determine what type of installation will provide your Emergency Response team the most flexibility in an Emergency.
When time is of the essence, you need a mobile setup that can be taken to a disaster site in a hurry and is available at a moments notice to be on it's way. A self contained vehicle mount is the most popular, in part due to the fact that it was all that was available until 2003 and until recently, the least expensive. Many Government Agencies don't have the budget to have such a vehicle "sit around" waiting for a disaster. They need to utilize the vehicle all the time and have a legitimate concern that when the need arises, the vehicle won't be able to get to a location in the time frame needed??what then? Many Government agencies I speak to have recently opted for a trailer mounted system combined with a portable generator or the "transportable" unit which is two or three "boxes" that contain all the gear needed to quickly establish a broadband connection to the internet and can be shipped overnight by Ground Carriers if needed at a distant location. In this scenario, the monthly service is a minimal cost and when the need arises, can be ramped up to whatever speeds are required in a matter of minutes. This can save the Government Agency an enormous amount over the years. It has only been offered by the "big boys" in this business who have figured out how to make money with this type of service by dedicating transponders that handle more accounts than you normally would have as a result of the infrequent use.
The best way to make sure your investment in this equipment is a wise one is to contact an independent provider who can give you a "No Spin" analysis of your situation and recommend the right solution to your organization.
About the Author:
Randy Scott has been involved in the bi-directional satellite internet industry from it's beginning as a Sr. Sales Engineer, consultant and business owner. Randy is the founder of VSAT U.S., a consulting and sales agent, representing the most prestigious satellite internet providers in the U.S. For more information about mobile VSAT products or current VSAT satellite internet offerings, visit www.vsatus.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org .