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ITU issues new standards for satellite emergency communications

New standards have been adopted by the ITU to enhance the quality of satellite communications during emergencies. All aspects, from early warning through rapid response to relief operations are covered.

New ITU radiocommunication standards for satellite services have been approved to facilitate early warning, rapid response and relief operations in the event of natural disasters.

One change, Recommendation ITU-R S1001-2, provides information on the range of radio-frequencies that can be used by fixed-satellite service (FSS) systems for emergency and disaster relief operations. A second, Recommendation ITU-R M1854, provides information on the range of radio-frequencies for Mobile-Satellite Service (MSS) in order to enable a variety of functions such as voice and data communication, field reporting, data collection, position information, and image transmission.

In the event of natural disasters, such as the recent earthquakes which spread devastation in Haiti and Chile, there is an urgent need for a reliable telecommunication link for use in relief operations. ITU joined international efforts to provide humanitarian assistance to Haiti, Chile and other disaster-hit areas and deployed satellite terminals and earth stations to re-establish basic communication links.

ITU Secretary-General Hamadoun Touré noted that in the event of a natural disaster, satellite communications are the most appropriate means to quickly set up a telecommunication link with remote facilities. "Establishing communications in the aftermath of a disaster is vital to facilitate rapid and effective rescue and rehabilitation efforts," said Dr Touré. "The new ITU radiocommunication standards for satellite communication in emergencies will greatly improve our capacity to save lives. I call upon all stakeholders, including administrations, satellite operators and service providers, to support the development of robust, comprehensive, early warning and relief systems to mitigate emergencies and disasters at the national, regional and international levels."

Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS)

ITU took the opportunity of its announcement to restate the roles and benefits of various forms of satellite technology. Satellite transmissions using small aperture earth stations, eg, fixed VSATs, Vehicle-Mounted Earth Stations (VMES) and transportable earth stations, are one of the most viable solutions to provide emergency telecommunication services for relief operations. These FSS systems are extremely effective in providing emergency telecommunication services for relief operations.

As they are inherently suitable for data delivery, FSS can also be effectively utilised for early warning operations, including earthquakes and storms. In the interest of efficiency, FSS capabilities for emergencies and disaster relief operations should be pre-planned between administrations and FSS operators/service providers to ensure prompt availability of FSS services in the event of a disaster.

Mobile-Satellite Service (MSS)

Owing to their ease of deployment, wide-area coverage, and independence from the local telecommunications infrastructure (which may be lost during a disaster), mobile satellite terminals and ancillary equipment are very effective means of providing emergency telecommunication services for relief operations. In order to strengthen disaster preparedness, MSS systems should be deployed ubiquitously, especially in disaster-prone regions.

* Emergency telecommunications has been one of the key activities of ITU since its inception. The new ITU standards were developed in accordance with resolutions adopted at the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference in 2006, the ITU Radiocommunication Assembly and the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2007.

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