Remembering Dick Tauber

As many of you may be aware, this week we lost a valuable friend and colleague, Dick Tauber. We know that Dick will be sorely missed by the entire industry, with his accomplishments touching many different aspects.

For us, Dick was instrumental in many important initiatives that helped to reduce satellite interference. For many years Dick was chair of the World Broadcasting Union – International Satellite Operators Group (WBU-ISOG), as well as also co-chairing the Radio Frequency Interference – End Users Initiative (RFI-EUI). It was his work that got the broadcasters involved and interested in doing their bit to reduce interference and he was an absolutely crucial link between the broadcasters and satellite operators. I remember being with Dick at NAB 2010 pounding the exhibit floor getting the beginnings of Carrier ID off the ground. 

As well as that, I’m sure anyone that met him will agree that he was a wonderful person, full of humour, always happy to help others, and an absolute pleasure to be around. His absence at the various meetings and events has been sorely missed over recent years and more so in the future.

I would like to extend, on behalf of all of us in IRG, our heartfelt condolences to the Tauber family.

Martin Coleman

IRG at Satellite 2018

Satellite is a standout show for the industry, and one that we always look forward to attending with our many colleagues and friends who are just as passionate about satellite’s potential and demonstrated prowess as we are. We make no attempts to hide how passionate we are about satellite interference, and how working together as a united industry can help tackle the challenges our industry faces.

Not only that, but we are looking forward to Satellite 2018 as will be celebrating our 20th Anniversary with a half-day workshop, hosted by SES, on the 15th and a champagne reception on the 14th at the Kratos booth (#1700). Click here to find out more.

This year at Satellite, our Executive Director, Martin Coleman will be moderating on a panel entitled ‘Machine Learning to Solve Satellite Interference and Manage Future Networks’. We are going to be exploring how we can apply the emergence of machine learning to satellite interference, exhausting the capabilities of technology to assist in the gathering of data and intelligence to combat the challenges satellite operators face.

As we all know, data is literally everywhere, but there is no need to be overwhelmed by it. By 2020, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe forecasts that the amount of data on a global scale will reach approximately 40 Zettabytes. Imagine what we could do with this data, utilising new processing techniques to solve future interference scenarios at a faster rate. Using complex algorithms, Machine Learning can enable computers to identify items of interest from large quantities of data and identity relationships between that data. This is an enormous concept, but if we can learn how to properly apply this data to satellite situations by collecting the data, asking the right questions of the data, we could use it to make informed decisions, as well as solve problems and educate.

If we retain every statistic, every incident, every detail of satellite interference, eventually, as our Data store grows we can apply deep learning methods to it in order to help us predict and resolve future incidents and potentially help stop them occurring. By collecting those statistics, adding the analysis from interfering signal characteristics to the Data store, certain “signatures” could be extracted that could lead to possible auto-classification of interference types and better user-friendly tools to progress our mission of mitigating interference.

We look forward to delving deeper into this topic at Satellite with the panel, and exploring exactly how Machine Learning can be applied in real-life interference scenarios to assist satellite operators. The panel will be taking place on the 15th March from 11:15am until 12:15pm.

BSN – Momentum continues in 2018

One year after the re-launch of the BSN-UK (Broadcasting & Satellite Network), 2018 began with the same gusto that has seen the Membership double over the last 12 months; keeping broadcasting and satellite professionals connected with the latest developments in the industry and an opportunity to share their knowledge and ideas as well as network with industry leaders.

This year’s series of networking events was sponsored by Intelsat and attended by our largest group of members since the re-launch. An excellent presentation given by Andrew Faiola , Director Mobility Solutions EMEA & APAC, outlined Intelsat’s EPICNG network of HTS (High Throughput Satellites) satellites, featuring next-generation satellite technology focused on bringing improved connectivity to meet today’s – and tomorrow’s – demanding applications. With over 50 satellites in orbit, the network is also supported by the IntelsatOne®  terrestrial network which operates seamlessly with the satellite network to provide maximum inter-connectivity.

Andrew also went on to describe Intelsat’s strategic partnership with the antenna manufacturers, Phasor and Kynetic, in their development of flat antennas for mobile markets as well as Intelsat’s interest in OneWeb, a low earth orbit (LEO) network of satellites aimed at providing more than 10 terabits per second of data throughput, bringing internet access to billions of individuals around the globe.

If you are interested to join the BSN-UK please visit www.bsnuk.org and join the discussion. More events are being planned throughout 2018.

ETL Systems – Member Blog Series

To mark 20 years of IRG, we will be running a member blog series in the run up to our Paris Workshop on the 5th of June. We’ll be inviting all of our members to participate, to tell us about all of the exciting things they have planned for the year ahead and what they are currently doing to tackle interference. First up, it’s ETL Systems:

Tell us a bit more about ETL Systems

ETL Systems design and develop a wide range of satellite communications and RF equipment. This includes switch matrices and routers, as well as a vast array of RF components. Across our entire range, our main focus is on building high quality products to ensure a reliable service for our customers. We also customise our products whenever needed to make sure they fit the exact application being used for.

What do you think the current state of interference is?

Unfortunately, interference is still a very big problem that poses significant challenges for the industry. Having said this, there is much more awareness of the issue amongst operators, manufacturers and most importantly the users, as a result of IRG’s global initiatives. Operators and users are considerably more focused on getting the right equipment to stay interference free, which means investing in those of a high-quality – that’s where we come in.

What would you say has been the most positive recent advancement in interference mitigation technology?

I would say that Carrier ID remains the most significant advancement. IRG has been extremely active in driving new technological developments here, but also in driving standardisation. The focus as far as CID is concerned now needs to be on encouraging widespread adoption so it can make a real difference in making interference easily detectable.

How are you working to reduce satellite interference?

As a ground segment equipment manufacturer, our main aim is to provide quality products which enable reliable signal distribution. Of course, this makes business sense to us but it’s absolutely key to preventing interference, too. If you think of equipment as the beginning of all satellite transmissions, using poor quality equipment means you are fighting a losing battle almost before it’s begun.

There are so many factors out of the operator/users control, ensuring product quality is a sure-fire way of reducing errors and therefore protecting against interference.

What do you think are the most interesting innovations in the industry right now?

It looks like 2018 could be the year of the Smallsats, with 2017 seeing more of them launched than any other year to date. This should be positive, given the demand for bandwidth from new apps such as the Internet of Things (IoT). Particularly for the likes of connected cars, the sheer number of Smallsats in orbit could facilitate a significant advancement in the viability of these vehicles and other similar, data-hungry devices/applications.

Do you have any interesting things planned for the coming months?

We’ll be attending several tradeshows, exhibiting our range of RF signal distribution products including the new Griffin L-band and ASI Redundancy Switch and our Hurricane 64/64 L-band Matrix. Our next stop is Delhi for Convergence India in March where we’ll be exhibiting at stand E279. You will also find ETL at Satellite 2018 (stand 837). Find out where to meet us at NAB, IMS, CommunicAsia and IBC on our website.

There will likely be a great deal of change for the satellite industry over the coming year and ahead, driven primarily by both GEO and LEO High-Throughput Satellites (HTS). As already discussed, the demand for services will increase as the consumer demand for constant connection and higher throughputs increases. This will fuel the need for more bandwidth and for the efficiencies afforded by HTS. As a result, this will present a number of challenges for the VSAT sector, driving the need for new products with extra resilience and reliability. At Satellite 2018, we’ll be showcasing our new StingRay VSAT RF over Fibre system, designed to reduce signal loss and ensure a much higher quality feed, whatever the VSAT application.

We look forward to the new challenges which may arise as the industry expands and innovates. We will continue our relationship with IRG, keeping product quality firmly on the interference agenda.


BSN UK YEAR ENDS ON HIGH NOTE AT ITS ANNUAL OPEN MIC NIGHT

After what has been a very active year for the BSN, with networking meetings sponsored by Inmarsat, Kratos, Access Partnership and our Annual Open Mic Night, sponsored by SES Networks, our membership has more than doubled in numbers since the beginning of 2017!

This year’s Annual Open Mic Night was held, as has become the tradition, at The Yorkshire Grey in London’s Theobald’s Road. Easily accessible for members, it was actively attended by BSN members from a wide range of disciplines across our industry. First on his feet was Martin Coleman, Executive Director of iRG and BSN Board Member. Martin gave an overview of the recent iRG Workshop that had been held in Brighton (and one that was generously offered to BSN members to attend free of charge). His overview included some excellent data on space debris – an issue that is set to become a potentially major issue, especially for the LEO satellite operators in the not too distant future. It seems to be that there are many thousands of pieces of debris of more that 20cm in length, travelling at thousands of miles per hour with the kinetic potential to cause major damage to current and future satellites. Clearly an area the industry needs to keep a close eye on.

Roger Boddy, told us of his new plans for Global Teleports with a new site coming on stream sometime in the New Year. He had also been involved with a project transmitting the first occasional use TV out of Easter Island with Danish Company, QuadSAT. Through the networking power of the BSN, QuadSAT is company with whom Anver Anderson (BSN Secretary) has now been engaged to develop their commercial ‘go to market’ strategy and tactical planning. The BSN is what networking and business building is all about.

We also heard from one of the BSN’s newest members, Richard Jacklin, Director of Sales, Vialite, who gave an overview of ViaLite’s RF over fibre links and systems, which supports the transmission of data of any modulation type with minimal degradation. ViaLite products are optimised for satcom teleports, satellite ground stations, satellite downlinks, VSAT, interfacility linking, cellular networks, TV broadcast and GPS timing signal distribution.

The evening was rounded off with some observations on the industry from Chris Snowdon of Access Partnership.

The BSN UK is grateful for sponsorship for the event by SES Networks and we’re looking forward to an active 2018 ahead.

Introducing Our Latest Member

Last month, we were very excited to announce that Novella Satcoms has become a member of IRG. Novella has been a well-known figure in the satellite industry for some time, and so we are pleased to finally welcome them into the fold!

In order to introduce our new member, we sat down with the CEO of Novella Satcoms, Dr. Ventura Rufino, for a Q&A session.

Can you tell us a bit more about Novella Satcoms?

Certainly. Novella Satcoms is an established supplier of high performance, often bespoke, RF equipment and solutions for satellite earth stations and CATV systems. Myself and Bill Dransfield founded the company in 1997 and we’re based on the outskirts of Leeds city in West Yorkshire.

In the 1990’s, Bill and I were both part of the RF design team that pioneered satellite earth station equipment using the now widely accepted L-band interface.

At Novella Satcoms, we’ve designed and manufactured a wide range of equipment for satellite stations across the globe, serving lots of high-profile customers including the BBC, BT and the UK, USA and French MOD’s. Our beacon receivers are some of the best in the world in terms of quality, and that’s something we always aspire to across our range of products. We also offer, as standard, a warranty of 36 months, to reflect the quality of our products.

What do you think the current state of interference is?

Although there’s been some great progress thanks to IRG’s tireless efforts to bring together the industry, there is definitely still ground to be made. Carrier ID, when properly implemented by users, has significantly lessened the time-consuming process of solving interference after it has occurred, and I definitely see a receptiveness from broadcasters to join the conversation. After all, satellite is still hugely in demand as much as those in the online video business claim it’s dying out. The fact is, the growth of VSAT terminals and increased congestion in the LEO suggest that interference will only intensify, unless we work together to solve it.

What would you say are the most positive advancements in interference mitigation technology?

At Novella, we truly believe that providing the best quality solutions makes a big impact in terms of reducing errors, including interference. Most cases of interference stem from human error, but also from equipment failure which is a difficult and time-consuming problem to solve. Clearly, enforcing Type Approvals could help here, meaning that only approved, quality products can be used.

It’s great that there are significantly more options available when it comes to solving interference, and even preventing it. Much of this is a result of technological advancements, but this also means that although equipment is becoming more advanced, it shouldn’t be less reliable or more difficult to use, and that’s where we come in.

We’re really excited to have joined IRG and are looking forward to getting involved in the group’s latest initiatives and events.

Looking to the Future at the IRG Annual Workshop

It’s now been over a week since the Satellite Interference Reduction Group’s Annual Workshop and we hope you’ve all had time to digest the topics discussed. One of IRG’s main goals is to facilitate relationships between all of those with a stake in solving satellite interference. So, we hope that workshops like these go some way to fulfilling this goal.

This year, we had a brilliant mix of people in the room, from members of the RAF to commercial satellite operators, as well as broadcasters, independent consultants and experts in space tourism. It’s this kind of diversity that helps us get every sector to commit to an interference-free space, and get everyone working together towards one common goal.

There was much to be said on the subject of Artificial Intelligence. Phil Carrai of Kratos told us that Silicon Valley’s single biggest investment last year was AI, while Andreas Voigt of Eutelsat pointed out that there is now so much data available to us that it cannot be handled by humans alone. Our Executive Director, Martin Coleman, went further, suggesting that we could harness this data and use machine learning to help us solve interference and predict future incidences.

The importance of good quality equipment was again on the agenda and were discussed by several of our speakers including Martin Jarrold from the Global VSAT Forum. For some time now we’ve recognised that this, coupled with human error, seems to be one of the most common causes of interference, yet they could both be resolved by using SOMAP, the new approvals scheme set up by several satellite operators and, of course, education.

We couldn’t have avoided the topic of C-band or 5G and Richard Rudd from Plum Consulting sparked an interesting debate on day one of the workshop. On one hand, we had the opinion that spectrum sharing could be relatively straightforward, but we also had some in the room who believed that: “C-band carries many emergency services around the world. Do we really need to use this bandwidth to Instagram pictures of what we eat?”

It was great to hear the broadcaster’s side of the story too, as Nigel Fry offered his take on the state of interference as well as outlining the latest mitigation tools and techniques deployed by the BBC. One such tactic proving effective is to name and shame those countries allowing interference to happen, as well as filing complaints with the ITU.

Of course, as Manuel Metz told us, debris is now the new interference, so this topic was inevitably heavily covered. At the German Space Situational Awareness Centre, Manuel and his team are working on a re-entry model so that space craft demise allows quicker re-entry into the atmosphere, thus reducing debris. His talk was hard-hitting, especially given his prediction that: “It’s not a question of if you get hit, it’s a question of when.”

It wouldn’t have been appropriate to discuss space debris without giving the stage to the Space Data Association. Guy Wilkinson attended the workshop to represent the group, offering an insight into SDC 2.0 and how the Space Data Center could dramatically improve the space environment. This was backed up by Dan Oltrogge of AGI both scientifically and with an informative graphical presentation explaining the situation and the effects of debris. Again, powerful information!

The military sector has long relied upon dependable satellite communications, so it’s only natural that they should also be involved in the fight to keep interference to a minimum. We were really pleased to have so many from the sector in the room with us at our annual workshop, and especially happy to welcome Squadron Leader Chris Dunn from the RAF Air Warfare School to speak. He outlined the importance of being able to anticipate potential conflict in the domain as well as increasing the resiliency of mil-sat operations. It was great to hear Chris label international collaboration as the key to mitigation success, as well as his belief that the military and commercial sector must work closely together.

As always, IRG is striving to be at the forefront of technological innovation. At the Annual Workshop, it was great to finally give the floor to QuadSat, a relatively new company bringing drone technology to the satellite interference game. Particularly for Comms-On-The-Move services, this technology could prove revolutionary. For one, it eliminates the need for vessels to enter port for antenna performance testing, and this would surely increase the number of vessels doing so. According to Joakim Espeland from the organisation, many vessels currently find it too expensive and disruptive to halt operations for antenna checks, which only serves to counter-intuitively increase the likelihood of interference.

Although on the whole it seems that 2017 has been a unique year in that there seems to be a perceived balance of understanding and control, there is still a way to go and we are nowhere near an interference-free spectrum.

Bob Potter brought us all back down to earth with a crash on the second day stating that 93% of satellites in the industry suffer the effects of interference. He also added that 40% of all interference occurrences worldwide are due to VSAT and across the US this rises to nearly 80%. On top of this, VSAT interference is responsible for 50-70% of downtime. So clearly, we have a problem here. What with terminals becoming cheaper, we’re going to see more installed and this will only exacerbate the issue, according to Bob. It was great to see that the outcome of work in this has been fulfilled with the advancement of KratosSatGuard product – something the group helped instigate many years ago at an earlier workshop.

“Spectrum in space is a precious resource, and it’s only through cooperation that we can keep it clean” – Bob Potter.

Once again, we’ve come away from a workshop feeling energised and ready to face the future. With so many technological advances and cooperation between sectors and operators, we truly believe we could one day see a world free from interference. But we cannot be complacent.

Next year we will be continuing our mission by holding several workshops across the world. We invite all of those with a stake in combating satellite interference to attend, and if anyone should like to suggest a speaker, please contact us.

Once again, thank you to ETL Systems and GovSat for kindly sponsoring this workshop.

ETL Systems at IRG Workshop

RF interference is often caused by human error, bad installation, lack of training, poor equipment or system design and a lack of adherence to industry standards and guidelines. At the IRG Workshop, Ian Hilditch of ETL Systems will be discussing how good quality at the production stage can greatly reduce satellite interference.

ETL has a very strong focus on performance, coupled with a robust build, resilient design, and simple integration into the NMS, all of which enhances signal quality and reduces the chance of operator error or component failure. Naturally if all manufacturers were to ensure such a keen attention to detail, we could greatly reduce satellite interference. 

 Ian Hilditch has been the CEO of ETL Systems for the past 14 years. During that time, he has seen the company grow to the 107 people working there today, whilst keeping its focus on product quality.  Ian will be discussing why poor quality products lead to errors and interference and what ETL does to ensure its solutions minimise those risks.

Kratos at the IRG Annual Workshop

Change in the Satellite industry is escalating faster than ever before, with new technologies, new players, and increasing interaction with the Telecom and IT worlds. At the IRG Annual Workshop, Phil Carrai, a veteran executive of all three industries as well as the venture capital community, will explore this changing landscape. 

His session will outline how the lessons learned from each industry can be applied to the systems and processes used by Satellite and Network to provide better service to their customers in an increasingly congested and contested space environment.

Kratos’ Technology & Training Solutions Division includes land & space-based communications products and infrastructure. As the president of the division, Phil has 30 years of experience in communications technology, enterprise software and hardware, and private equity.

The division specialises in four sectors including satellite & space, networks, cybersecurity & IA, and training. Kratos’ Monics and satID products are the industry leaders for carrier management and interference geolocation, and new products SigX and SatGuard have transformed the ability of organisations to operate in the presence of Interference, including that caused by deliberate jammers and VSAT terminals respectively.

We’re very much looking forward to getting Phil’s invaluable take on the current state of interference.

QuadSAT at the IRG Annual Workshop

IRG workshops should serve a number of purposes. We want to bring together the forward-thinkers of the satellite industry and facilitate the important conversations. But we also want to introduce any exciting developments that may prove useful in our struggle against interference.

Joakim Espeland of QuadSAT will be speaking at our next annual workshop on the 25th and 26th of October, and he’ll be introducing a technology which should get everyone listening!

QuadSAT is a relatively new organisation but it has already caught the eye of the satellite operators. Based in Denmark, one of its primary aims is to integrate drone solutions into the Satcom industry.

At the Danish National Drone Centre, QuadSAT is currently prototyping brand-new drone technology and conducting test flights. Drone technology has evolved rapidly over the last few years, and we now have significantly better quality equipment at a lower cost than ever before.

With this evolution has come a plethora of possibilities and opportunities that could be put to use mitigating satellite interference. QuadSAT hopes to prove the effectiveness of drones which can be flown above and around a satellite antenna, preform tests, and feed this information to the ground. This may be particularly beneficial for the coms-on-the-move industry where antennas are located in hard-to-reach areas.

Sensors and controllers installed within the drones can stress test the resilience of the satellite feed, but also ensure correct antenna alignment and detect any errors with the equipment. Given that poor-quality equipment emerges as a cause of interference time and time again, so this could well prove effective.

At the workshop, Joakim and his team will be presenting QuadSAT’s concepts as well as welcoming any feedback to help them improve and develop new drone concepts.