The Department of National Defence is boosting the throughput of the satellite technology it uses to provide communications to troops in the field – as well as the speed at which it can procure such technology in the future.

Stratos Global Corp. has been given a three-year national individual standing offer (NISO) to provide Inmarsat leased satellite capacity services to the DND. The deal, which includes its Enhanced Leasing Service (ELS), means the military will enjoy more bandwidth capacity and a quicker turnaround time, said LCdr Dave Munro, SATCOM engineering, support and services manager for national defence headquarters. “If the government said you’re going into the Congo next week and you need to supply a liaison officer, we needed a channel of communication we could give that person,” he said. “The problem we had with the rules for acquiring service is that working through the government and Public Works meant it was about two months before we could do that.”

The NISO will expedite that process considerably, Munro said, meaning requests can be processed in about three to five days. The offer includes two one-year extensions past its initial term. The satellite services have already been deployed “in theatre,” Munro said, in various places around the world, including its mission in Afghanistan. The navy, meanwhile, is in the process of installing it on its ships.

Munro said the ELS means multiple terminals – whether they are handhelds or laptops -can share a single leased channel, in any combination up to a maximum rate of 128 Kbps.

“Whatever you can stick in an IP stream – VoIP, voice, fax and data – can be broken out once it gets done,” he said. A standard leased 100 KHz Inmarsat channel runs at about 64 Kbps, but Munro said ELS, through modem modulation, can double that.

“We’re really getting much greater bandwidth efficiency.”

Stratos and the DND have been longtime partners, according to Marie-Lise Sakkal, director of Canadian sales for Stratos in Ottawa. In 1999, for example, the firm started providing lease services for the DND for backup communication in the event of a Y2K disaster. “Enhanced (leasing services) are primarily used by military organizations,” she said. “Even more so in a marine environment . We’re been able to develop products to allow much better throughput.”

Save money
Munro said the DND uses about 30 leases worldwide, in North America as well as any area that satellites are hovering. This communication, whether through e-mail or phone calls, has been tremendously important in the logistical aspects of the operation in Afghanistan, he added, but also in DND missions in Bosnia, Ethiopia and other areas.

“It saves you a massive amount of money instead of using dialup,” Munro said, adding that the deal with Stratos includes a fixed rate instead of the $5 a minute that dialup could cost. “It’s like an all-you-can-eat buffet for the month.”

Sakkal said the Inmarsat technology is popular with other military forces, which means the DND is ensuring compatibility with other organizations.

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