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Big Bend Telephone Company Adopts New Comms-On-the-Move Solution

By | July 19, 2017
      An emergency services worker holds the Explorer MSAT-G3 radio. Photo: Cobham Satcom.

      An emergency services worker holds the Explorer MSAT-G3 radio. Photo: Cobham Satcom.

      Big Bend Telephone Company in Texas has become the first commercial user of the Explorer MSAT-G3 system for the next generation Mobile Satellite (MSAT) service, which combines Cobham Satcom’s Push-to-Talk technology, Ligado Networks’ SkyTerra 1 satellite and ViaSat’s low-latency, IP-based L-band mobile satellite services network. According to Cobham, MSAT-G3 is the only system in its class to provide AES-256 encrypted push-to-talk voice and associated data over satellite.

      As a new comms-on-the-move solution, Explorer MSAT-G3 allows for voice and data applications over a secure communications link for users in the emergency services and commercial industries, including utilities and telecoms. It extends communications coverage in the field by combining satellite links and existing cellular based networks with Land Mobile Radio (LMR). According to Cobham, this reduces terrestrial infrastructure costs by removing the need to build and maintain radio repeater sites, while introducing improved communications availability in any environment when on the move. It is designed to cost-effectively expand and augment existing LMR Systems.

      Big Bend Telephone Company is using MSAT-G3 to optimize logistics and safety in the field by providing its engineers with high availability communications in areas with no cell coverage.

      Following a four-day onsite training course conducted by Cobham partner Global Data Specialists (GDS) and Cobham Sales Engineer Brent Short, Big Bend has completed the self-installation of Explorer MSAT-G3 in 29 service vehicles, which cover approximately 30,000 square miles. The service is live, with feedback from users in the field reporting high availability of dispatch communication. In addition, Big Bend has reported improved safety in remote areas due to the Explorer MSAT-G3 emergency features and a GDS wireless clip-on microphone system, enabling engineers to communicate up to 1,000 ft. away from their vehicle.

      Cobham and GDS have also provided three Explorer MSAT-G3 mobile units for ad-hoc use by Big Bend staff and contractors. Big Bend is using two MSAT-G3 units indoors at dispatch locations. As the MSAT-G3 system is Internet Protocol (IP)-based, GDS connected two units to the customer’s Local Area Network (LAN), allowing for communication with vehicles in the field without the requirement for satellite connectivity at the office location.

      According to Cobham, Explorer MSAT-G3 can use a magnet to securely mount the electronically steered antenna to a vehicle’s roof. Up to two USB cellular modems can be connected to the push-to-talk terminal to enable two independent cellular network connections. In action, Explorer MSAT-G3’s routing functionality automatically switches between the available networks, selecting the most suitable based on quality and availability at any time.