Network solutions: Backbone of humanitarian operations

Satcom-powered network solutions define the future of the aid sector, says Nabil Soussia.

Nabil Soussia is CEO for Asia, Middle East and CIS at IEC Telecom Group.

More than 126m people require humanitarian assistance globally, including 70m who are forcibly displaced. Governments and the global community are stressing the significance of on-time medical and humanitarian responses. Satellite communication plays a critical role, enabling operations in remote and austere environments with little to no infrastructure. While satcom phones and portable modems have been of service to first responders, they are insufficient to support the growing demands for higher bandwidth dictated by the digitalisation of humanitarian operations. Network management solutions, powered by satcom, define the future of the aid sector.

Rapid Network Deployment in Remote Areas

The first 72 hours post any crises is critical. Frontline workers need to be able to respond immediately and effectively to mitigate the wider secondary impacts. Comprehensive portable solutions with a lightweight terminal and a network management system often provide field missions with a VSAT-like experience. Equipped with bandwidth optimisation and advanced filtration tools, these solutions are able to offer upto 2+ Mbps speed, which then allow first responders to take full advantage of digitalisation, including videoconferencing and remote maintenance, as soon as they initiate relief operations.

Hybrid Solutions for Uninterrupted Connectivity

Some humanitarian missions, such as mobile clinics, that move between urban and rural areas, rely on rapid network deployment solutions to remain connected with automatic seamless switching between GSM and satellite networks. Moreover, the hybrid terminal optimises consumption by switching to the satellite back-up channel only in case other networks are out of reach.

Keeping camps connected

According to a UNHCR report, refugees spend a third of their disposable incomes on staying connected. Access to news, social media, and instant messaging apps give them a better chance to adapt and integrate in the “world outside the camp” in the future. However, 7% of refugee communities lack the digital infrastructure for internet access and 31% can rely only on 2G. Network management solutions come in handy here. Using Wi-Fi enablers, the satellite signal can be spread across the camp so that inhabitants can connect to the Internet on their own devices.
Likewise, satcom solutions enable the smooth operation of camps, keep track of both people and assets, and facilitate the exchange of high data volumes between camp units and headquarters via DSL-like broadband connectivity.

Telemedicine and E-Health Programs

Even before the pandemic, the global telemedicine industry was expected to grow by 15% during this decade. Now, not only does the World Bank report that growth to have accelerated to 19.3% with a projected value of $175.5bn, a Fortune Business Insights report predicts the market to rise 23.5% between 2019 and 2016.

In the humanitarian sector, this means satellite technologies can extend the scope of telemedicine to remote areas and empower e-health programmes and locally-stationed doctors to transfer electronic health records, view X-rays and digital images, and hold voice or video advisory sessions with healthcare professionals based in any clinic across the world.

Digital network management systems are actively supporting humanitarian missions in their important work no matter what part of the world they operate in. Whether on the move, or stationed in a camp, relief workers can rely on satcom channel for continuity of their critical operations.

Nabil Soussia is CEO for Asia, Middle East and CIS at IEC Telecom Group.