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November 2, 2015

Save the Children shifts to new network provider to save costs

News: Satellite communications will be used in conflict and disaster areas.

By Alexander Sword

Save the Children International (SCI) is cutting its operating costs after rolling out a satellite network.

The network, deployed by SpeedCast France, uses C-band VSAT systems to connect operations at 35 of the charity’s sites in Africa, with SCI planning to fully recover its costs.

SCI worked with SpeedCast to optimise the design according to requirements. Quality of Service (QoS) was used to prioritise Skype and Lync traffic on the network.

The SpeedCast portal and associated app for Android will also allow SCI to monitor the VNO performance constantly.

The roll-out involved migrating the service from SCI’s previous service provider, requiring work across multiple countries to complete installation before service was cut off. Previously, each site had individual contracts with a range of different suppliers.

The service was set up as a Virtual Network Operator (VNO), allowing SCI to allocate pooled bandwidth and quickly make changes to the network.

As part of the roll-out, SpeedCast trained members of SCI staff as VSAT installers, with one team member completing the installation of several VSAT units in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis. They also provided technical support via SMS and voice to mitigate problems that SCI engineers encountered.

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In Somalia, SCI staff re-pointed all of the VSAT systems to the new network.

"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."

Following this successful roll-out, the network is currently being expanded to a total of 51 sites.

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