SpeedCast deploys 35-site VSAT network in Africa for Save the Children

C-band VSAT system replaces existing Ku-band satellite system; new solution will cut costs and enables prioritisation of SCI Skype and Lync services

SpeedCast deploys 35-site VSAT network in Africa for Save the Children

SpeedCast France (formerly Geolink Satellite Services) has deployed a 35-site network for Save the Children International (SCI), the international NGO with its central office in London, UK. The new satellite service provides connectivity to a network of 35 C-band VSAT systems across 35 sites in Africa.

The company explained that the rollout of the new service was particularly complex, as it involved the migration from an existing Ku-band satellite service provider to SpeedCast’s C-band system.

The migration process required work across multiple countries and had to be completed in a highly efficient manner, due to a tight deadline to complete the roll-out before the previous provider switched off the existing service.

SpeedCast reports that all sites were successfully deployed ahead of the deadline, and as a result there was no disruption of service for the customer.

SpeedCast trained members of SCI staff as VSAT installers at SpeedCast’s teleport in Germany. This was a great investment as one of the team members was able to quickly apply the training, and completed the installation of a number of VSAT units in Sierra Leone during the Ebola Emergency.

SpeedCast also supported SCI in Somalia, where SCI staff re-pointed all of the VSAT systems to the new network. This flexible and collaborative approach was particularly helpful to SCI, as Somalia can be a challenging place to find satellite engineers.

"During the recent Ebola Emergency, I spent two months connected to the SpeedCast service, and the connection quality was better than some places in Europe,” said Mark Hawkins, global field technology manager at SCI. “I was able to participate in conference calls with other parts of the world and some people were surprised that I was communicating over a VSAT link.”

“SpeedCast is a model partner, one of the best you could wish for. From the sales and logistics teams who shipped new systems, to the technicians who helped us get on line, the service was fast and efficient. This is exactly the sort of partnership we want at SCI and I am pleased that SpeedCast will be working with us over the next few years on future emergencies," Hawkins added.

The new service was set up for the customer as a virtual network operator (VNO). The VNO allows SCI to allocate pooled bandwidth efficiently and allows the flexibility to make changes quickly. This has enabled SCI to provide an excellent service to its sites which could not be matched by the old system, where each site had individual contracts with a range of different suppliers.

SpeedCast said its network design team worked directly with the customer to optimise the design to meet SCI’s specific requirements. For example, QoS was used to prioritise certain types of traffic over the network.

To ensure that staff can communicate effectively, SCI prioritised Skype and Lync. Augmenting this, the SpeedCast portal and associated Android application were extremely useful and informative tools, which allow SCI to monitor the VNO performance at anytime from anywhere.

With the new network, SCI expects to be able to significantly reduce its operating costs. This will allow for a full cost recovery as the SpeedCast service delivers greater performance at a lower price point.

Christophe Pacilly, sales director of SpeedCast France, said: “Both teams successfully met the challenge of handling the migration of 35 existing VSAT sites, situated in some of the most remote areas in Africa to SpeedCast's platform in five weeks. Already recognised as a key supplier and partner in the oil & gas and maritime sectors, SpeedCast as a group, now figures prominently in the humanitarian sector."

SCI engineers stated that they appreciated the direct access to SpeedCast technician via SMS as well as voice. SCI engineers mentioned that it was far more efficient than the usual “call centre" queues they had encountered with other VSAT service providers.

“Following the success of migrating our core C-band network, this year we have worked with SpeedCast to expand the network to 51 sites. By replacing Ku-band equipment with C-band systems, we have been able to provide our field sites with a better service for a lower monthly cost,” Hawkins added.

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