The Art of Effective Operational Planning with the Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator.
Thorough planning is an intrinsic element of any peacekeeping or humanitarian operation. During these operations, the access to satellite connectivity is key to exchange and relay critical situational awareness, tactical, intelligence, medical and logistical information with mission headquarters and other mission actors. After a disaster or in the early hours of a growing conflict, first responders and peacekeeping forces are deployed to the worst locations on earth where terrestrial communications infrastructure is missing, destroyed or not secure. As satellite will be the only lifeline and communications resource, careful planning of satellite capacity is required. Satellite bandwidth is needed from the first deployment and mission start-up throughout the operation until the mission hand-over.
Planning and managing a satellite network that covers multiple operations and theatres is not an easy exercise for network operators because a lot of elements need to be considered both on the space segment, ground segment and service side. The network operator will have to determine the amount of operations and theatres that he wants to service from the satellite network, whether these operations are on a regional or a global scale and what coverage he has to plan. As a result, there might be a need to address multiple satellites, different satellite beams and frequency plans. To add to the complexity the operations could consist of different platforms (On-The-Move, On-The-Pause, nomadic and fixed) and have a variety of services (video, data, voice) running over the satellite links. Each platform demands a dedicated Service Level Agreement (SLA) type with individual throughput, availability and performance requirements. When the platform is on-the-move (naval, airborne or land vehicles), seamless operations have to be assured, switching between different satellite beams and taking into account small antennas.
Traditionally, such a satellite capacity planning exercise took a long time preparing, required a diverse set of tools that were not centralized and even during the operation regular interventions were commonplace because extra capacity was needed, throughput requirements changed or operations were moving locations.
The good news is that today planning no longer needs to be tedious, time-consuming or absorbing a lot of resources. As part of the toolset that goes along with the Newtec Dialog VSAT platform and its Network Management System (NMS) Newtec introduces the Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator. This tool provides instant insight into the performance and potential of the satellite network and replaces multiple planning and calculation tools into a single user interface increasing the efficiency of planning your next satellite network. In short, a real-time dashboard for your next operation.
Newtec Dialog at the Core of the Satellite Network
The Newtec Dialog VSAT platform embraces the complexity of peacekeeping and first responder networks over satellite. The combination of innovative technologies on board the Newtec Dialog VSAT solution provide the network operator with a flexible, scalable and efficient tool to manage all the different elements on a single platform without compromising on resilience, security or affordability. A set of key technologies and innovative waveforms (such as Newtec Mx-DMA, DVB-S2X and FlexACM) bolster the high availability platform to offer highly resilient services at unsurpassed efficiencies. This addresses the continued pressure on the ever-increasing need for more data throughput and seamless operations.
A key element in the Newtec Dialog toolbox is the Network Management System (NMS) that helps to manage the complex global network over satellite, including on-the-move (OTM) and on-the-pause (OTP) platforms moving across different beams, satellites and satellite constellations. The Newtec Dialog NMS provides a single, scalable, unified interface for all configurations, monitoring and troubleshooting of the platform. Whether a small, dedicated private hub or a large High Throughput Satellite (HTS) network with teleports at different geographical locations, the Newtec Dialog platform can handle all operations whatever their size. This means network operators can manage their entire globally distributed Newtec Dialog platform from the same Network Operations Centre (NOC).
Successful Planning with the Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator
The increased demand for easy to use tools to enable smooth operations triggered Newtec to develop the Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator on top of the Newtec Dialog NMS. This handy tool will help the network planner to set-up and manage the different operations and satellite capacity requirements across the world. The tool is designed to deal with a combination of fixed VSATs, on-the-pause terminals as well as on-the-move assets on land, sea and air.
The Newtec Satellite Network Calculator combines multiple tools into one user interface and provides an instant real-time dashboard into the performance and potential of peacekeeping or first responder satellite network. Based on the capabilities of Newtec’s hub and modem products, full satellite network characteristics are represented in a highly graphical and intuitive manner. The Newtec Satellite Network Calculator manages the relation between the main components of a satellite network, being the space segment, the ground segment and the network capabilities such as throughput, efficiency, availability, uplink/downlink rates, etc. In short it offers much more functionality and tools than the next link budget manager tool.
Figure: Link Budget tool inside the Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator
The Satellite Network Calculator provides effortless iterations of the satellite network characteristics which enables the network operators to maximize the full potential of their networks. During the operational phase, the focus moves towards checking that the network operates the way it was planned. This includes using the right terminals depending on the location, certifying and monitoring terminal installation quality, and planning for capacity extension in line with network growth.
The Newtec Satellite Network Calculator consists of six tools which are all interconnected to give the network planner the full potential to set-up his new satellite network or to adjust his existing network. Firstly, the MODCOD Calculator gives access to MODCOD and carrier parameters. Secondly, the Link Budget Calculator simulates the satellite link, considering all Newtec technologies. In the Network Configurator, a model of the RF part of the network is created. Networks consist of one or more satellites, beams, gateways, terminal types, service profiles and terminal clusters. Once the network is configured, the Beam Performance Calculator will simulate the network performance. Simulation can be done per terminal or per beam. This will allow operators to receive an easy overview of which efficiency and availabilities can be expected per terminal type and per beam. The Terminal Type Selector tool will be mostly used during the deployment advising installers which terminal should be installed at a certain location for a certain service plan. Finally, the Capacity Sizer allows the network planner based on the simulated beam performance to create terminals clusters and to create maps to determine the location for certain terminals (e.g. larger antennas towards the beam edge.
Newtec Dialog Network Planning to the Test
In the next section, we will put the Newtec Dialog VSAT platform and the Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator to the test through a couple of typical use cases for peacekeeping or first responder operations. We selected two operations run by a same peacekeeping organisation in Ka-band spot beams as these are more susceptible to fading and atmospheric conditions and because multiple beams need to be selected which could increase the complexity of planning, certainly in case when on-the-move terminals such as vessels are involved. The services offered are committed information rate (CIR) aggregated satellite links combining data, video and voice communications.
Scenario 1: Planning Peacekeeping Operations in West Africa in Ka-band
In the first scenario, a network operator running peacekeeping missions in West Africa is getting complaints about the service availability and the user experience of the satellite network during operations. There is only budget to replace the baseband equipment to achieve better efficiencies. The current on-the-pause terminals will remain in use during the next operations.
Compared to the legacy system, the Newtec Dialog will run DVB-S2X in the forward and the Newtec Mx-DMA technology in the return path. Adaptive coding and modulation (Newtec FlexACM) is activated both in forward and return to manage the changes in satellite link conditions during the operations. The combination of technologies such as Newtec FlexACM and Newtec Dialog Mx-DMA or even DVB-S2X result in the fact that CIR services can be offered even in environments with highly adaptive circumstances. The network planner enters the available network data inside the Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator, runs a link budget, configures the network and makes his first assessment using the Beam Performance Calculator tool which gives an immediate overview of the expected efficiencies and availabilities of the 30 manpack terminals spread around the Ka-band beam in West Africa.
Figure: Beam performance graph for West-African Ka-band considering rain fade and service availability statistics
In a next step the network planner calculates the gains of the new VSAT platform against the legacy version and will use the CIR Services that are delivered to the manpacks as a basis for the comparison. If the network planner maintains the throughput speed (300 Mbps Forward and 60 Mbps Return) the Newtec Dialog platform provides him with increased service availability in Ka-band from 99% to 99,5% and bandwidth gains of 46% in the forward and 63% in the return.
Table: Comparison legacy and Newtec Dialog VSAT platform efficiencies
The key requirement from the operational people however was to increase the user experience and the service availability. As such, maintaining the service availability at the higher 99,5% level and using the full available bandwidth of 322 MHz in the forward and 50 MHz in the return doubles the overall speed for all manpack terminals from 300 Mbps to 548 Mbps in the forward and from 60 Mbps to 127,8 Mbps in the return path. Mission accomplished. With the new VSAT platform and the existing manpack terminals double throughput at a higher service availability can be achieved within the projected budget.
Scenario 2: Additional Peacekeeping Operations in Middle East in Ka-band
A couple of months later the government decides to join a coalition force with other nations to resolve a new conflict that is ongoing in the Middle East. The same network planner from scenario 1 is asked to check if an upgrade of the VSAT equipment used in the new operation would result in a similar increase in availability and user experience. This time however the peacekeeping operation is a bit more complex as the satellite network needs to cover two adjacent satellite Ka-band beams. Next to a set of 30 manpacks an additional 5 navy vessels and 5 fixed sites (bases and airports) need to be connected. Since the available satellite bandwidth is limited not all operational requirements could be fulfilled with the legacy VSAT system. The legacy network uses DVB-S2 point-to-point SCPC modems for the man packs, vessels and fixed sites which they operate in Constant Coding and Modulation mode to achieve the CIR service requirements. Again, the wish is to keep the existing terminals and only replace the baseband equipment.
Table: Scenario 2 network in Middle East with legacy DVB-S2 modems
As the peacekeeping operation in West Africa is still ongoing the network planner prefers to use the same Newtec Dialog 4IF hub and provisions two extra satellite networks for the 2 Ka-beams in the Middle East on top of the existing one. Thanks to the scalability of the Newtec Dialog platform, the network planner does not need to invest in new hubs and can reuse existing hardware and licenses. He only needs to upgrade the current Newtec Dialog hub. At the same time, he can get rid of the stacks of legacy SCPC equipment and save floor space.
Figure: Network setup for West-African Ka-band beam operation with Newtec Dialog
In the first Middle-East Ka-band spot beam, the 65cm Ka band manpacks SCPC modems are replaced again with the Newtec Dialog SMB3310 modem boards. In the same spot beam the 5 fixed sites (1,8m antenna) get a brand-new Newtec Dialog MDM5010 modem. The same type of modem is installed on board the vessels (1,2m antenna) to mainly operate in the second Ka-band beam. The network planner enters the ground segment, satellite and network performance data in the Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator for his CIR services.
Figure: Beam performance graph for Middle East Ka-band spots considering rain fade and service availability statistics
After the link budget calculation and network configuration the beam performance is displayed for both Ka-band spot beams. The key requirement from the end user was to be able to use the full throughput for all his CIR services during the peacekeeping operations in the Middle-East without loss of service quality. Setting the service availability on the high 99,5% level and calculating the necessary throughputs, the network planner discovers that with the current DVB-S2 SCPC modems he would need to buy extra satellite capacity over the region to cover all operational requirements and services.
Table: Comparison legacy DVB-S2 SCPC modems and Newtec Dialog VSAT platform efficiencies (Forward Link)
Implementing the Newtec Dialog platform on the network with DVB-S2X in the forward path and Newtec Mx-DMA in the satellite return (both in ACM mode) has a dramatic effect on the bandwidth gains. The overall forward bandwidth requirement goes down from 451,4 MHz to 266,2 MHz resulting in a 41% bandwidth gain.
Table: Comparison legacy DVB-S2 SCPC modems and Newtec Dialog VSAT platform efficiencies (Return Link)
The Newtec Mx-DMA technology in the return path shows similar results. The original SCPC modem overall satellite capacity requirement of 193,7 MHz has been almost halved to 106,45 MHz, which represents a 45% bandwidth gain. By deploying the Newtec Dialog platform and its innovative on-board technology no extra satellite capacity needs to be sourced and all operational satellite services can be started without loss of user experience at the highest service availability.
More information about the calculations for both scenarios can be requested on demand as well as the product description for the Newtec Dialog VSAT platform and the Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator. You can also access the free online version of the calculator (with restricted functionality) via snc.newtec.eu
Planning satellite networks for peacekeeping and first responder operations is not an easy task. The fact that multiple operations, platforms (fixed, OTM, OTP) and services need to be connected increases the complexity of planning and setting up these kinds of networks.
The Newtec Dialog VSAT system embraces the complexity of government and defense satellite networks and addresses multiple applications (logistics, medical, situational awareness, ERP, administration, internet access, video conferencing, VoIP, etc.) and services (video, voice, data) on a single platform. The platform can easily be adapted and operated during each stage of the operation when the mix of services and applications frequently change. The Newtec Dialog VSAT platform is developed with a set of tools and technologies to facilitate the easy installation of hubs and remote VSAT modems as well as the ease to plan, monitor and manage the peacekeeping or first responder network over satellite.
The Newtec Dialog Satellite Network Calculator was conceived out of the increasing request from satellite network operators to merge the multitude of planning, link budget and calculating tools into a common real-time dashboard connecting inputs and results from ground segment, satellite data and network capabilities. Today, planning a satellite network no longer needs to be a tedious, time-consuming job consuming a lot of resources. More efficient planning results in more effective operations.