Unified communications and the security needs of VVIPs

06 October 2016

Andy Start, President, Inmarsat Global Government

  • global-government

  • broadband
  • voice
  • global-xpress

We have been looking at what governmental organisational teams can do to move the gradient of the operational outcome/cost curve which sees a trade-off between deployable personnel, available budget and political importance.

My final example of how this can be achieved concerns VVIP communications and protection. Inmarsat has been providing communications to ministers, prime ministers, presidents and royal families for many years. We may be unique in serving the leaders of three superpowers at the same time.

The challenge with VVIPs is that they need to have very high levels of secure communications –whether they are fixed or mobile; on land, sea or air; at home or abroad.   They also tend to have large security entourages who share the same need –continuous communications without outages.

This is expensive to deliver – and as there is no such thing as ‘good enough’ we are always trying to deliver more capability for the available budget.

Deploying unified communications

I’m going to use the example of a large implementation we are currently under contract to deliver, in partnership with the national prime systems integrator which provides comms and protection for the heads of state (HoS) and all the ministries.  I won’t identify the country, other than to say it is a developing economy with limited budget.

The total capability covers three control rooms, four mobile command centres, more than 20 convoys and over 1,000 radio handsets. We are providing secure voice, secure data and situational awareness command and control (C2).

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Diagram showing the overall systems architecture

One of the particularly powerful elements of this solution is that we’ve provided the system with three over-laid bearer technologies which will transport encrypted IP.  The first of these is the local mobile push-to-talk (PTT), for use in circumstances where it is trusted.  The second is Inmarsat’s L-TAC service and the third our BGAN network.  While L-TAC and BGAN are both served using Inmarsat’s I-4 constellation, they use entirely different satellite functionality and routeing.

Multi-path routeing gives the system incredible robustness. The robustness is further enhanced by using multi-path radios which will seek an IP channel through another radio. As long as one radio can see the satellite you will get a path out.

L-TAC service delivers a service similar to traditional UHF TACSAT, but it does so under electronically formed beams which allows us to achieve a link budget that can cope with small antennas the size of a soft drink can or, in the case of vehicles, a hockey puck. L-TAC works with existing VHF or UHF radios – generally either Tetra/P25 police radios or military tactical radios, depending on the customer. L-TAC uses the existing radio encryption which makes implementation secure and particularly easy. Unlike TCAST we can deliver communications while on the move at high speed (our manpack terminal has been used on the back of a motorcycle at over 100km/h). This can be coupled with the BGAN COTM service which allows the BGAN connection to transmit on the move. We can carry red IP encapsulated radio data, which is then encrypted as well, and C2 information – and we have the option to provide video streaming so the central ops room has full situational awareness.

In this particular implementation we are not carrying picocells, but we do have a tactical GSM picocell which can also be attached to the switch to support closed group cell/smart phones.

We recently launched a variant of L-TAC for fixed wing and helicopters as well as our SwiftBroadband service which is widely deployed on heads of state aircraft and helicopters.  This allows us to put those aerial assets into an integrated comms system – which makes a great deal of sense as many nations use their HoS/federal aircraft as mobile command centres which remain manned during an overseas deployment.

How it delivers more for less

This solution moves the curve for a whole set of reasons.

Firstly, by providing very high levels of path redundancy it minimises the number of black-out zones. This improves the effectiveness of the VVIP because they are always connected, and significantly improves security, but also means you can get away with less overall manpower in the security teams.

Secondly, by having a solution that can be used in exactly the same way anywhere on the planet, you reduce training costs and the need for special equipment costs. By using multi-path routeing, we can keep satellite call costs down, and in addition L-TAC is a fraction of the cost of traditional UHF TACSAT.

As the system is easily unified, it’s relatively simple to interoperate with local law enforcement from a third party nation.  In fact, if they will provide one of their radios for the communications vehicle we can provide satcom connectivity into their nets.

Finally this solution has a small physical logistics footprint. The weight of the equipment is low and it’s physically small – so it’s easy to augment to local vehicles in the convoy.

What’s coming next? 

Global Xpress is now global – with all three satellites in orbit and fully operational. We are currently delivering GX services to Government across maritime and land domains with aviation terminals due within the next year. With our multi-bearer network, government expertise and technology partnerships, Inmarsat is well placed to ensure that global governments can experience a positive impact on their cost/operational effectiveness graph.


About the author

cm150x200Andy is responsible for the delivery of Inmarsat services to the military, emergency services, security service, border agencies, coastguard, and all other non-US government customers across the world. A member of Inmarsat’s Executive Committee, he runs a global team with hubs in Australia, Singapore, the Netherlands, South Africa, the UK, UAE, Canada, Washington and Miami.

Andy has an extensive experience of leading large defence businesses on an international basis. Prior to joining Inmarsat he was President of Harris Corporation’s international tactical radio business, Managing Director of BAE Systems Platform Solutions Business, and Director of EADS Astrium’s Military Space Business.

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