What do I need to consider if my satellite is replaced?

What do I need to consider if my satellite is replaced?

Unfortunately nothing lasts forever and satellites are no exception. Although one of the benefits of utilising this technology is the longevity when compared to cellular or radio communications, each satellite will need to be replaced around every 15 years. This has a knock on affect for those users and devices that will rely entirely on this connectivity.

In a world where all aspects of technology are evolving at an ever increasing rate, this may seem like a lifetime, however for many companies and organisations that have been relying on satellite communications for decades they will have experienced upgrades/ changes over this period or are just about to. 

For so many of these companies, including those in utilities, the satellite network will be part of the critical national infrastructure, providing a communication path for vital information that is essential for the functioning of the society and economy. Therefore any outages (planned or otherwise), decreases in service or maintenance needs to be undertaken with extreme caution and precise planning. 

So what does need to be considered when a whole satellite or constellation is replaced? 

For Low Earth Orbit satellite networks, and those utilising their connectivity, this is not such an issue. Due to the number of satellites constantly moving overheard to provide significant coverage each one can be removed from the orbit and replaced with minimal effect for those on earth, as each user will not just require a single satellite for connectivity, but any that are within line of sight at a given time. This has recently been demonstrated by Iridium with the replacement of their whole constellation over a number of years, with limited outages across the 66 different satellites plus spares. 

For many Geostationary satellites at the end of their life, a whole replacement will be maneuvered into the same positions to allow for the continuation of service for all ground terminals/ sites. This will require outages for all users connected to the specific service, and in some instances may require some updates/ changes to the hardware installed on sites. For example frequency changes, polarisation changes or adjustments, firmware updates and even LNB or BUC replacements. This information and guidance for the changes should be advised by the satellite operator and service provider, with sufficient time prior to the event occurring. A full assessment, including costs, manpower and contingency plans, including secondary communication hardware, can then be reviewed, rehearsed and agreed upon in a controlled environment. 

Any updates or changes, that are outside of the control of the user, can also result in a full analysis of the system that has been deployed, and that may have been installed for many years. An evaluation of the hardware and network used, its current performance and operational costs could highlight that the service may no longer be fit for purpose, especially if there is the desire to update old analog loggers, sensors on site or digital programs used. The cost for managing such a program may not be justified and therefore an alternative system or service provider could be a more lucrative option going forward.  

If you have concerns or queries regarding an upcoming major update or change with your satellite operator please contact us at Satellite Insight and we will be happy to provide impartial advice and guidance through the process.

Kay Barber
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