Immediate and Reliable Communications During Disasters Require Planning

During a disaster, whether natural or man-made, restoring and maintaining communications is critical. Recent research and guidance issued by the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) reflects the importance of incorporating satellite services in an emergency response plan to facilitate communications before, during, and after a disaster.

“Because satellite-based solutions provide an unparalleled level of reliability and ubiquity, it is critical to consider mobile satellite voice communications, broadband data, imaging, remote sensing and other services when planning for emergencies,” said an SIA report, following the release of its updated First Responders’ Guide to Satellite Communications. The guide provides information for federal, state and local governments and emergency response organizations to plan for the incorporation and use of satellite communications and services at all stages of a disaster.

“Following a devastating summer of hurricanes and wildfires, which brought death and destruction to many parts of the U.S. and the Caribbean, it was important to update the guide with the very latest information regarding the vital communications and services that only satellites can deliver if terrestrial-based infrastructure is damaged or destroyed,” said SIA President Tom Stroup.

The SIA’s 2018 State of the Satellite Industry Report reflects the important role of satellites in emergency response. According to the report, Earth observation services revenues (which includes change detection, disaster mitigation, and meteorology) increased 12% from 2016 to 2017. Growth was driven in part by established satellite remote sensing companies, with new entrants reporting revenue as they continue to roll out their services. In addition, new entrants continued to raise capital, develop satellites, and deploy orbital assets. Of the operational satellites, 29% are used for Earth observation—the second largest service sector, behind only commercial communications.

At Intelsat, we consider emergency response and support an important part of what we do as a satellite communications provider. During the hurricane season of 2017, we provided communication services to disaster-stricken islands in the Caribbean using our Globalized Network and IntelsatOne Flex managed service. Our efforts began before the first storm even approached land, initiating disaster recovery and restoration plans for customers across media, broadband and mobility sectors with operations established in the projected paths of the storms.

In addition to assisting commercial customers with the protection of their networks, Intelsat helped deliver broadband capabilities to first responders. On the island of Saint John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Intelsat supported the Global Disaster Immediate Response Team (DIRT), an international, non-governmental organization (NGO), that responds quickly in the wake of disasters to provide medical assistance, communications access, and search and rescue support. Global DIRT used IntelsatOne Flex services, antennas and kits we donated to support communications at multiple sites, including a medical clinic, and also coordinated with multiple NGOs operating on the island.

Other notable findings from the SIA’s 2018 State of the Satellite Industry Report include:

  • Worldwide satellite industry revenue grew by 3%, reaching $268.7 billion in 2017.
  • The number of operational satellites in 2017 increased 49% over the previous five years.
  • Earth observation and meteorology accounted for 8% of the total value of satellites launched in 2017. Military surveillance accounted for 41% of revenues.
  • Commercially procured government satellites increased to 59 in 2017, a sharp rebound from 2016 when the number dropped to 50 from 73 in 2015.
  • Seventy-one percent of U.S. satellite manufacturing revenue was from U.S. government contracts.
  • Managed services revenue grew 10%, driven by in-flight requirements and the availability of high-throughput satellite (HTS) capacity.

At Intelsat, we’re excited to be part of a growing industry that’s positioned to help people and organizations, both in their daily operations and in their time of need. No one can predict where the next disaster will strike. But we can predict we’ll be there, using the latest satellite technology to assist in the recovery process.

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