East Africa: Regional conference on satellite communication

logoThis week, more than 250 delegates from East African countries are gathering for a regional conference on broadband and satellite communication for East Africa.

The five-day meeting from 15 to 19 April 2013 is taking place in Kampala, Uganda and has the theme “Strategy for Broadband Access to All in East Africa”. It is organised by the Ministry of ICT, Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), International Telecommunications Organisation (ITSO), and the East African Communications Organisation (EACO).

The event is the first of its kind for the East African region. The objectives of the conference are to build capacities in the region regarding broadband communication and to highlight the importance of satellite communication for the socio-economic development in East Africa.

Apogee Internet will shortly be announcing our latest initiatives supplying these crucial services to the region.

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Could 4G help rural areas get online?

While the government likes to talk about broadband as a commodity, alongside water or electricity, the sad truth is that many rural areas can get little to no service. There have been many false dawns in rural broadband; so is 4G set to be the next one, or is it the real deal?

In simple terms, 4G mobile broadband is set to slowly replace the current 3G networks we have cross the UK. You’ll need a new smartphone or dongle to access it, but otherwise it should smoothly replace 3G while offering the promise of faster, more reliable mobile data transfer.

The case for 4G mobile broadband

The 4G revolution certainly has the potential to meet rural needs. Rollout should be relatively straightforward, with first-to-market EE (Orange and T-Mobile) having already brought 4G to 27 UK towns and cities since launching late in 2012.

Price shouldn’t be an issue either. Mobile network Three has announced it will not charge a premium (above its 3G charges) for 4G mobile broadband, so it will be tough for the other networks to do so once competition for customers hots up.

Then there are the speeds. EE has been quoting averages from 8-12Mb since launch, with the current potential for 40Mb max speeds. While this is a long way behind current UK fixed-line speeds over fibre (which are already 100Mb and rising), 40Mb would be more than fast enough for the majority of rural customers’ needs.

And better still, this is potentially the tip of the iceberg in terms of speed. Etislat tests last year clocked a new 4G record at more than 300Mb and while you’re not likely to get that in a windy field near you anytime soon, it shows what this fledgling technology still in the locker.

The case against

As always tends to be the case when it comes to broadband, the biggest barrier to rural 4G is money. While the mobile internet providers are always quick to get their shiny new networks up and running in London, Birmingham and Manchester, those of us living in less population dense areas know the postcode lottery all too well. The talk is always of ‘population’ coverage, not geographical, and you can be sure the 4G rollout will be no different.

Then there’s reliability. We’ve had 3G for a long time now and enjoy very high UK coverage in terms of population, but standing stock still isn’t often enough to hold a reliable signal – let alone moving around. This can make data downloads a tedious task, while streaming can be next to useless. When 3G arrived there was much talk of being able to scrap your fixed line connection – something few have gone on to risk.

This leads us nicely onto speeds. Again, while first 7Mb and then 14Mb were promised the UK average 3G mobile broadband speed has never really got higher than 1-2Mb. Independent 4G field testing isn’t averaging out at 10Mb yet, so for now the jury is very much out. However, many a rural broadband customer would happily accept a reliable 10Mb broadband package.

So yes, 4G mobile broadband has the potential to get rural areas online. But unless you have a very active council or business community getting behind your push for base stations, I wouldn’t start holding your breath just yet.

Author Bio: Matt Powell is the editor for the broadband provider comparison site Broadband Genie.

Posted in Futureology, Home Networking, Radio Solutions, Satellite Technology, Small Business, Small Business Connect, Tech Tips, WAN, Working From Home | Leave a comment

Satellite Antenna Pointing Line Of Sight Obstruction Calculator

It is important to have a clear line of sight between the antenna and the satellite.

In the latitudes of the planet closer to the poles, the lower antenna elevation angles required increase the likelihood of obstructions on the ground coming between the antenna and the satellite. The calculator below displays the distance the antenna needs to be from a potential obstruction in order to ensure a clear line of sight for a given elevation.

This tool can be used for all obstacles from trees near a house to mountains in the distance.

Select the appropriate satellite you will be using:

Please enter the height of the obstacle above the level of the antenna in metres –

Please enter the elevation angle in degrees for the satellite in use –

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How to self install the ASTRA2connect system.

The ASTRA2connect system can be easily installed by anybody who has basic competence in DIY skills and is happy working on a ladder if the dish is to be positioned at height.

Firstly it is necessary to decide upon where you wish to site the dish. Once this decision is made it is then necessary to decide where you wish to site the ASTRA2connect modem. It is important to ensure that the cable run required from the dish to this location does not exceed the maximum cable run length guidelines. Once the dish has been mounted, the cable has been laid to the ASTRA2connect modem and the modem has been connected up and switched on it is necessary to point the dish properly at the relevant satellite. Watch the video below to see how this is done.

Once this procedure has been completed you will be online and ready to use your connection to the internet.

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Apogee Internet Dish Pointing Utility

Please type the details of your antenna location into the tool below and you will subsequently be advised of the correct azimuth, elevation and skew angles for your installation.


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Mobile Satellite Broadband for Events

Events come in all shapes and sizes from little cosy gatherings to gigantic extravaganzas. They also take place in allsorts of locations from city centres to remote mountaintops. Often they will be arranged in ad hoc places which do not have any existing telephone or internet access infrastructure.

Unfortunately this can present a problem for today’s event organisers with the modern day requirement for connectivity everywhere. Go to any country festival nowadays and you will be dazzled with a wide array of items for sale from clothing to foodstuffs to souvenirs. Event organisers have so many ways these days to engage with audiences far beyond the immediate vicinity of the event and this can often be the key element that define their success.

So whether its up to the minute twitter feeds, broadcast access to seminars or demonstrations, live web radio streams, guest wireless internet access or credit card transaction processing, the many and varied ways which telecommunications access to the rest of the world can enhance an event offer opportunities galore for event organisers and attendees alike.


At Apogee Internet, we have it all covered wherever your event may be. On a boat in the middle of the Irish Sea or at the top of Ben Nevis we can provide your event with high speed Internet access at the core of our offering provisioned across the Astra fleet of spacecraft. This service can be provisioned to cover any location in Europe, the Middle East  or Africa. We can provide the service with Engineers to set up and manage the equipment or, if preferred, as an equipment only service for your own technicians to take care of. Our comprehensive and easy to follow instructions make the set up achievable by anybody with extremely rudimentary knowledge of networks and we can provide remote support too if required.

Once the connection is established, the additional services can be applied so whether its point of sale machines or simply providing wireless network access to be made available to the area, we have the equipment available for hire to facilitate any eventuality. We would be so bold as to say that if you can imagine it, we can very probably make it happen. If you have an event coming up and you would like to enhance the facilities and engage with an audience from afar, give us a call today.


If you are in the UK, you can call us free on 0800 012 1090. If you are elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East or Africa, call us on +44 1560 321349.

Posted in Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, Data, Electronic Commerce, LAN, Satellite Broadband, Satellite Technology, Small Business Communicate, Take the office with you, Voice, VOIP, WAN, Webcast | 3 Comments

Visualising crises outside the visible spectrum

For decades, satellite remote sensing has provided fundamental insights in countless physical science fields such as ecology, geosciences, atmospheric physics, and chemistry. However, as it relates to human and socioeconomic processes, satellite remote sensing is an incredibly powerful tool that is underutilized. Human behavior and socioeconomic parameters have been successfully studied via proxy through remote sensing of the physical environment by measuring the growth of city boundaries and transportation networks, crop health, soil moisture, and slum development from visible and multispectral imagery.

The NASA/ NOAA image of Earth’s “Lights at Night” is routinely used to estimate economic development and population density. There are many examples of the conventional uses of remote sensing in humanitarian-related projects including the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) and the UNITAR’s Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT), which provides remote sensing for humanitarian and disaster relief. Yet even with these successful applications, we’ve just begun to scratch the surface of what remotely sensed data can provide for prevention, mitigation and response to acute and chronic human crises.

Many successful remote sensing projects have focused exclusively on the visible spectrum – what one would see of they looked down from an airplane at the ground surface. Yet in order to discern objects or patterns of interest (buildings, markets, roads, vehicles, etc.), high spatial resolution remote sensing data are necessary. It’s important to note up front, though, that two other types of data resolution are also critical in remotely sensing the Earth’s surface: spectral resolution and temporal resolution. High spatial resolution remote sensing data have been utilized successfully in a number of recent disasters to rapidly and accurately map the developing situation on the ground during crises, such as earthquake, flood, landslide, and civil unrest events.

After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, volunteers used released GeoEye imagery to digitize roads into OpenStreetMap. High resolution imagery was key to assessing the situation and for the first time, released widely to the public through Google Earth and other outlets. The Satellite Sentinel Project is goes beyond imaging natural disasters and utilizes DigitalGlobe and other commercial imagery to serve as witness to potential humanitarian crises and human rights crimes in near real-time. Grassroots Mapping.org takes a participatory, public domain approach to monitoring crises with balloon and kite photography. They are using systems that involve attaching digital cameras and infrared sensors to weather balloons. GrassrootsMapping.org has been able to acquire imagery for monitoring the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and has developed a community around their DIY airborne environmental sensors.

Again, however, these projects (as well as many others in the humanitarian space) rely on high spatial resolution with limited utilization of higher spectral or temporal resolution. While high spatial resolution is necessary to “see” what is happening on the ground in the visible spectrum of light that our eyes detect, there are other kinds of data that can be obtained by using remote sensing to “see” in other parts of the electromagnetic spectrum (spectral resolution). Also, one must take into account how frequently these remotely sensed data are gathered (temporal resolution).

Spectral resolution can be the most difficult to understand since many lay users have only used imagery that looks like what their eye sees, such as the GeoEye imagery in Google Earth. There are many sensors that allow us to “see” the Earth’s surface in ways other than the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum. All passive sensors, whether they are in your digital camera or on a satellite, are measuring energy reflected or emitted from the surface of the Earth. This energy either comes from the sun or from the heat energy generated at the molecular level of materials on the ground. Active sensors, such as radar, send down energy (radio waves) to the Earth’s surface and measure the returned signal. Spectral resolution refers to the coverage of the electromagnetic spectrum that a sensor can measure.

Many sensors that can detect visible light energy that also have a “band” that measures energy in the near-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. These sensors can be used to measure the abundance of vegetation on the ground. Some have simple thermal detectors that can measure temperature. For more detailed analysis of the Earth’s surface, the thermal infrared can be used to say what the composition of geologic and urban materials are on the ground and how those materials hold heat. This requires a higher spectral resolution than most sensors have. Some instruments like the NASA satellite Landsat have a “band” in the thermal infrared which can provide a proxy for surface temperature. The NASA satellite ASTER can has a higher spectral resolution than Landsat since it measure five bands or “slices” of the thermal infrared and so can be used to identify the composition of materials on the ground and measure surface temperature within 1.5 degrees C.

Temporal resolution is the rate at which a location on the ground is imaged by the sensor and how often a useful image can actually be obtained. An airborne sensor, acquiring imagery from an airplane or balloon, will usually have a lower temporal resolution than a satellite sensor, since the airborne sensor will not always be flying, while a satellite may be always acquiring new data. Commercial satellite sensors may effectively have a lower temporal resolution for a certain project than NASA or NOAA imagery, since the project may not be able to afford many images over time from a commercial sensor.

While high spatial resolution remote sensing is vital to responding to an immediate crisis, slow-onset disasters can often be better understood with a foundation of multi/hyper spectral data, with potentially higher temporal resolutions. These data can provide indicators of environmental health, such as water quantity and quality, air pollution, heat, biodiversity, and soil quality. As the world faces increasing major environmental challenges—most notably the threat of climate change—both immediate crises and slow-onset disasters result, but over different periods of time. Slow-onset disasters are often occurring alongside immediate crisis events, involving environmental, social, political, and economic factors that depress resilience and increase vulnerability over time. Multispectral data from NASA and NOAA satellite sensors, such as Landsat, ASTER, MODIS, and GOES, have been effectively used to understand human-environment interactions for these slow-onset disasters.

Since this data is acquired across the globe, in a synoptic view independent of political boundaries or government influence, at regular time intervals, this data can be used to compare cities and regions across time and on global and local scales.

These high spectral resolution data and advanced imagery from active sensors, such as radar, are often limited to researchers who have the skills and software to acquire and process the spectral imagery. Developing open-source Geographic Information System (GIS) platforms that can serve as hubs for both researchers and decision-makers to share data, learn from each others results, and visualize and analyze complex information across disciplines can lead to better understanding of human vulnerability and more useful mitigation/adaptation strategies.

NASA and the USGS have created some new, efficient online tools for data discovery, such as GLOVIS, Earth Explorer, and Reverb, however many of the higher-level analytical software tools for multispectral data have high barriers to entry. At the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, we are adapting a NASA open-source GIS package called JMARS for the Earth (J-Earth) to allow for data discovery, sharing and analysis of remote sensing data and other numeric data with other GIS data.

Beyond expanding access to remote sensing data and the ability for decision-makers and the public to use this data, new NASA satellite sensors could be developed and launched to provide multispectral imagery at spatial and temporal resolutions useful to humanitarian uses and decision-makers. A satellite like this would not need an extended expensive mission, such as Landsat, but could be a lighter satellite that could be developed and launched for a fraction of the cost. There have been concepts proposed over the last few years to dedicate a NASA satellite to urban and humanitarian purposes, including from our NASA research group at ASU, however there is not currently a clear path to propose a satellite like this currently within NASA. As more data have become available to understand both sudden and slow-onset crises that have massively multi-variate problems it has become increasingly important to integrate many kinds of data from multiple sources and from fine to course resolutions. Leading the way are projects like Global Pulse that are integrating these multiple kinds of satellite remote sensing data- from high spatial to high spectral resolution – with other numerical models and vector data from official (i.e. ground based sensor networks, governmental and NGO data) and new data sources (i.e. mobile phone data, crowd-sourced inputs, and social networking) in near real time for multiple audiences – researchers, decision-makers, and the public.

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Understanding Polarisation

There are two major types of polarisation: Cross Polarisation (Cross-pol) and Co Polarisation (Co-pol).

Looking at cross polarisation initially, there are two types of cross polarization namely circular and linear. Within the circular realm there is the Left Hand Circular, or LHCP, or Right Hand Circular, or RHCP. This type of polarization is used in C-Band and in X-Band. One would be hard pressed to find circular polarization on Ku, K or Ka band frequencies. Linear polarization on the other hand is used frequently on Ku and Ka band antennas. With linear there are two types: Horizontal and Vertical.

What exactly is happening in the linear world that we need to know about? Before understanding how linear is used, one must understand the device being used on the satellite dish to let one signal pass while blocking the other signal. This is called the Orthogonal Mode Transducer, or OMT for short.

To use the channels that are available for satellite broadcast as efficiently as possible, both horizontal and vertical polarization (and left- and right-hand circular polarization) can be applied simultaneously per channel or frequency. In such cases the frequency of one of the two is slightly altered, to prevent possible interference. Horizontal and vertical transmissions will therefore not interfere with each another because they are differently polarized. This means twice as many programs can be transmitted per satellite. Consequently, via one and (almost) the same frequency the satellite can broadcast both a horizontal and a vertical polarized signal (H and V), or a left- and right-hand circular polarized signal (LH and RH).

The ASTRA2Connect system uses cross polarisation and our users can use this page to check the correct polarisation of their own systems. ASTRA2Connect polarisation checker.

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Satellite broadband ‘more flexible than cable’

Satellite broadband services offer greater flexibility than the cable equivalent. At Apogee Internet we stand firmly by this contention.

We signed up last year with SES Astra in a widely publicised deal because satellite services are now far more accessible to UK households and businesses than in the past.

Across the industry, the launch of new satellites has not only increased the download speeds available, but helped make broadband deal prices more competitive and this makes the landscape very attractive for the UK consumer.

Paula Livingstone, Managing Director at Apogee Internet UK, said that, “In the past, satellite communications have been extremely expensive.”

“But now what’s on offer is a system that is comparable in price to that of a cable network and far more flexible, especially if you are a mobile user.”

She added, “The majority of customers we want to help aren’t necessarily in tiny villages or remote cottages, they are at the edge of metropolitan areas but still can’t get cable or ADSL at 2Mbps because they are 4 km or more from their closest telephone exchange.”

“Living, as I myself do, in a location that is afflicted with ADSL at a maximum of 1Mbps, I am keenly aware of the challenges this presents.”

Apogee Internet UK offers broadband deals supported by SES Astra’s ASTRA2connect platform using SES’s family of Astra 2 and 3 satellites at the 28.2 East and 23.5 East and can offer its customers a system which is capable of combining SKY TV / Freesat and satellite broadband internet access on the same dish. Call us free on 0800 012 1090.

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Support available from the Welsh Assembly for those in Internet access “not-spots”

The Welsh Assembly has made £2M pounds available in order to help those living in areas in Wales that have no access to broadband Internet. What does this mean? It means that you can get your satellite broadband equipment and installation for free!

The service we provide here at Apogee Internet is considered to qualify as a suitable service for this scheme and is available to our customers living in Wales now. If your property is in Wales, you could reclaim the complete cost of your Apogee Internet ASTRA2connect broadband system and that includes the equipment and the installation costs.

The Welsh Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones stated at the announcement of the scheme:

“People will be able to make an application for the grant. That grant will be processed, an agreement will be made for somebody to make that connection for them. The cost will be paid for under the grant and of course people will then make their own arrangements with the provider.”

Mr Jones said broadband services were “vital to ensure our country can develop the knowledge economy, improving the ability of businesses and individuals to network and innovate.”

Mr Jones, who is also minister for the economy and transport, added: “So despite current pressures on our budget we are determined to find ways of opening up access for the relatively few areas in Wales that remain unable to benefit from broadband services”.

If you are resident in Wales and would like us to send you details including an application form then why not contact us using our web contact form. We will then send you the information as well as advice on the best installers local to you. It is important to bear in mind that you should not place an order with us until you have learned whether or not your application has been successful.

So if you’re interested then get your skates on. There are limited funds and when its finished, its finished. If you would like us to help you with your application we will be happy to.

If you would like more information you can find it here.

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