UK Satellite Broadband and Television on the same dish.

It is now possible to have one dish, or antenna as we prefer to call them, that provides satellite television as well as satellite broadband in the UK. We are the only satellite broadband service provider in the UK that is able to provide this service for our customers who can enjoy their Sky or Freesat television through the same dish as their satellite broadband service. Having entered into our partnership with SES last year, we have now began providing our customers with this uniquely packaged service enabling our satellite broadband customers to avoid the clutter of multiple dishes.

Customers who have an existing TVRO dish, can make use of these services by means of a simple upgrade. It is necessary to replace the dish with one of our solid construction dishes as shown on the left. Once the dish is replaced, we will also need to replace your TV LNB with a specialised LNB which is designed to prevent the received satellite television signals from being swamped by the transmissions from your Internet access iLNB. The image below shows the two different LNB’s positioned side by side in their multifeed clamp.

In the picture below right we can see the two different LNB’s positioned side by side in their multifeed clamp. The two LNB’s sit side by side with the larger iLNB for Internet transmission and reception secured at the focal point of reception from the Astra 23.5East orbit and the smaller quad feed filtered television LNB secured at the focal point of reception from the Astra 28.2 East orbit from which all Sky Digital and Freesat services are broadcast. This unique configuration enables our customers to enjoy both services at the same time without either service impacting the usability of the other.
Once this has been completed and the dish has been aligned using our simple to use point and play tool, the cable to the location where the satellite internet access modem will be located has been secured and the award winning Newtec Sat3Play equipment connected to the end of it has been positioned, its time to get connected.

Armed with the account credentials provided by us and allocated in accordance with your chosen subscription package, you need only use an internet browser on your PC or laptop to connect to the equipment and you’re up and running. The video belows shows the whole process in some detail and will, we hope, show you just how easily you can be connected to the net wherever you are in Western Europe.

We hope you’ll agree that our solution represents the best satellite broadband in the UK today. For customers who wish to use one dish to receive satellite TV as well as satellite broadband our Single Dish packages represent the cheapest satellite broadband in the UK.

If you’d like to find out more why not visit our website at www.apogeeinternet.co.uk or if you prefer you can give us a call free on 0800 012 1090. One of our customer service agents will be waiting to take your call and welcome you to our growing family of customers.

Posted in Data, Home Networking, Satellite Broadband, Small Business, Small Business Connect, WAN, Working From Home | 1 Comment

Satellite Broadband Internet for Scotland by Apogee Internet

Lets face it. Scotland is, for the most part, a relatively sparsely populated country. That is in the context of Western Europe. Away from the biggest cities and towns, its telecommunications infrastructure for the average end user is more likely to consist of a telephone line than a fancy high speed broadband connection. If a connection to the Internet is available for these areas it will probably run at a speed of less than 2 Mbps and often a connection to the internet is only available on a dial up modem connection which was so popular in the 1990’s and runs at a staggeringly slow 56 Kbps. It isnt even always necessary to leave the convenience of the town or village to experience these problems with many locations even within cities, towns or villages suffering from frustratingly slow access speeds.

As average speeds for the rest of the world have moved up, so has the average size and complexity of most websites which are usually designed on the assumption that visitors have a connection speed of at least 1Mbps. As for voice and video, these are services which can often seem a long way out of reach for the underserved rural marketplace in Scotland.

Various technologies have attempted to bridge that gap over the years since the arrival of the Internet but they have always proven to be either too costly or simply not reliable enough to make a difference. It was only recently that the promise of satellite technology was really able to deliver by providing cost effective, affordable and most importantly reliably usable services to the mass market. This is what we offer at Apogee Internet.

Our satellite broadband solutions cover Scotland as well as the rest of the UK and Ireland and indeed all of Western Europe. They provide our customers with truly high speed Internet access that can allow them to enjoy such services as catch up TV like BBC iPlayer, voice and videoconferencing services such as Skype, music and book downloads from the Apple iStore and even the thing that most of us take for granted, delay free web browsing. All of this is packaged at a very attractive price point and one which we continuously strive to ensure is the best value in the UK. In straightforward terms which our marketing department hates us using, we are the cheapest satellite internet provider in the UK.

But the cheapest satellite broadband in the UK does not mean we need to compromise on quality. All of our subscribers use the award winning Newtec Sat3Play terminal which ensures that the user experience is second to none and that the connection really squeezes the absolute best out of every ounce of precious bandwidth. Indeed we always contend that because of this equipment, our satellite broadband connections perform as good as or better than higher bandwidth (and higher cost) packages from our competitors.

On top of that, we use the best in terms of spacecraft. We have partnered with SES Astra to offer their award winning Astra2Connect service as the core of our satellite broadband packages. SES Astra are one of only a small handful of global giants in the world of satellite communications. This is the jewel in the crown of our service and one which ensures that we continue to offer the maximum possible in terms of data throughput even when atmospherics or other problems near the user on the ground would impinge on many other services.

Our equipment is easy to install and can be installed by anybody with average “do it yourself” skills if that is preferred to an installation by one of our professional installers. With easy to use tools like the Point & Play®, patent pending technology, which is included as a standard part of our customers welcome package the mystique is removed from the installation.

This tool allows the installer (be it a professional installer or the end-user) to easily position the antenna by identifying the satellite and providing instant feedback on both signal quality and lock. It can also save our customers money in the longer term enabling simple repositioning of the dish without having to call out and wait for an installation company, were the dish to be moved by a storm for example.

In summary, we at Apogee Internet offer a satellite internet service to Scotland which is unmatched in terms of quality at every level both in terms of the quality of the equipment as well as ongoing cost to our subscribers. Most of our team live and work in places just like those described above and the issues, problems and limitations which most of us at Apogee have experienced at one time or another are very close to our hearts.

We have made it a core value of our company to provide the most affordable and fastest possible service to individuals and businesses in Scotland left behind in the constantly developing Internet economy. If you would like to find out any more please visit our FAQ or contact us using our online enquiry form or perhaps even call us free in the UK on 0800 012 1090. We would love to hear from you and are happy to provide free advice to anybody experiencing difficulty getting connected to the network whether our customers or not. If you’d like to know more why not take a look at our main website which you can find here.

 

 

Posted in Data, Home Networking, Satellite Broadband, Small Business Connect, Video Conferencing, VOIP, WAN, Working From Home | Leave a comment

New Satellite Technology a Possible ‘Game Changer’ for Communications

As the interoperability discussion continues, so does the frustration of many who have worked on this issue for decades but haven’t seen their goals realized. So it makes sense to take a look into the future of what could be a bright spot.

Satellite technology has proven itself during major events but its limitations are known. During Hurricane Katrina, satellite technology allowed for some semblance of interoperability when most communications systems were down. A family of satellites first launched seven years ago by Hughes has the ability to be a “game changer,” in the words of some neutral panelists at a recent emergency management summit.

The new satellites, which Hughes calls Spaceway, offer path diversity. It doesn’t just bounce up from an antenna to the satellite and reflect down to a ground hub and connect to the Internet or a data center like the traditional satellite. The Spaceway is a router in the sky that can make multiple connections at once, enabling conference calls and video conferencing.

The Department of Defence tested the satellite’s ability in 2009, creating video teleconferencing between the U.S. Northern Command, the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Dahlgren Division and the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego. The after-action report described it as “relatively quick to set up with the ability to carry on high-definition, clear and stable communications with other locations.” FEMA was scheduled to test it during winter 2011.

With the Spaceway, user groups can be built prior to an event and connect when necessary. Agencies and private-sector entities that don’t work together every day can connect quickly during a crisis when other terrestrial communications are not working.

The Spaceway satellite is more akin to a mesh network than the traditional reflector satellite, which enables it to invoke community groups. Another way of describing it is “any to any” connectivity instead of “one to one” connectivity.

Tony Bardo, assistant vice president of Government Solutions at Hughes, called it a “Plan B” network. “If the ground infrastructure is down and you are unable to put together a user group, your radios and so forth are down and you can still get connected, you can quickly invoke a community of users and managers and decision-makers that have access to this Plan B network.”

During Hurricane Katrina, circuits and Bell South towers were inoperable because they were submerged by the flooding. When the towers fell during 9/11, cables and servers went down under the rubble. “These structures on the ground that support our telecommunications are very much in harm’s way when it comes to natural disasters and attacks,” Bardo said.

With Spaceway, both the satellite and the routing capacity are 22,000 miles above earth and away from harm, unlike ground-based communication infrastructure.

“If you think about that ground hub in the old system, the ground hub is the router,” Bardo said. “The intelligence is taking place on the ground. Spaceway, with its router in the sky, can enable me to communicate with you in another field office and add another party somewhere else, and out of harm’s way. I send up your IP address, and it connects me with you. I want to connect with the data center, so I send up the IP address on the antenna of the data centre and it connects me there.”

Posted in Critical Infrastructure, Data, Failsafe, Fortify, Incident Response, Resilience, Satellite Broadband, Video Conferencing, WAN | Leave a comment

LEO and MEO Satellites

Traditional communications satellites orbit at what is known as a geosynchronous (GEO) orbit at a height above the earth of 22,300 miles (36,000 km). The advantage to this very specific location is that it takes 24 hours for the satellite to orbit the earth, which means that the satellite remains at the same location above the earth at all times and appears to remain stationary to an observer on the ground.
This orbit is very convenient in allowing the user on the ground to fix an antenna to a particular location in the sky. This orbit also provides continuous coverage for any location that can see the satellite and allows the operator to focus on coverage for particular countries or population centers. The disadvantage is the distance itself, which is about three times the diameter of the earth or about 10% of the distance to the moon. In contrast, the International Space Station orbits at an altitude of approximately 250 miles (400 km), and the earth’s atmosphere extends out to only about 600 miles (approximately 1000 km).

GEO orbit is extremely high, which makes GEO satellites expensive to launch and impossible to repair in orbit. But most importantly of all, GEO orbit is so far away that it takes light about 1/4 of a second to travel from earth to the satellite and back down to the receiver, adding a noticeable delay to voice communications and interfering with TCP’s round-trip time based algorithms.

If the distance to GEO satellites causes problems, the obvious solution is to move the satellites closer to the ground in LEO (low earth orbit) or MEO (medium earth orbit) orbit. There is no single definition of LEO and MEO orbits, but in general LEO extends from the ground up to about a thousand miles and MEO extends from there up to GEO orbit.
In addition to lower delay, the cost of launching LEO and MEO satellites is generally much less than for GEO satellites. A LEO satellite can potentially be repaired in orbit from the Space Shuttle.

Iridium, Inmarsat and Globalstar satellite phone systems were designed on the premise that a LEO satellite constellation was necessary to meet latency requirements, as was the proposed Teledesic Internet system. The Iridium satellite phone system is in a 450 mile (780 km) low earth orbit. But Iridium also clearly illustrates the disadvantage to this approach.

Because LEO and MEO satellites move in relationship to the ground, multiple satellites are
required to provide continuous coverage so that at least one satellite is in view at all times.

The lower the satellite is to the ground, the more satellites are necessary to cover the earth. The Iridium system is a constellation of 66 satellites. Store-and-forward tracking systems can work with only a few satellites, but for voice or Internet service, the full constellation must be in orbit before the system can be operational since service which is available for a few minutes out of each hour as the satellite goes overhead will not find many customers. In contrast, a GEO satellite can provide coverage to users on about 1/3 of the earth with only a single satellite. So while it may cost less to launch a single LEO satellite, the whole fleet can cost billions of dollars before the system can be switched on and begin generating revenue.

Also, due to the movement of the satellites relative to the users, a sophisticated hand-off system is necessary to periodically move the user from one satellite that is disappearing over the horizon to another satellite that is still visible. On the ground, a sophisticated antenna which can track moving satellites and switch between satellites on-the-fly may be required, which would likely make the customer premise equipment prohibitively expensive for consumers. Satellite telephone systems solved this problem by using a unidirectional antenna which is sufficient for low power phone service (although the subsequent inability of the phone to work indoors or even in the shadow of tall buildings may have been a large contributor to the failure of the businesses) but this type of unidirectional antenna would be unlikely to work for Internet systems operating at high data rates.

Lastly, while LEO satellites do reduce the round-trip time to just a few tens of milliseconds, the round-trip time will be highly variable depending on whether the satellite is directly overhead or on the horizon. Since TCP’s retransmission mechanisms are tied to the round-trip time, TCP can be highly sensitive to variability in the round-trip time.

Summary

Overall, by bringing the satellite much closer to the ground, LEO and MEO satellites are able to resolve most TCP performance limitations by reducing the satellite latency to a value typical of terrestrial networks. However, LEO and MEO satellite networks introduce other technical challenges regarding antenna design, connection hand-over, and satellite-to-satellite communications. Most importantly, the cost of a constellation of LEO satellites is nearly impossible to justify with any rational business plan, especially when GEO satellites can be made to work just as well by using some basic protocol enhancements.

Posted in Data, Radio Solutions, Satellite Broadband, Tech Tips, WAN | Leave a comment

VU Telepresence January 2012 promotion

We are pleased to announce a promotion on the VU Telepresence VU-Pro which is valid until January 20 2012.

Call us free on 08000 121 090

Vu TelePresence Pro – New Year Promotional Pricing

 Product Price Per Unit

Vu TelePresence™ Pro 720p

(Without Display)

£699

Vu TelePresence™ Pro 1080p

(Without Display)

£1299

 

Terms & Conditions

    • The above pricing is Vu TelePresence New Year Promotional pricing valid till January 20, 2012.
    • The offer is valid only if we receive your purchase order by January 20, 2012 and the amount by January 25, 2012. 
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Communications Satellites: Making the Global Village Possible

In 500 years, when humankind looks back at the dawn of space travel, Apollo’s landing on the Moon in 1969 may be the only event remembered. At the same time, however, Lyndon B. Johnson, himself an avid promoter of the space program, felt that reconnaissance satellites alone justified every penny spent on space. Weather forecasting has undergone a revolution because of the availability of pictures from geostationary meteorological satellites–pictures we see every day on television. All of these are important aspects of the space age, but satellite communications has probably had more effect than any of the rest on the average person. Satellite communications is also the only truly commercial space technology- -generating billions of pounds annually in sales of products and services.

The Billion Dollar Technology

In the autumn of 1945 an RAF electronics officer and member of the British Interplanetary Society, Arthur C. Clarke, wrote a short article in Wireless World that described the use of manned satellites in 24-hour orbits high above the world’s land masses to distribute television programs. His article apparently had little lasting effect in spite of Clarke’s repeating the story in his 1951/52 The Exploration of Space . Perhaps the first person to carefully evaluate the various technical options in satellite communications and evaluate the financial prospects was John R. Pierce of AT&T’s Bell Telephone Laboratories who, in a 1954 speech and 1955 article, elaborated the utility of a communications “mirror” in space, a medium-orbit “repeater” and a 24-hour-orbit “repeater.” In comparing the communications capacity of a satellite, which he estimated at 1,000 simultaneous telephone calls, and the communications capacity of the first trans-atlantic telephone cable (TAT-1), which could carry 36 simultaneous telephone calls at a cost of 30-50 million pounds, Pierce wondered if a satellite would be worth a billion pounds.

After the 1957 launch of Sputnik I, many considered the benefits, profits, and prestige associated with satellite communications. Because of Congressional fears of “duplication,” NASA confined itself to experiments with “mirrors” or “passive” communications satellites (ECHO), while the Department of Defense was responsible for “repeater” or “active” satellites which amplify the received signal at the satellite–providing much higher quality communications. In 1960 AT&T filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for permission to launch an experimental communications satellite with a view to rapidly implementing an operational system. The U.S. government reacted with surprise– there was no policy in place to help execute the many decisions related to the AT&T proposal. By the middle of 1961, NASA had awarded a competitive contract to RCA to build a medium-orbit (4,000 miles high) active communication satellite (RELAY); AT&T was building its own medium-orbit satellite (TELSTAR) which NASA would launch on a cost-reimbursable basis; and NASA had awarded a sole- source contract to Hughes Aircraft Company to build a 24-hour (20,000 mile high) satellite (SYNCOM). The military program, ADVENT, was cancelled a year later due to complexity of the spacecraft, delay in launcher availability, and cost over-runs.

By 1964, two TELSTARs, two RELAYs, and two SYNCOMs had operated successfully in space. This timing was fortunate because the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT), formed as a result of the Communications Satellite Act of 1962, was in the process of contracting for their first satellite. COMSAT’s initial capitalization of 200 million dollars was considered sufficient to build a system of dozens of medium-orbit satellites. For a variety of reasons, including costs, COMSAT ultimately chose to reject the joint AT&T/RCA offer of a medium-orbit satellite incorporating the best of TELSTAR and RELAY. They chose the 24-hour-orbit (geosynchronous) satellite offered by Hughes Aircraft Company for their first two systems and a TRW geosynchronous satellite for their third system. On April 6, 1965 COMSAT’s first satellite, EARLY BIRD, was launched from Cape Canaveral. Global satellite communications had begun.

The Global Village: International Communications

Some glimpses of the Global Village had already been provided during experiments with TELSTAR, RELAY, and SYNCOM. These had included televising parts of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Although COMSAT and the initial launch vehicles and satellites were American, other countries had been involved from the beginning. AT&T had initially negotiated with its European telephone cable “partners” to build earth stations for TELSTAR experimentation. NASA had expanded these negotiations to include RELAY and SYNCOM experimentation. By the time EARLY BIRD was launched, communications earth stations already existed in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Japan. Further negotiations in 1963 and 1964 resulted in a new international organization, which would ultimately assume ownership of the satellites and responsibility for management of the global system. On August 20, 1964, agreements were signed which created the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (INTELSAT).

By the end of 1965, EARLY BIRD had provided 150 telephone “half- circuits” and 80 hours of television service. The INTELSAT II series was a slightly more capable and longer-lived version of EARLY BIRD. Much of the early use of the COMSAT/INTELSAT system was to provide circuits for the NASA Communications Network (NASCOM). The INTELSAT III series was the first to provide Indian Ocean coverage to complete the global network. This coverage was completed just days before one half billion people watched APOLLO 11 land on the moon on July 20, 1969.

Hello Guam: Domestic Communications

In 1965, ABC proposed a domestic satellite system to distribute television signals. The proposal sank into temporary oblivion, but in 1972 TELESAT CANADA launched the first domestic communications satellite, ANIK, to serve the vast Canadian continental area. RCA promptly leased circuits on the Canadian satellite until they could launch their own satellite. The first U.S. domestic communications satellite was Western Union’s WESTAR I, launched on April 13, 1974. In December of the following year RCA launched their RCA SATCOM F- 1. In early 1976 AT&T and COMSAT launched the first of the COMSTAR series. These satellites were used for voice and data, but very quickly television became a major user. By the end of 1976 there were 120 transponders available over the U.S., each capable of providing 1500 telephone channels or one TV channel. Very quickly the “movie channels” and “super stations” were available to most Americans. The dramatic growth in cable TV would not have been possible without an inexpensive method of distributing video.

The ensuing two decades have seen some changes: Western Union is no more; Hughes is now a satellite operator as well as a manufacturer; AT&T is still a satellite operator, but no longer in partnership with COMSAT; GTE, originally teaming with Hughes in the early 1960s to build and operate a global system is now a major domestic satellite operator. Television still dominates domestic satellite communications, but data has grown tremendously with the advent of very small aperture terminals (VSATs). Small antennas, whether TV-Receive Only (TVRO) or VSAT are a commonplace sight all over the country.

New Technology

The first major geosynchronous satellite project was the Defense Department’s ADVENT communications satellite. It was three-axis stabilized rather than spinning. It had an antenna that directed its radio energy at the earth. It was rather sophisticated and heavy. At 500-1000 pounds it could only be launched by the ATLAS- CENTAUR launch vehicle. ADVENT never flew, primarily because the CENTAUR stage was not fully reliable until 1968, but also because of problems with the satellite. When the program was canceled in 1962 it was seen as the death knell for geosynchronous satellites, three-axis stabilization, the ATLAS-CENTAUR, and complex communications satellites generally. Geosynchronous satellites became a reality in 1963, and became the only choice in 1965. The other ADVENT characteristics also became commonplace in the years to follow.

In the early 1960s, converted intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) and intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) were used as launch vehicles. These all had a common problem: they were designed to deliver an object to the earth’s surface, not to place an object in orbit. Upper stages had to be designed to provide a delta-Vee (velocity change) at apogee to circularize the orbit. The DELTA launch vehicles, which placed all of the early communications satellites in orbit, were THOR IRBMs that used the VANGUARD upper stage to provide this delta-Vee. It was recognized that the DELTA was relatively small and a project to develop CENTAUR, a high-energy upper stage for the ATLAS ICBM, was begun. ATLAS-CENTAUR became reliable in 1968 and the fourth generation of INTELSAT satellites used this launch vehicle. The fifth generation used ATLAS-CENTAUR and a new launch-vehicle, the European ARIANE. Since that time other entries, including the Russian PROTON launch vehicle and the Chinese LONG MARCH have entered the market. All are capable of launching satellites almost thirty times the weight of EARLY BIRD.

In the mid-1970s several satellites were built using three-axis stabilization. They were more complex than the spinners, but they provided more despun surface to mount antennas and they made it possible to deploy very large solar arrays. The greater the mass and power, the greater the advantage of three-axis stabilization appears to be. Perhaps the surest indication of the success of this form of stabilization was the switch of Hughes, closely identified with spinning satellites, to this form of stabilization in the early 1990s. The latest products from the manufacturers of SYNCOM look quite similar to the discredited ADVENT design of the late 1950s.

Much of the technology for communications satellites existed in 1960, but would be improved with time. The basic communications component of the satellite was the traveling-wave-tube (TWT). These had been invented in England by Rudoph Kompfner, but they had been perfected at Bell Labs by Kompfner and J. R. Pierce. All three early satellites used TWTs built by a Bell Labs alumnus. These early tubes had power outputs as low as 1 watt. Higher- power (50-300 watts) TWTs are available today for standard satellite services and for direct-broadcast applications. An even more important improvement was the use of high-gain antennas. Focusing the energy from a 1-watt transmitter on the surface of the earth is equivalent to having a 100-watt transmitter radiating in all directions. Focusing this energy on Western Europe. is like having a 1000-watt transmitter radiating in all directions. The principal effect of this increase in actual and effective power is that earth stations are no longer 100-foot dish reflectors with cryogenically-cooled maser amplifiers costing as much as £20 million to build. Antennas for normal satellite services are typically 15-foot dish reflectors costing £50,000. Our own customer premises antennas in use on our Apogee Internet Satellite Broadband service are 79cm in diameter and extremely low cost and none of this could be possible without the use of high gain antennas.

Mobile Services

In February of 1976 COMSAT launched a new kind of satellite, MARISAT, to provide mobile services to maritime customers. In the early 1980s Europe launched the MARECS series to provide the same services. In 1979 the UN International Maritime Organization sponsored the establishment of the International Maritime Satellite Organization (INMARSAT) in a manner similar to INTELSAT. INMARSAT initially leased the MARISAT and MARECS satellite transponders, but in October of 1990 it launched the first of its own satellites, INMARSAT II F-1. The third generation, INMARSAT III, has already been launched. An aeronautical satellite was proposed in the mid-1970s. A contract was awarded to General Electric to build the satellite, but it was cancelled. INMARSAT now provides this service. Although INMARSAT was initially conceived as a method of providing telephone service and traffic-monitoring services on ships at sea, it has provided much more. The journalist with a briefcase phone has been ubiquitous for some time, but the Gulf War brought this technology to the public eye.

Competition

In 1965, when EARLY BIRD was launched, the satellite provided almost 10 times the capacity of the submarine telephone cables for almost 1/10th the price. This price-differential was maintained until the laying of TAT-8 in the late 1980s. TAT-8 was the first fibre-optic cable laid across the Atlantic. Satellites are still competitive with cable for point-to-point communications, but the future advantage may lie with fiber-optic cable. Satellites still maintain two advantages over cable: they are more reliable and they can be used point-to-multi-point (broadcasting).

Cellular telphone systems have risen as challenges to all other types of telephony. It is possible to place a cellular system in a developing country at a very reasonable price. Long-distance calls require some other technology, but this can be either satellites or fibre-optic cable.

Posted in Data, Satellite Broadband, WAN | Leave a comment

Enhancing Oil,Gas and Power Operations – SCADA via Satellite

Oil and gas operations are located in unforgiving environments, from the blistering cold of the arctic to the scorching heat of the deserts and the storming conditions out on the open sea. To sustain secure operating conditions in these remote areas, reliable communication is as vital to the end-user as the umbilical cord is to an unborn child.

 

Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition

Supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) is a unique aspect of oil, gas and power distribution operations in that it does not entail communication between people, but between machines, also known as machine–machine (M2M).

SCADA describes a computer based system that manages mission critical process applications on the ‘factory floor’. These applications are frequently critical for health, safety and the environment.

The term telemetry is often used in combination with SCADA. Telemetry describes the process of collating data and performing remotely controlled actions via a suitable transmission media. In the context of this article, the telemetry media is a satellite communications solution.

SCADA in Oil, Gas and Power Distribution Operations

SCADA is not limited to a particular aspect of these types of operations. In the Oil and Gas industry, SCADA applications can be found in upstream areas such as well monitoring, downstream in areas such as pipeline operations, in trade by managing the fiscal metering/custody transfer operations and logistics in applications such as inventory management of tank storage facilities. SCADA systems in the Power Distribution industry use RTUs and PLCs to perform the majority of on-site control. The RTU or PLC acquires the site data, which includes meter readings, pressure, voltage, or other equipment status, then performs local control and transfers the data to the central SCADA system. However, when comparing and specifying a solution for challenging SCADA environments, RTU and PLC-based systems are not equal.

PLC Systems are Sub-Optimal for Complex SCADA Systems

Originally designed to replace relay logic, PLCs acquire analog and/or digital data through input modules, and execute a program loop while scanning the inputs and taking actions based on these inputs. PLCs perform well in sequential logic control applications with high discrete I/O data counts, but suffer from overly specialized design, which results in limited CPU performance, inadequate communication flexibility, and lack of easy scalability when it comes to adding future requirements other than I/O.
With the rapid expansion of remote site monitoring and control, three critical industry business trends have recently come into focus:

• System performance and intelligence – Process automation improves efficiency, plant safety, and reduces labor costs. However, complex processes like AGA gas flow calculations and high-resolution event capture in electric utility applications require very high performance and system-level intelligence. The reality is that even high-performance PLCs cannot meet all these expectations.

• Communication flexibility – Redundant communication links between remote systems and the central SCADA application form the basis of a reliable, secure, and safe enterprise. Power routing automation in electric applications, water distribution, warning systems, and oil and gas processes all require unique communication mediums including slow dial-up phone lines, medium speed RF, and broadband wired/wireless IP.

• Configurability and reduced costs – Although process monitoring and control are well defined and understood within many industries, the quest for flexibility and reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) remains challenging. In the past, proprietary PLC units customized with third party components filled the niche, but suffered from lack of configurability and higher maintenance costs than fully integrated units. Today, businesses look for complete modular off-the shelf systems that yield high configurability with a significant improvement in TCO.

At the technical level, several requirements currently influence the SCADA specification process:
• Local intelligence and processing – High processing throughput, 64 bit CPUs with expanded memory for user applications and logging with support for highly complex control routines.

• High-speed communication ports – Monitoring large numbers of events requires systems that support multiple RS232/485 connections running at 230/460 kb/s and multiple Ethernet ports with 10/100 Mb/s capability.

• High-density, fast, and highly accurate I/O modules Hardware that implements 12.5 kHz input counters with 16-bit analog inputs and 14-bit analog outputs for improved accuracy.

• Broadband wireless and wired IP communications. Recent innovations in IP devices demands reliable connectivity to local IEDs (Intelligent Electronic Devices) as well as emerging communication network standards.

• Strict adherence to open standard industry protocols including Modbus, DNP3, and DF-1 on serial and TCP/IP ports

• Robust protocols for support of mixed communication environments.

• Protection of critical infrastructure – Enhanced security such as password-protected programming, over the air encryption, authentication, and IP firewall capability.

Selecting a Satellite Communication Solution – Factors to Consider

Security

When selecting a satellite communications solution, there are numerous factors that must be considered. Enterprise applications like e-mail, Internet access, telephony, videoconferencing, etc. frequently tie into public communications infrastructure. Due to security and reliability considerations it is considered best practice to isolate mission critical SCADA communications infrastructure from public networks.

The Rustyice solution is a dedicated satellite communications network solution tailored for the SCADA applications environment. By virtue of system design, our solution offers greater security against hacker attacks and virus infestation which mainly target computers that are connected to the Internet and are running office applications.

Reliability

Due to the critical nature of most SCADA operations, a reliable communication solution is of utmost importance. The satellite communications industry is mature with a proven track record. Satellite transponder availability is typically in the 99.99 percentile range, a number far superior to that of terrestrial networks. To build on this strength, our solution utilises a miniature satellite hub that is deployed at the end-users SCADA control centre. Data to/from the remote terminal units (RTUs) are piped directly into the SCADA system. There is no vulnerable terrestrial back-haul from a communication service providers facility, which can cause the entire network to crash if cut during public works, i.e. digging.

To increase the reliability of the hub, it is frequently deployed in a redundant/load sharing configuration. This ensures that the hub is available more than 100% of the time, making it far from the weakest link in the communication chain.

Types of Connectivity

Contrary to enterprise-related communications which take place randomly, SCADA communication is quite predictable. It is a continuous process, where the SCADA application polls the RTUs at regular intervals. The outgoing poll request is a short datagram (packet) containing as few as 10 bytes. The returned data from the RTUs are also in a datagram format with the message size being from 10 bytes to 250 bytes. One could easily assume that a satellite solution based upon dial-up connectivity such as Inmarsat, Iridium or Globalstar would be ideal for this application environment. Since SCADA is not just data collection, but also entails control (which at times can be of an emergency nature), you simply cannot wait for the system to encounter a busy connection. What is needed is a system that provides an ‘always on’ type of connection, commonly referred to as leased line connectivity.

A Rustyice solution supports both circuit switched (leased line and multi drop) and packet switched (TCP/IP and X.25) applications concurrently.

Contact us today to speak to one of our representatives and examine how a Rustyice Satellite SCADA solution can offer your operations the best of all worlds.

Posted in Critical Infrastructure, Failsafe, Fortify, Industrial Process Control, Network Management, Operational Efficiency, Power, Satellite Broadband, SCADA, WAN | Leave a comment

Happy New Year 2012

We would like to wish all our readers a very happy and prosperous new year.

 

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UK Telehealth is finally coming of age.

According to new a research report, around 2.2 million patients worldwide are using a home monitoring service based on equipment with integrated connectivity at the end of 2011. The figure does not include patients that use monitoring devices connected to a PC or mobile phone. It only includes systems that rely on monitors with integrated connectivity or systems that use monitoring hubs with integrated cellular or fixed-line modems. It is forecast that the number of home monitoring systems with integrated communication capabilities will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.0 percent between 2010 and 2016 reaching 4.9 million connections globally by the end of the forecast period. The number of these devices that have integrated cellular connectivity increased from 0.42 million in 2010 to about 0.57 million in 2011, and is projected to grow at a CAGR of 34.6 percent to 2.47 million in 2016.

Some of the most common conditions being monitored today are chronic diseases including cardiac arrhythmia, sleep apnea, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These conditions cause substantial costs and reduce both life expectancy and quality of life. It is estimated that more than 200 million people in the EU and the US suffer from one or several chronic diseases where home monitoring can become a treatment option. “Home monitoring solutions that can communicate over a cellular network, landline connection or the Internet have already reached significant volumes within cardiac rhythm management, integrated telehealth solutions, sleep therapy and cardiac event monitoring”, says Lars Kurkinen, Telecom Analyst, Berg Insight. He adds that connectivity is gaining momentum in several other segments as well, such as glucose meters and medication adherence systems.

Exploiting connectivity technologies in the UK healthcare industry can lead to decreased costs, more efficient care delivery and improved sustainability of the healthcare system. New care models enabled by these technologies are also often consistent with patients’ preferences of living more healthy, active and independent lives in their own homes. Progress is being made in the adoption of wireless technology among manufacturers of medical monitoring equipment. However, there is still a long way to go before remote monitoring becomes a standard practise in the healthcare sector.

Rustyice Solutions is monitoring this sector very closely and has already made some strategic moves in respect of this field. Keep an eye on this Blog for further announcements coming soon.

Posted in Enhance Customer Contact, Home Networking, Innovation, Larger Enterprise, Messaging and Collaboration, Operational Efficiency, Productivity Up, Costs Down, Realtime, Telemedicine, Video, Video Conferencing, WAN | Leave a comment

An MPLS primer.

MPLS is used for a variety of purposes; two of the most common are Layer 3 VPNs and Layer 2 VPNs. But why MPLS? What are the business drivers for MPLS? One of the first use cases was SP/carrier networks, where they needed to consolidate networks, provide multiple L2/L3 services, support increasingly stringent SLAs, and handle the increasing scale and complexity of IP-based networks. From the enterprise space, the trend picked up later and was driven by multi-site configurations and the need for network segmentation. MPLS originated in the mid-1990s and evolved until approximately 2004 when MPLS OAM became available.

MPLS is built on labels. Every packet is stamped with a label and MPLS will switch that packet through the network based on the label. There is an MPLS forwarding plane (where labeled packets are switched instead of routed) and an MPLS control/signaling plane (where MPLS utilises existing IP-based control protocols and extensions).

Within the enterprise space, there are two general types of MPLS deployments:

  • The enterprise is subscribed to an MPLS-based network from a provider
  • The enterprise has deployed MPLS in it’s own network

Continuing with the enterprise space, there are three major reasons for deploying/using MPLS:

  1. Network segmentation (network virtualization, distribution application virtualization)
  2. Network realignment/migration (consolidation of multiple networks)
  3. Network optimization (full-mesh and hub-and-spoke deployments, Traffic Engineering [TE] for bandwidth protection)

Moving on to to the technology components of MPLS, the core of MPLS is the MPLS signaling and forwarding components. Within the MPLS network, there is a Label Switched Path (LSP) from one end to the other end based on a label. There are a number of different terms applied in an MPLS network:

  • PE (Provider Edge): This is an edge router that adds labels (on ingress) or removes lables (on egress).
  • P (Provider) router: This is a label-switching router or a core router.
  • CE (Customer Edge)

The MPLS label itself is a 32-bit structure. The first part of the label is the actual MPLS label, which occupies 20 bits. Then you have the EXP/COS bits for QoS handling, and then you have the S bit; the S bit represents the bottom of the stack. (The S bit facilitates multiple layers of MPLS labels.) The label wraps up with an 8 bit TTL. The MPLS label is usually placed just after the transport header (for example, just after the MAC header for Ethernet).

Some additional terms to understand:

  • Label imposition: Occurs at the PE at ingress; classify and label packets
  • Label swapping or switching: Occurs at the P router; forwards packets based on label and indicates service class and destination
  • Label disposition: Occurs at a PE on egress; remove label and forward packets

The Forwarding Equivalence Class (FEC) is the mechanism to map Layer 2/3 packets onto an LSP by the ingress PE router. There are a variety of FEC mappings possible. Label Distribution Protocol (LDP) handles exchanging label information between and among MPLS nodes. There is a push operation (used on the ingress PE node to know which label to use for a given FEC), swap operation (occurs on the core P node), pop operation (occurs at egress PE node to inform node about FEC mapping). LDP is a superset of Cisco-specific TDP, and you can also use BGP with some extensions as well. As an MPLS control plane protocol, it is L3 based (runs over IP) and uses a specific set of TCP ports and protocols to communicate MPLS label information.

Looking also at the general steps involved in MPLS forwarding, MPLS supports various IGPs: EIGRP, IS-IS, OSPF on core facing and core links. RSVP and LDP are supported on core and/or core-facing links. MP-iBGP runs on edge routers.

The S bit (Bottom of Stack) bit which was mentioned earlier; is one of the real superpowers of MPLS is label stacking. This allows organizations to stack labels for QoS, security, traffic engineering, segmentation, etc.

One of the key drivers for MPLS is VPN: both Layer 3 and Layer 2 VPNs. The connection to the MPLS network is handled by the PE-CE link; this is the connection between the PE (for ingress/egress) and the CE. Once the traffic enters the MPLS network, then all the advantages of MPLS (via labels and label stacking) become available.

Options for MPLS VPNs include:

  • Layer 2 VPNs (point-to-point and multi-point): Routing is always CE-CE; no SP involvement
  • Layer 3 VPNs

Focusing a bit more on L3 VPNs. In this case, the CE has a peering link with the PE and there is IP routing/forwarding across the PE-CE link. In this case, the MPLS VPN is part of the customer’s IP routing domain. MPLS VPNs enable full-mesh, hub-and-spoke, and hybrid connectivity among connected CE sites.

Components of an L3 MPLS VPN:

  • PE-CE link
  • MPLS L3 VPN control plane
  • MPLS L3 VPN forwarding plane

VRFs (Virtual Routing and Forwarding instances) are created for each customer VPN on the PE router. Each VRF is associated with one or more customer interfaces, has its own routing table (RIB) and forwarding table (CEF) and has its own instance for PE-CE configured routing protocols.

MP-iBGP is Multi-Protocol BGP extensions; this is for supporting non-IP protocols over BGP. Typically BGP RR (Route Reflector) to improve scalability.

MPLS uses a Route Distinguisher (RD) along with a VPNv4 address to help ensure that all customer routes are unique across the MPLS network.

Posted in Data, IP MPLS, WAN | Leave a comment