Satellite network to link embassies

A satellite network that will connect Kuwait’s 63 embassies and consulates across the world has been created in a project costing over US$30million.

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By  Diana Milne Published  April 9, 2006

A satellite network that will connect Kuwait’s 63 embassies and consulates across the world has been created in a project costing over US$30million. The aim is to create more secure communications channels, government executives said. As part of a six-year contract Kuwaiti-based Gulfsat, a subsidiary of United Networks, started implementing the network in 2004. So far 58 of the embassies have been connected and gone live on the network, which is linked to two privately-owned satellite platforms, Telestar 10, owned by Skynet, which will cover Asia and Africa, and a satellite owned by Intelsat for coverage in Europe and the US. Gulfsat has rented capacity on the two satellites to power the network which links the embassies to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Kuwait City and allows them to communicate between each other in a closed ‘mesh’ network through a voice, data and video gateway. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs believes the network will dramatically improve the reliability of its communication with remote embassies and consulates. Because it is satellite-based, problems on the ground will not affect communications. This, claimed Emad Al Kharraz, deputy project manager at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was a major factor in its decision to deploy the network. “We have had troubles like that — especially in places like Africa. But now if there is a coup in a country and there is no electricity then still we will be able to communicate via satellite — this is very important,” he said. Mustafa Murad, network planning manager, Satellite Business Division at United Networks explained: “The system provides services regardless of the infrastructure in the countries.” “For instance, in regions like Africa the communications infrastructure can be unreliable but the network will give them a full communications platform with 99.9% reliability,” he added. The system will allow ministry staff to make phone calls, send faxes or e-mails and conduct video conferences across a closed network. This means that calls can be made from one embassy to another through a voice gateway linked to the private branch exchange (PBX) system at the headquarters in Kuwait just by dialing an extension number. E-mails and faxes are sent via a data gateway which is linked to a local area network (LAN) at the Kuwait headquarters and is reached remotely via the closed satellite network which is not connected to the internet. “The network provides grade A services for video, voice and data services and the embassies are no longer sharing any network resources,” claimed Murad. The network will also speed up, and cut the cost of, communications for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Previously the Ministry would communicate with individual missions by fax, which could take up to two days, Al Kharraz said. “Now we can send faxes out to all the missions using one fax line which is a lot faster,” he added. The system will also provide cost savings, as well as incre- ased efficiency, Al Kharraz said. “When we had another means of communication, if the Minister wanted to have a conference with some of the ambassadors they would have had to come all the way to Kuwait. With the new system we can organise video conferences instead,” he claimed. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expects the project to be co- mpleted in the next two-to-three months. Once its six-year contract with Gulfsat is complete, it will either upgrade the technology or look to implement new technology, Al Kharraz said.

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