Why We Need Satellite Backup Communications

By Steve Durante
​CEO of Outerlink Global Solutions

A few months ago, I blogged about the need for satellite backup communications to ensure that first responders are able to connect with one another in case the primary means of communication is disrupted during a disaster. Recent tragedies have underscored the real necessity of these secondary communications systems.

For example, following the Boston Marathon bombing, it was originally reported that officials had proactively shut down the cell network, but, in fact, the network was inadvertently clogged by a massive volume of calls. And, when the massive tornado hit Moore, Oklahoma, the public was urged to communicate via text message to save bandwidth that was overwhelmed by a spike in call volume after the storm. The Huffington Post reported that hundreds of residents were affected by the limited bandwidth.

Additionally, the article stated that “wireless providers have faced criticism after service has been repeatedly unavailable or jammed during and after major storms. For example, cell service was unavailable for several days in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy last year, when the storm knocked out power in several cities.” Wireless carriers quickly responded to resolve the issue in Oklahoma, with major providers such as Sprint, Verizon and AT&T deploying temporary cell towers to expand wireless capacity. Sprint deployed hundreds of mobile devices and Satellite Cell on Light Trucks (SatCOLTS) to provide interoperable wireless voice and IP data communications for first responders, public safety officials and emergency medical personnel. While these efforts certainly helped, it’s clear that a permanent solution is necessary.

Several years ago, a similar situation occurred when the Minneapolis bridge collapsed. Emergency communications networks were flooded with more than twice the normal amount of traffic, and the traditional terrestrial communications network was overloaded. According to the FCC’s report following the incident, “first responders need effective communications solutions very quickly to address the sudden surge in demand for communications resources.”

Without a secondary means of communication, the critical first responders that we rely on to save lives during times of disaster would not be able to communicate. These examples highlight the need for satellite backup communications—a low-cost, reliable alternative to keep first responders in the loop when the lights go out.

Read more about the technology available for satellite communications here

Add new comment