More on using satellite communications

VA3MW has forwarded  another update of the Coquitlam Club Satellite Communications trailer. The You Tube video produced by VA7DX will give you a pretty good idea about how much work goes into creating an emergency communications project of this complexity.

Mike sent us this email from Neil VA7DX:

For those of you interested in the progress of the Coquitlam Club’s Satellite Trailer Project, I put together another short YouTube video titled “CARESS SAT Trailer Update April 20, 2009” showing progress since the last video update.

Since installing the SAT gear and performing a quick smoke test on the 12th, considerable work has been completed installing equipment to provide a broad suite of HF/VHF/UHF voice and data services. In addition to mounting external antennas to provide VHF/UHF and Wi-Fi service, wiring for power, data and RF cabling has been installed. BIX blocks for telephone wiring were mounted. In addition to supporting Wi-Fi VOIP phone support, a number of standard telephones using twisted pair wiring will eventually be available from the vehicle.

The server for operation to support operation of a portable, backup Winlink PMBO was installed. In the event the VE7SCC EMCOMM PMBO is damaged or inoperable, this portable, backup PMBO will be able to take over sending and receiving WinLink/Airmail messages.

Once completed, this trailer will act as a low to moderate cost (less than $50K) point solution and communications hub, capable of connecting to Internet IP services via commercial satellite link and projecting a wireless bubble around an Incident Command site or an ESS Centre. From a high point it can direct Wi-Fi links over distances up to 80+km and will interface directly into the existing BCWARN medium-speed digital network. It will also be equipped with conventional VHF, UHF and SHF voice and data capabilities.

The video is about 4 minutes long. The link below will start the HD version of the video providing significantly better video and audio quality. If you have a slow Internet connection or experience problems with the HD version, a standard definition version is available and can be selected from the bottom right of the YouTube video window.

The link is at: . Feel free to comment on the project and the video via YouTube.

I’ll be adding more video as the additional equipment is installed.

Thanks to Bob VE7JRP, Ian VE7HHS, Dave VA7DRS, Jeremy VA7NSA, Neil VA7NS and Russ Montgomery of DishPro Media Services for devoting many hours to the last work party.

1 Response to “More on using satellite communications”

  • Neil King VA7DX

    It’s helpful to understand why The Coquitlam Club has undertaken this project.

    Simply put, it provides the ability to communicate with the outside world in the event of complete failure of all local communications infrastructure.

    Here on the West Coast there is no question that a major earthquake is in our future…the only question is when it’s going to happen. The ability to survive the aftermath of an 8+ event is the topic of many planning sessions for those involved in responding to disasters however a couple of things are abundantly clear.

    1) The ability to communicate locally, regionally and nationally within and outside of the stricken area is essential. Amateur radio has a proud history of providing support in these areas during the early moments after a major event. Our ability to handle large volumes of messaging traffic continues to a challenge.

    2) Survivability of communications assets is essential in a major event such as an earthquake.

    When asked why Hams are typically the first to “get on the air” and provide communications after a major event, my response is simply that “there are so many hams out there, it’s hard to kill us all!”. Although this is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek comment, it’s absolutely true. Many hams are prepared and capable of communicating locally and nationally with nothing more than a wire, a radio and a battery.

    The same principal holds true for communications assets like the Coquitlam Club’s Satellite Communications Trailer. The more vehicles there are the Lower Mainland with these kinds of stand-alone communications capabilities, the higher the probablility that some or many will survive a major earthquake event.

    This is not a vehicle that will provide phone or data service for an entire community….those kinds of capabilities are provided by the military and the carriers. The equipment they provide is effective, large scale and expensive.

    What this vehicle will do is provide point solutions for an EOC, Incident site or ESS Centre in a municipality. The vehicle offers a suite of communications capabilites including local and regional voice and data via VHF/UHF and HF.

    In addition, thanks to the availability of todays satellite technology, Internet access is available to provide medium speed data access (4 – 6mbs) for email etc. and as with any IP based service, provide VOIP (Voice over IP) phone services to the outside world.

    Furthermore, learning from the lessons of Katrina, contracts with the satellite service providers can be written to guarantee committed bandwidth…protecting the bandwidth from CNN, Fox and other news agencies that flock to the stricken area.

    In terms of cost, this vehicle is all about a value proposition for the community. Losing a $500K – $1MM command or large scale communications vehicle in a major disaster is devestating….especially if you have only one or two available for use.

    On the other hand if 10 to 15 vehicles like our SAT Trailer ($45 – $50K each fully equipped) are spread throughout the Lower Mainland, the likelyhood of some being destroyed in a big event is high, however having them all destroyed is unlikey. Those that remain will be able to perform, stand-alone or in concert with others to provide communications until such time as the military and carriers can implement larger scale solutions.

    Two not so obvious soft benefits from the services this vehicles uses are:

    1) Satellite communications use commercial carriers, not amateur radio frequencies. Therefore limitations around encryption of sensitive and confidential data are not an issue.

    2) What better way to attract young folks into Amateur Radio and community service than by showing how hams are communicators and employ all forms of tehnology to get the job done.

    Thanks to tremendous support and funding from the City of Coquitlam and from DishPro Media Services, the Coquitlam Club is nearing completion of this project.

    This vehicle is a proof of concept and a model we hope other clubs and municipalities will recognize as an affordable means of providing a suite of essential communications to victims of disasters within their jurisdictions.


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