Good comms saves lives

Inmarsat touts its high speed satellite communications at Arabcom. Regional Director emphasised how useful satellite communications are in times of war and strife.

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By  Simon Duddy Published  June 16, 2004

During a keynote presentation at Arabcom today, Inmarsat highlighted how flexible, reliable and high-speed mobile communications are essential to life saving and rescue efforts in times of national emergency or conflict. Samer Halawi, regional director for Inmarsat Middle East and Africa, discussed how satellite communications have been used to improve the coordination of search and rescue efforts, reunite families displaced through natural disasters and locate missing persons in times of war. On March 22, 2003, before the fall of Basra, a Middle East television crew of two went missing in Iraq. The crew were reporting on the conflict for Al Arabiya, part of the MBC network, when they were caught in a crossfire between Iraqi and American soldiers. In a country where terrestrial wired and mobile networks are scarce and unreliable, the crew had few options for making contact with their base to call for help. Fortunately, they were carrying a lightweight Inmarsat GAN, which they were using to deliver the news live from the frontline. Inmarsat’s GAN enabled the Al Arabiya crew to get in touch with the base before they were captured and inform them of their location. This facilitated their rescue eleven days later. “The challenge for the media sector today is to get live video, pictures, voice, and articles out, fast and accurately, from wherever the news is breaking, however they also need to ensure their own safety. Inmarsat’s GAN (also known as the videophone) and Regional BGAN satellite terminals are used heavily by the media to enable them to travel lightly and get to the news and allow them to stay in contact with colleagues and loved ones,” explained Halawi. During the presentation, Halawi highlighted Inmarsat’s long-term support of emergency aid organisation Télécoms sans Frontières (TSF). TSF provides an essential emergency telecommunications service, using Inmarsat products and technology, including mini-M and GAN satellite phones and Regional BGAN units. Based in Southern France, the team of TSF engineers is on standby to respond to an emergency situation anywhere in the world, within 48 hours. Once on site, the engineers use Inmarsat mobile satellite communications equipment to provide telephone, fax, email, Internet, data and live video transmission services in almost any location. This service is particularly useful in remote areas that lack terrestrial fixed or mobile communication infrastructure, or in areas of disaster where such terrestrial infrastructure is among the first casualties.

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