How to find a military satellite installation
Global Military Communications | January-February 2017 | How to find a military satellite installation | p. 30 | By Roger Franklin, CEO Crystal
Satellite interference has grown from a minor challenge to a major problem as the number of satellites in orbit and terrestrial terminals have multiplied in the last couple of decades. Military users have been widely acknowledged as one of the largest contributors to interference for a number of reasons. The introduction of Carrier ID (CID) in 2015 was a big first step towards the prevention of interference, however, it becomes more effective the more widespread its use. Roger Franklin, CEO of Crystal, discusses the factors affecting CID uptake, and notes that by resisting its adoption, the military effectively identifies itself to those it would rather stay invisible to.
It is a well-known fact that a large, if not the largest, contributor to satellite interference is the military. According to Martin Coleman, Executive Director of the Satellite Interference Reduction Group (IRG), VSATs (terminals commonly used by the military) are: “Responsible for approximately 50 percent of the interference problems for most satellite operators around the globe.” Ironically, this is the very group expected to make
critical, often life and death, decisions in a matter of seconds. They simply cannot afford such interference.
Carrier ID (CID) milestones
With the introduction of Carrier ID (CID) a few years ago, interference should be almost eradicated. Those using CID report astounding results – they are ensuring the safety and security of their satellite systems and, when issues do arise, they resolve them quickly. Unfortunately, CID is not used by everyone, primarily due to a lack of understanding and outdated equipment. With the approach of some very important milestones, many who have been avoiding the transition to CID may sit up and take notice.
The first milestone was reached in January 2015, requiring all satellite operators to begin implementation of CID. The next one is in September 2017, in which the FCC will mandate that all broadcasters in the US must use CID. Finally, by January 2018, it will be a requirement to include CID for all SCPC and MCPC video and data transmissions worldwide.
As a result of these initiatives, we will see some significant traction in the CID effort (at least in the broadcast world). On the flip side, however, as the entire broadcast world embraces CID, those that do not (namely the military) will become increasingly more obvious.
Resisting CID adoption
The reason the military is reluctant to use CID is exactly the reason they should. CID doesn’t make the user identifiable to anyone – it simply tags service to the satellite operator. The only information in the shared database is the unique identifier and the satellite operator to whom that customer belongs. It is the satellite operator’s responsibility to keep information pertaining to that customer and contact details in their own-
secure database, exactly the same way as is done today. In the case of pure military services, this would be tagged locally within their own secure systems.
The clever part is that commercial operators exchange ID information through the military operations, thus resolving normal issues quickly. If an ID is truly suspicious, the military will have the tools and good reasoning to make more in-depth checks for the safety and security of all satellite systems globally.
Sources of error
Given the rather compelling argument that the military should now be implementing CID, we must study the issues. The mobile nature of the military, as well as an attraction to parts of the world that are remote, presents a potential barrier. Equipment is often auto-deployed (which presents its own set of challenges) or set up quickly. It’s all well and good to have CID, but it must be transmitted, otherwise it is useless. Users, in particular military users, must ensure that their CID is transmitting every time they move. Given that the military is carrying equipment to remote areas and space is important, bulky detection tools are simply not viable. The military demands tools that are user-friendly and can easily fit into existing systems. With the necessary task of informing the operator of the CID information and checking that the operator is receiving the correct information, it is easy to see how a rushed or hassled user might skip this step for speed and convenience, or simply make an error. Automating the processes is an important step for interference resolution. From
initial set-up to checking that CID is transmitting, the more you automate, the less potential for human error.
Solving CID challenges
CID detection must occur throughout the chain to ensure accuracy and effectiveness. There are a number of detection systems on the market that do a great job, but their complexity and cost is a barrier to smaller operators, small access centres, and most users. Crystal launched Crystal Carrier ID to support the growing demand for easy-to-use detection systems. Crystal Carrier ID consists of a specialized CID detector receiver, a spectrum analyzer, routing and switching equipment. Crystal ties it all together as one complete package by routing signals appropriately, extracting CID information, and inserting it into a private customer database, as well as the Central CID Database. All of this can be done in the background so as to not slow down every day satellite access procedures. Spectral scans enable the operator to quickly zero in on the carrier, extract the CID and visually confirm the presence or absence of interference.
CID detection must be cost-effective and time-efficient
If the industry is to succeed in combatting interference, CID detection must be both cost-effective and time-efficient. Most importantly, all must be on board, including the military. The broadcast industry is currently leading the way to a successful CID initiative, while the military must maintain safe and secure satellite transmission for their daily critical missions. In their effort to avoid the CID transition, however, the military runs the risk of being obvious while trying to hide. GMC