As the world endures an unprecedented crisis, satellites are providing a host of communications, business continuity, broadcast, navigation, remote imaging and other vital services critical to public health and safety and community well-being
America’s commercial satellite industry is playing a broad and vital role during the COVID-19 pandemic. Satellites are providing a host of voice, data and broadcast communications solutions along with navigation, earth observation, remote sensing and other unique services vital for businesses, government customers and consumers both domestically and around the globe. Companies are also providing a host of initiatives to provide community and employee support during the pandemic. In response, global space agencies such as NASA are also harnessing the power of satellites to illustrate the planet-wide changes resulting from COVID-19.
Communication Satellites – Satellite communications including internet and broadband services are helping keep people in remote and underserved regions connected with their teachers, doctors, employers, customers, friends and families. Communications satellites are providing newly deployed field hospitals with critical services during the pandemic. They also provide much needed business continuity communications to self-serve gas stations and other retailers for point of sale (POS) credit/debit card authorizations and inventory management. Broadcast communications satellites deliver entertainment but they also provide homebound Americans as well as government health care officials with critically important live pandemic news updates from around the world.
Global Positioning Satellites – GPS satellites are not only providing vital navigation services to the thousands of truck drivers working to help maintain America’s critical supply chains for food, manufacturing and medical supplies – but GPS timing services also help power America’s millions of cellular phones and remote electronic financial services.
Remote sensing and imaging satellites – Remote sensing and imaging satellites are providing health care officials and other users with comparison imagery – vital tools in helping monitor the effectiveness of “stay at home” and other social distancing initiatives. Earth observation satellites also provide a safe and remote method to collect global onsite information without the need to leave home or an office to go onsite.
Collectively, satellites are providing critical services to governments, businesses and consumers. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) named satellite operations as an essential part of functioning critical infrastructure that is imperative during the response to the COVID-19 emergency for both public health and safety as well as community well-being.
NASA In early June, in response to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, NASA, ESA (European Space Agency), and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) announced they had joined forces to use the collective scientific power of their Earth-observing satellite data to document planet-wide changes in the environment and human society. The wealth of these agencies’ collective information now is available at the touch of a finger.In an unprecedented collaboration, the three space agencies have created the joint COVID-19 Earth Observation Dashboard, which integrates multiple satellite data records with analytical tools to allow user-friendly tracking of changes in air and water quality, climate change, economic activity, and agriculture. This tri-agency data resource gives the public and policymakers a unique tool to probe the short-term and long-term impacts of pandemic-related restrictions implemented around the world. The dashboard will continue to grow with new observations added over the coming months as the global economy gradually reopens.
In December, NASA noted that economic and social shutdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic have led to noticeable changes in Earth’s environment, at least for the short term. NASA researchers are using satellite and ground-based observations to track these impacts on our air, land, water and climate. These datasets have been collected in a free and openly available online dashboard. The NASA COVID-19 Dashboard features data collected by Earth-observing satellites, instruments aboard the International Space Station, and sensitive ground-based networks. The global maps are searchable by several categories of observable change, including economic indicators, such as shipping and construction activity, and environmental factors, such as water quality and climate variations. Click HERE for more details
In June 2021, NASA announced that for the ninth consecutive year, the Partnership for Public Service has ranked NASA as the Best Place to Work in the Federal Government among large agencies and, new for 2020, has also ranked NASA No. 1 among large agencies for its response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The rankings, announced Tuesday, reflect NASA’s focus and dedication as it pursues missions, including sending humans farther into space than ever before. In 2020, the agency saw its highest employee satisfaction results since this index was developed. “NASA’s selection as the Best Place to Work in Government for the ninth year in a row is a testament to the dedication and determination of our world-class workforce through the most difficult circumstances our nation has faced in generations,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
On June 23rd, NASA announced early in the pandemic, it was expected that satellite imagery around the world would show cleaner air as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns. But not all pollutants were taken out of circulation. For tiny airborne-particle pollution, known as PM 2.5, researchers using NASA data found that variability from meteorology obscured the lockdown signals when observed from space. “Intuitively you would think if there is a major lockdown situation, that we would see dramatic changes, but we didn’t,” said Melanie Hammer, a visiting research associate at Washington University in St. Louis who led the study. “It was kind of a surprise that the effects on PM 2.5 were modest.” PM 2.5 describes the mass of nose-level particles, often produced anthropogenically, that are smaller than 2.5 micrometers, or roughly 30 times smaller than the width of a human hair. PM 2.5 is small enough to linger in the atmosphere, and, when inhaled, is associated with increased risk of heart attack, cancer and a host of other implications for human health.
SIA Member Company Initiatives and Response
SIA member companies are taking actions to ensure delivery of critical satellite services, but they are also prioritizing the health and safety of their employees, customers and their communities. See below for just some of the initiatives being taken by members of the satellite industry.
AT&T In response to the outbreak, AT&T has announced a number of initiatives including expanded video content for its DIRECTV customers. “Movies and television have always been a welcome escape in difficult times. With many people staying at home, we’re giving our video customers additional content at no cost during this time. For more details regarding the expanded content as well as ways to access it, please click on the AT&T link above.
Company-wide initiatives – “As our company responds to COVID-19, the health and safety of our employees and customers remains our top priority. The work we do is critical to millions of people and companies around the world, and we’re committed to being there when our customers and colleagues need us most. To learn more about our COVID-19 support efforts for first responders, our employees and our customers, click here.”
BLUE ORIGIN To help the shortage of face shields needed for frontline healthcare workers combating the COVID-19 crisis across the country, Blue Origin announced, “We’ve dedicated 25 of our additive manufacturing machines to 3D print visors used for face shields. Our machines are running 24 hours per day, seven days per week. We are producing daily shipments of the visors to our supply partner, Stratasys, who is distributing them to hospitals in need around the country. This initiative started organically within Blue as our engineers and machinists were looking for ways to help. The Blue Origin team members currently supporting this effort work on our BE-4 engine development and are volunteering their time for this endeavor.”
As more schools around the country shift to online learning amidst the COVID-19 crisis, Blue Origin’s nonprofit Club for the Future is seeking to build community during this isolated time at home by encouraging students, educators and parents to draw postcards answering the question: “What would you build in space that could help Earth?” The postcards will be flown to space on an upcoming flight of Blue Origin’s fully reusable New Shepard rocket, then sent back to the participating students. Click on the BLUE ORIGIN link above for more details.
BOEING On Apr 10th, the Company announced it had delivered the first set of 3D-printed face shields to support healthcare professionals working to stop the spread of COVID-19. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) accepted the initial shipment of 2,300 face shields this morning. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will deliver the shields to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, Texas, which has been established as an alternate care site to treat patients with COVID-19. Boeing is set to produce thousands more face shields per week, gradually increasing production output to meet the growing need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in the United States. Face shield production and donations are part of a larger Boeing effort to leverage company and employee resources to aid with COVID-19 recovery and relief efforts. To date, the company has donated tens of thousands of units of PPE – including face masks, goggles, gloves, safety glasses and protective bodysuits – to support healthcare professionals battling COVID-19 in some of the hardest-hit locations in the United States.
Boeing is providing airlift capabilities, including the use of the Boeing Dreamlifter, one of the largest cargo carriers in the world, to help transport critical and urgently needed supplies to healthcare professionals. And to date, Boeing has donated tens of thousands of masks, gloves and other equipment to hospitals in need. The Company continues to analyze additional applications of its engineering, manufacturing and logistics expertise to help the cause.” See the Company’s COVID-19 response page at the BOEING link above for more details.
On May 11th, Boeing announced it had completed another set of COVID-19 airlift missions, deploying three Dreamlifter aircraft to transport more than 150,000 protective eye goggles and face shields from China to the United States. Boeing worked in partnership with the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) to deliver the personal protective equipment (PPE) to frontline health care professionals in the MUSC system.”Today’s delivery puts essential personal protective equipment in the hands of South Carolina’s frontline health care professionals and helps MUSC further support the community during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun. “I am incredibly proud of our Boeing team members throughout the world for their work to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and thankful for our government and industry partners that have joined us in the pandemic response.” The MUSC Health team will use the PPE as they support the revitalization of the economy and ramp-up COVID-19 community outreach efforts, including diagnostic testing and antibody testing, across South Carolina. MUSC Health, under the guidance of the South Carolina Legislature and in partnership with South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), has established mobile screening and collection sites in rural and underserved areas.
On July 1st, Boeing [NYSE: BA] announced it had completed its 12th COVID-19 transport mission, using a Boeing Dreamlifter to bring personal protective equipment (PPE) to the United States. Working in partnership with the state of Utah, Atlas Air Worldwide, H.M. Cole, Cotopaxi, Flexport and UPS, the company transported 500,000 protective face masks bound for students and teachers across Utah returning to classrooms this fall. The state of Utah will distribute the face masks free of charge to school districts across the state with the greatest need. As part of this mission, Boeing donated the cost of the mission transport into Utah, with Atlas Air operating the flight on behalf of Boeing. “As students return to school this fall, it will be important that they have masks available,” said Utah Gov. Gary R. Herbert. “We thank Boeing and these partners for everything they’ve done to support our ‘A Mask for Every Utahn’ initiative and make it possible for our students to have these masks and help keep Utahns safe.” For more details, please click HERE
On Feb 22nd, sanitization solutions leader Heathe announced that it was now accepting commercial orders for its Boeing-licensed Far-UVC 222 WAND PRO sanitization wand. In September of 2020, Boeing announced it had mobilized its engineers to develop a portable UV wand designed to sanitize airplane interiors. Boeing entered into patent and technology licenses with Far UV Technologies and Healthe Inc.® Under these licenses, both companies will produce and distribute the commercial wand, helping airlines and potentially other industries combat the coronavirus pandemic. Using the self-contained apparatus that resembles a carry-on suitcase, crews can pass UV light over high-touch surfaces, sanitizing everywhere the light reaches. The UV wand is particularly effective in compact spaces. For more information regarding the Boeing UV wand technology, please click HERE.
On May 6th, Boeing announced it is encouraging employees in India and their families to get the COVID vaccine as soon as it’s available to them. As part of the broad set of COVID resources being made available in India, the company is offering financial reimbursement to employees and their family members for the cost of the vaccine. Team members in India also have access to the Global Health Complete App, a service provided by Cigna that connects employees and their families with doctors for phone and video consultations about their health. For those employees and their family members struggling with the emotional toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, Boeing
To provide further assistance to the Indian people, Boeing today announced a $10 million emergency assistance package to support the country’s response to the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. The assistance from Boeing will be directed to organizations providing relief, including medical supplies and emergency healthcare for communities and families battling COVID-19. “The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated communities across the globe, and our hearts go out to our friends in India who are going through a very difficult time. Boeing is a global citizen, and in India we are directing our pandemic response to the communities most impacted by this recent surge of cases,” said Dave Calhoun, president and chief executive officer of The Boeing Company. For more details, please click HERE.
HAWKEYE 360 On Apr 17th, Hawkeye 360 posted the following. “HawkEye 360’s SEAker® analysis shows activity around Wuhan’s biggest and busiest cargo port Yangluo Port Area has been trending ~40% of historical normal activity over the past two weeks and is barely unchanged since the official reopening of the city on April 8. On January 23, 2020, the Chinese government mandated a lockdown throughout the city of Wuhan. This order was lifted on April 8, 2020. During this lockdown, the city and its economy, came to a virtual standstill. HawkEye 360 analysis of this time period shows a dramatic drop of 85-90% of average vessel activity in the Yangluo Port area. HawkEye 360 utilized its SEAker® product to analyze changes in patterns of vessel behavior in and adjacent to Yangluo over a four-month period. Yangluo Port and the surrounding Wuhan New Port complex is located along the Yangtze River and is the primary cargo center for the Wuhan region.”
HUGHES Company announced the following commitment. “At Hughes, we are committed to connecting people and enterprises around the world, and we know that now, in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic, staying connected is more important than ever. To help ensure we can continue to meet our customers’ needs, we are protecting the health and well-being of our employees and partners with measures such as teleworking, restricting visitors to our facilities, and social distancing for essential staff who must come into our offices or customers’ facilities to perform their jobs. We are working with our local field service partners around the world to establish contingency plans for installing and servicing our customers’ networks. Across our company and around the world, we continue to re-evaluate our mitigation measures and business continuity plans to keep our customers connected.” To view the entire statement, please click on the HUGHES link above.
On May 6th, Hughes provided some examples of how the Company’s HughesNet satellite broadband service is being utilized during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Tatums, OK – Providing HughesNet for a community hub for students to get online for schooling during COVID-19 outbreak. The town is rural with a population of about 150 people and has 30 students that travel to the town of Fox, OK for schooling. Only two homes in the town have access to the internet and the nearest library is 32 miles away.
- Kayenta, AZ – Providing HughesNet and TV programming to Kayenta Health Center that is serving as housing for Team Rubicon Incident Management staff that is overseeing a medical quarantine site for the local community. The service is located at a four-building campus.
- Ft. Bragg, NC – Providing satellite Internet access at a quarantine camp for military members who must quarantine for 2 weeks upon return from deployment. The service is used for “morale, welfare and recreation” (MWR) – helping these returning service members connect with family and friends virtually while they are isolated.
- Las Vegas, NM – Providing HughesNet for students to get online who otherwise would have no access to the Internet. These students are homeless and staying with community members during the pandemic. HughesNet makes it possible for them to stay connected with their classmates and teachers and continue learning during this disruptive time.
- Additionally, Hughes is participating in the FCC’s Keep Americans Connected initiative and has introduced a new service – Hughes SatCell Connect – to deploy cellular connectivity on-demand to sites such as remote hospitals.
- Hughes also provided free additional bandwidth to rural branches in India to enable daily cash withdrawal to 250+ mn under-privileged rural citizens.
On May 20th, Hughes posted a message from Pradman Kaul, President of Hughes Network Systems titled: When Staying Connected Matters Most – Supporting Public Health Needs Around the World. “As a global connectivity provider, Hughes delivers solutions that meet a range of needs – commerce, social services, entertainment, education and more. And while for decades our technology and services have been used also to support healthcare, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has amplified the many ways our services enhance public health around the world. HughesNet, our flagship satellite Internet service, provides essential Internet access for nearly 1.5 million subscribers across the Americas – many of whom live in rural areas. With a reliable, affordable home Internet connection, our customers are able to telework and attend school from home during the pandemic. In addition, HughesNet service helps our customers stay abreast of the latest government information and best practices about the coronavirus, participate in telehealth sessions to avoid unnecessary travel, and stay connected to friends and family whom they cannot visit in person… We are proud of the many ways Hughes supports public health around the world. As a designated ‘essential’ business, our team is working hard to keep our customers everywhere connected. While we weather the current challenge together, our team continues to install new customers, service existing ones and manage the networks that connect people and enterprises to the information and resources they need now, more than ever.”
In August, Hughes announced several initiatives throughout South America and Mexico. Here is a summary of those initiatives:
Measures to Support Health Services.
- Continued support to the SCT (Ministry of Communications and Transportation) and Telecomm (the state operator), to provide technical support and increase the capacity of the Hughes/Telecomm network in order to connect 35 rural and urban hospitals in their struggle to provide health services and medical attention to COVID-19 victims.
- Continued support to the Health Ministry with the installation of 16 VSAT sites to provide broadband connectivity free of charge to rural hospitals (no charges for installation nor for service).
Measures for Community Wi-Fi.
- Increased capacity and connection time for the cheapest data plan since April 2020. Users can now obtain 150MB for 5 hours paying about USD $0.50. The original plan was 100MB for 1 hr with the same price.
- Granted extended credit for retailers with limitations to leave their communities or due to the closure of Telecomm offices to make payments.
- Diverse service promotions to incentivize the sale of Data Packs, including increasing the retailer’s commission from 15% to 25% and giving away free data packs to regular customers, with all additional costs absorbed by Hughes.
Measures for Regular Internet Access Service. Hughes de Mexico extended its HughesNet service promotion for a subscription free standard installation for its residential and business plans. This measure has been in place countrywide since March 31 and it is planned to continue until September 30
Measures to Support Education Services. Our service distributor in Mexico (StarGo) is supporting the SEP (Ministry of Public Education) in the program “Learn from Home II”. With this program the SEP seeks to strengthen the public/private media network which is already part of its tele-education strategy. StarGo, along with other seven major telecommunication and broadcasting providers in Mexico will be part of this program for the 2020-2021 school cycle. StarGo’s offer include satellite Internet, as well as open and pay TV programing.
Measures to Support Health Services. Hughes de Colombia continue providing Internet access to specific health institutions in remote areas that cannot continue paying for the service.
Measures for Regular Internet Access Service. Since April this year Hughes de Colombia decided to implement a no-suspension policy to clients that could not continue paying for the service. Hughes was able to extend such measure until July. Additionally, customers with financial difficulties have been offered discounts to continue receiving services.
Measures to Support Education Services. Hughes de Peru entered into an agreement with a rural school in a very low-income community to provide Internet access for one year free of charge, so children in the community continue to receive remote classes.
Measures for Regular Internet Access Service. As instructed by the authorities, Hughes de Peru implemented a no-suspension policy to clients that could not continue paying for the service. Such measure was in place from March to June this year.
Measures for Regular Internet Access Service. As instructed by the authorities, Hughes de Ecuador implemented a no-suspension policy to clients that could not continue paying for the service. Such measure started in March this year and is still ongoing.
On July 8th, Hughes Network Systems (Hughes) announced its participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) Emergency Broadband Benefit program to help households struggling to pay for Internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provides a temporary discount of up to $50 per month toward HughesNet® satellite Internet service for eligible new and existing customers. Hughes was an early champion of the Emergency Broadband Benefit program and the only nationwide satellite provider to participate. “For more than one million rural American families, HughesNet is essential for connecting to work, school, entertainment, healthcare, and social services,” said Paul Gaske, executive vice president and general manager, North America Division, Hughes. “We are glad to be able to offer our customers the Emergency Broadband Benefit to help them stay connected during this time, and we appreciate that the FCC included our satellite Internet in the program as it is a lifeline for our rural U.S. customers.” On February 25th, the FCC unanimously adopted a Report and Order that established the Emergency Broadband Benefit program, a $3.2 billion federal initiative to help lower the cost of high-speed internet for eligible households during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. For more details, please click HERE.
INMARSAT On June 4th, Inmarsat announced it continues to ramp up its response to COVID-19, with additional initiatives to improve seafarer wellbeing. These include further collaboration with ISWAN (International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network) and maritime charities, the launch of a new chatcard and the wider roll-out of a COVID-19 video telemedicine call service. As the pandemic has unfolded, the company has worked closely with welfare organisation ISWAN and the major maritime charities to ensure that seafarers stay connected without the burden of additional financial anxiety. Inmarsat is now offering crew access to ISWAN’s SeafarerHelp portal and live chat function via its new onboard Wi-Fi portal, Fleet Hotspot, as well as continuing to offer free voice phone calls to the service. It also continues to provide satellite phones to port chaplains in ports where a number of seafarers are stranded and have no access to the internet.
SeafarerHelp is ISWAN’s free, confidential, multilingual helpline, which offers support and assistance to seafarers and their families around the world. The helpline service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and seafarers can get in touch via a range of contact methods including Live Chat, email and telephone. To view a complete summary of Inmarsat’s initiatives during the pandemic, please click HERE.
On Nov 11th, Inmarsat announced that flying habits are set to change drastically for the long-term, with eight in ten airline passengers (83%) not expecting to return to their previous travel routines once the COVID-19 pandemic is over. This is just one of the key findings from a new global passenger survey commissioned by Inmarsat, the world leader in global mobile satellite communications. The ‘Passenger Confidence Tracker’ is the world’s largest survey of airline passengers since the pandemic began. It reflects the views and attitudes of 9,500 respondents from 12 countries across the globe about the future of flying. While the majority of passengers (60%) feel satisfied with the aviation industry’s response to the challenges of COVID-19, the survey reveals areas of opportunity for airlines to encourage passengers back to the skies. The survey was conducted in October 2020, in the aftermath of a difficult peak travel season – Market research company Yonder spoke to 9,500 people across 12 countries worldwide, all of whom had taken at least one flight in the previous 18 months. The questions posed were an attempt to absorb and recognise levels of passenger confidence at different stages of their journey and their thoughts on the industry’s response to the pandemic. To view the results of the survey, please click on the Inmarsat web link HERE.
On May 19th 2021, Inmarsat announced that enhanced satellite connectivity will help improve the mental well-being of aid-agency workers in the field by boosting communications in remote locations, assisting team work and providing an accessible support network, according to satellite communications specialists IEC Telecom and Inmarsat… The effect of the Covid-19 pandemic expedited the spread of digitalisation across many industries and the humanitarian sector was among the first to acknowledge the need for change. With travel restrictions and local lockdowns, isolated teams in remote areas rely extensively on the resources of their headquarters and communication has become even more essential. Satellite connectivity’s role is now central to the continuity of operations undertaken by remote missions, particularly for mobile units in areas with limited or no reliable mobile phone (GSM) coverage. As a result, demand for robust satellite communications solutions has increased exponentially, especially among medical missions and teams supporting isolated communities.
Addressing the World Humanitarian Forum’s hybrid event in London on 19 May 2021, Nabil Ben Soussia, CEO Asia, Middle East & CIS at IEC Telecom Group, and Steven Tompkins, Director, Market Development, Inmarsat Enterprise, explained how the development of satellite technology is making it easier to communicate with aid workers in the field and to provide support networks and assistance to them.
With the help of satellite communications systems, aid agencies can set up temporary offices using semi-fixed modems, access corporate applications, manage logistics, and rely on a wide variety of digitally extended services that enable e-learning, remote maintenance, telemedicine, and more. Mr Tompkins outlined: “The pandemic has focused attention on health and well-being and given the world a greater understanding of the problems faced by isolated workforces. We will continue to work with the humanitarian sector to resolve this challenge. Our technology roadmap includes planned improvements in order to offer more affordable, mobile solutions operating at higher speeds to support growing demand in communication and industry-specific applications.” For more details, please click HERE.
INTEGRASYS On Oct 15th, Integrasys announced that its CEO Álvaro Sánchez had contributed to the fight against COVID-19, by donating 1000 masks to the Michelet school, located in the town of Antella, Italy, and inviting other nobles and businessmen to take similar actions. “Álvaro inherited the title of Marquess of Antella in 2018, and since then, he has always considered the people of this small town in the south of Florence his family, especially the young students of the Michelet primary school, which he visited during Easter 2019. After having suffered the virus severely, Álvaro wanted to strengthen the security and health of the school, of the town where his marquisate belongs. Álvaro wanted to show the gratitude and affection he feels for the people of Antella, who have always welcomed him with open arms. “I have suffered Covid-19 virus during the last weeks – writes the businessman -, for children being save, and do not suffer as I suffered, I donate 1000 certified masks for you to be safe”.
INTELSAT Intelsat has taken numerous steps to protect the health and safety of its employees and their families, and to prevent any disruption to its customers’ operations. An internal Intelsat COVID-19 Task Force, which includes company medical staff, meets daily to ensure business continuity and preventative safety measures are in place and working effectively. With the world’s largest and most advanced satellite fleet and connectivity infrastructure, Intelsat is helping customers quickly scale their existing networks with temporary, no-cost capacity, or quickly deploy entirely new networks to meet increased end-customer demand. In addition, Intelsat is leveraging its inventory of portable, partner satellite terminals to provide temporary, mobile satellite-connectivity solutions to customers with critical public health and safety needs. Intelsat’s core media business is also helping the company’s broadcast customers bring important coronavirus news and public health information to people around the world and making it easy and cost-effective for TV reporters to broadcast news from their homes.
On May 5th, Intelsat posted the following blog entry titled “Intelsat CEO on Connectivity Best Practices during COVID-19 and Beyond. “Intelsat CEO Stephen Spengler recently spoke about broadband connectivity best practices in the time of Covid-19 during a virtual event hosted by the United Nations and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations’ specialized agency for Internet and Communications Technology.
During “Connectivity: Best Practices,” the second event in ITU’s thought leadership webinar series, Digital Cooperation During COVID19 and Beyond, Spengler offered three of his observations during this crisis:
- Internet and telecommunications connectivity are essential, and the gap between those who have robust networks and those who don’t has never been more pronounced. As a result, we need to redouble efforts between government, regulators and industry to close this connectivity gap.
- We are learning in real-time that the world – and our telecommunications networks – aren’t prepared for a crisis of this type. While connectivity services have expanded dramatically around the world, they haven’t expanded as much as they need to. We need to better prepare for crises like COVID-19, ensuring networks are properly sized for a surge in demand, and that critical equipment is available for rapid deployment. Regulators and governments can also be ready to accelerate administrative action in support of rapid deployments.
- Some aspects of life are likely to permanently change as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have gained new insights into how we interact with each other, how we work together and how we educate our children. Technology exists today to facilitate these new ways of interacting and educating, but it’s not yet widespread enough, and not always optimal. We have the technology to close the connectivity gap, we just need the will to work together and put in place the projects and the funding to make it happen. Industry and government also need the flexibility and agility to embrace new technologies and new approaches, which would ultimately have a tremendous impact toward closing the education gap, for example, around the world.
During the webinar, Spengler said he sees positive signs in our post-pandemic future. “We will learn new things from this experience,” he said. “I’m optimistic that it will be a catalyst for innovation [and] new ways to address challenges, including to close the broadband connectivity gap around the world.” For more details please click on the link HERE.
On Nov 13th, Intelsat and Inland Cellular, a regional mobile network operator (MNO) serving communities in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, announced they are partnering to bring reliable 4G LTE broadband coverage to people in rural areas of Washington state. Today, 97% of the U.S. is considered rural, with low levels of population density, and large parts are still without 4G coverage, a need which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. While traditional terrestrial backhaul approaches work well for urban and suburban coverage, the business case for rural expansion breaks down when factoring in the high cost of building out fiber or microwave, the deployment of which also takes a lot of time, disruption and planning. For more details, please click HERE.
IRIDIUM On Oct 7th, Iridium announced their data shows consumers are indeed heading far off the grid during the COVID-19 pandemic and bringing Iridium devices with them. For example, an analysis of the data shows that in the month of August, there was a 26% year-over-year increase in Iridium subscribers visiting the top 10 most visited national parks in the United States. Iridium Connected® devices like personal trackers, messengers and satellite phones are commonly used by consumers at national parks and other places that lack reliable cell phone coverage. These handheld devices are ideal for those who want to go off the grid, but not be out of touch, while making safety a priority. “It’s good to see people escaping their work-from-home confinement and getting truly socially distanced into the wild,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “So many of us really have not been able to go to restaurants, concerts, the gym, movie theaters and so many other places. It makes sense that people are taking up activities that let them safely enjoy the summer and our nation’s natural beauty.”
LOCKHEED MARTIN Lockheed Martin has announced that during the COVD-19 pandemic, the Company would “be guided by and operate with three clear priorities. First, we will continue to protect the health and safety of our men and women on the job and their families. Second, we will continue to perform and deliver for our customers because what they do for our national security, global communications, and infrastructure is critical to our nation and our allies. Third, we will do our part to use our know-how, resources, and leadership as a company to assist our communities and our country during this period of national crisis.” The Company announced it would take numerous steps as an initial contribution to the national COVID-19 relief and recovery effort including advancing millions of dollars to its supply chain partners, donating funds to non-profit organizations involved in pandemic assistance, donating use of its corporate aircraft, vehicles and activating its employee and retiree disaster relief fund. Read the full list of initiatives at the LOCKHEED MARTIN link above.
On Sept 25th, Lockheed Martin announced that the Company continues to support the critical security needs of our nation and its allies during COVID-19 while also providing support to industrial base suppliers, front-line medical workers and local communities to help with relief and response efforts. This includes weekly accelerated payments to small and vulnerable businesses in our supply chain, more than $21.3 million in charitable contributions and sponsorships for local communities, and donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) and meals to healthcare workers and those impacted by the pandemic. To view a copy of the announcement and for more details, please click HERE.
On Nov 6th, Lockheed Martin was recognized for outstanding contributions to the National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) for supporting life-saving bone marrow transport flights as part of its COVID-19 response efforts. The corporation continues to support the critical security needs of our nation and its allies during COVID-19 while also providing support to industrial base suppliers, front-line medical workers and local communities to help with relief and response efforts. This includes weekly accelerated payments to small and vulnerable businesses in our supply chain, more than $21.3 million to date in charitable contributions and sponsorships for local communities, and donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) and meals to healthcare workers and those impacted by the pandemic. Click HERE for more details.
On Mar 4th, Lockheed Martin announced that one year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the Company “continues to support vulnerable suppliers, the health and safety of our workforce, and the communities where we operate while sustaining delivery of critical capabilities to our military and security partners.”
Strengthening our Supply Chain
- In 2021, we are averaging more than $400 million weekly in accelerated payments to our supply chain partners, with a focus on small and vulnerable businesses.
- We have accelerated payments to more than 10,750 suppliers, including more than 6,500 small businesses across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 47 nations. We will continue to accelerate cash to small businesses and vulnerable suppliers to meet commitments vital to national security.
Keeping our Workforce Safe & Healthy
- At the beginning of the pandemic, Lockheed Martin quickly invested in and implemented significant measures to protect the safety and well-being of our workforce.
- As a result, Lockheed Martin continued operating mission critical facilities in strict compliance with wide-ranging state and local orders without interruption across the United States.
Helping Our Communities Recover & Thrive
- Our nearly $22 million of donations to date have helped non-profit organizations and public schools cultivate the future STEM workforce, supported military families and veterans, and helped us stand with communities trying to alleviate the educational, food and health challenges caused by the pandemic.
- Across more than 20 states, we have produced more than 57,000 face shields and 97,000 gowns for frontline medical workers caring for COVID-19 patients, medically vulnerable seniors, and first responders. These donations have gone to approximately 300 locations, including children’s hospitals, local fire departments, and senior living facilities that are integral parts of the communities where Lockheed Martin employees live and work.
PLANET On Apr 14th, Planet posted the following. “In a world turned upside-down by the global COVID-19 pandemic, we at Planet are regularly asked how daily satellite monitoring of the Earth might be helpful. We’d like to share some perspective with you about the role satellite imagery and analytics can play in responding to disease outbreaks in general, and to the current pandemic in particular, as well as some of what Planet will be doing to help in the months to come. Read more at the PLANET link above.
“Staff members are working from home in full force, including the operational teams needed to maintain stable satellite operations. All spacecraft management systems are designed to be operated remotely, so our ability to provide imagery products and services to our customers will continue without interruption. We are implementing mitigation plans for any challenges that may arise in manufacturing or from delays in satellite launches, and are fully prepared to continue business despite economic impacts that may occur as a result of COVID-19. We will keep our customers and partners notified of any changes as the situation evolves.”
On June 9th, PLANET announced that over the past year, the Company has seen increased demand for its SkySat imagery to fulfill customers’ needs for timely, accurate and frequent information across the decision cycle. The COVID-19 pandemic has intensified this trend, as traditional surveying and inspection methods are not currently possible. To meet the present moment, and demonstrate our commitment to rapidly deliver more value to customers every year, Planet is excited to unveil three new releases as part of our overall tasking offerings. Higher resolution 50 cm imagery: This improvement enables customers to get a more precise view of changing conditions on the ground and adds more granular context to decision-making. 12x revisit capabilities: While Planet leads the market with guaranteed sub-daily revisit, the upcoming launch of six new SkySats will allow Planet to image certain locations up to 12 times per day, at a global average of 7 times per day. Tasking Dashboard: At Planet the Tasking Dashboard is a new user interface that allows customers to request SkySat collections, while our new API provides efficient, automated access. For more details, please click HERE.
On Oct 20th, Planet posted the following. “The COVID-19 pandemic has had far-reaching effects on not only human health, but also economic impacts around the world due to the severe disruption of our daily lives. Individuals in regions where smallholder farms comprise most of the agricultural production sector, such as many sub-Saharan African countries, are at greater risk of economic and food insecurity due to disruptions to supply chains and local food markets. However, up-to-date, and high-resolution spatial information about croplands (often called cropland or crop type maps) are often lacking in these regions, making it difficult for governments to locate farmers and assess food security and production. Planet, in partnership with NASA Harvest, NASA’s Food Security and Agriculture Program, run out of the University of Maryland (UMD), aims to enable and advance the adoption of satellite Earth observations to benefit food security, agriculture, and human and environmental resiliency, which has become increasingly necessary in the midst of COVID-19. NASA Harvest scientists recently supported the Government of Togo in their innovative COVID-19-related food security relief efforts by creating a cropland map, at 10-meter resolution, of the entire country.” For more details, please click HERE.
SES On Apr 21st, SES announced residents, businesses, schools, healthcare clinics and other organisations in parts of Alaska could access city-wide WiFi and broadband services as always despite increased network demand due to the recent “Stay at Home” rule thanks to OptimERA Inc., significantly expanding its network capacity with SES Networks. The Alaskan Internet Service Provider (ISP) leveraged SES’s NSS-9 satellite increased C-band capacity and ramped up its networks within days, underscoring the agility of SES’s satellite services to rapidly address dynamic connectivity needs nearly anywhere in the world. OptimERA serves the city of Unalaska and its surrounding towns and islands, including world-famous Dutch Harbor, the largest fishing port in the United States. Located in the Aleutian Islands, Unalaska has the largest full-time resident population in Southwest Alaska as well as many seasonal and part-time residents due to the fishing industry. OptimERA started working with SES Networks in 2017 to provide backbone capacity so the ISP could serve the residents and businesses of this remote location that is 800 miles from the nearest fibre-based network. For more details, please click on the SES link above and for background information regarding OPtimERA, please click HERE.
On July 14th, SES announced that millions of households across Africa, Europe, and Asia-Pacific will be able to access a free-to-air TV channel via SES satellites dedicated to delivering reliable, informative content about COVID-19. The channel – Fight COVID-19 – broadcasts content that is aimed at providing underserved and rural communities with critical information about how to limit the spread of the virus. The content is provided by trusted organisations such as UNICEF and AFP as well as global EdTech social enterprise Potential.com. The content aims to impartially inform TV viewers about identifying COVID-19 symptoms, the recovery process, and how to manage the effects of a global pandemic and social distancing, such as managing a household, children or mental health. SES welcomes additional content providers from international and regional organisations to contribute to the COVID-19 channel. Please click HERE for more details.
On July 20th, SES posted the following blog entry by Nicole Robinson, senior vice president, global government for SES Networks. “One of the key advantages of satellite is its incredible reach and ability to deliver connectivity everywhere – even in the most remote and geographically-isolated locations. SES and its partners have leveraged SES’s global satellite fleet to provide connectivity services to hospitals across the globe in Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Mexico and Italy. Medical professionals have been in the limelight for the last several months as they put their lives at risk to help care for the sick during the COVID-19 pandemic. The least that companies and governments can do is to provide them with the right tools. At SES we were in a position to help through leveraging our existing partnerships and resources in support of remote hospitals.” To read the complete posting, please click HERE.
SPIRE Spire recently posted a message from Spire CEO Peter Platzer concerning the current COVID-19 outbreak. To view the video, please visit the company website by clicking on the SPIRE link above.
In March, Spire posted information regarding maritime traffic and how it has been affected by the pandemic. Satellite data shows a decline in US and global oil markets portrayed by tankers calling US ports. Activity is normal until week 13 of 2020, when tanker traffic in US ports begins to decline. Numbers drop from nearly 900 ship calls per week to 750 ship calls per week, and the downward trend is expected to continue as many reports reference “demand suppression” around the COVID-19 crisis. This affects both exports of US crude, refined products, and imports of foreign crude to the US. Spire also used satellite tracking to monitor all cruise vessels traveling in the North Atlantic and Caribbean waters. Data indicates there was a marked decrease in vessels traveling around these areas after the COVID lockdown. Over the last few months, after news of a successful vaccine was announced, you can see some stabilization in the fall. Based on the trend from November 2020 to January 2021, vessel traffic in the Caribbean remains steady at a drastically reduced volume. Click HERE for more details.
Weather Forecasting – The severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on aircraft flights is well known. Less obvious and equally important was the reduction in aircraft-based weather observations available to weather prediction centers and the related negative impact on weather models. Spire helped mitigate this loss by providing its own GNSS radio occultation (“GNSS-RO”) data. Spire GNSS-RO harnesses the power of global navigation systems to capture weather data. As Spire’s LEMUR satellites orbit the Earth, they receive signals from GPS satellites rising and falling on the horizon. These signals, which travel through the atmosphere, are bent by the atmospheric conditions that they encounter. Once analyzed, the bent signals provide critical information about air temperature, pressure, and humidity, resulting in improved weather predictions.
Spire offered its global GNSS-RO data on an emergency basis during the COVID-19 crisis free of charge to Federal agencies to support the Federal crisis response and to help alleviate the adverse impacts of the crisis on weather forecasting. This helped alleviate the adverse impacts on weather forecasting caused by grounded aircraft, which in turn benefitted the general public and assisted Federal crisis response efforts.
VIASAT Viasat has announced its commitment to meet the FCC’s “Keep Americans Connected” pledge. Viasat will work with its residential and small business customers to keep them connected, lessening potential health and economic impacts associated with the coronavirus. In alignment with the FCC’s request to all Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Viasat pledges for the next 60 days to: (1) not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; (2) waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incur because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and (3) open its business Wi-Fi hotspots, in conjunction with partners. In addition, Viasat is working hard to optimize its network for maximum uptime and speed, as well as prioritized critical business and education applications to keep customers connected—now more than ever. Read more details about Viasat’s COVID-19 response at the VIASAT link above.
On Apr 28th, Viasat Inc. (NASDAQ: VSAT) announced it would extend its commitment to keep residential and small business customers connected to the internet during the COVID-19 crisis. Through June 30, Viasat will extend its FCC’s Keep America Connected Initiative pledge to: not terminate internet service to any residential or small business customer because of an inability to pay their bills due to disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic; waive internet late fees that any residential or small business customer incurs because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic; and keep open its business internet Wi-Fi hotspots, in conjunction with partners, located primarily in small businesses, state parks and campground locations. Mark Dankberg, chairman and CEO of Viasat commented, “We’re committed to do our part to support our customers during this difficult time. By extending our pledge, we can alleviate customers’ worries about losing essential services, like the internet, and ensure our customers can continue to work, learn and stay on top of daily life from home.” For more information on Viasat’s COVID-19 response, please visit the blog site: HERE.
On Aug 10th, Viasat announced it had partnered with American Express and a growing group of companies on the Stand For Small program, an initiative to provide meaningful support to millions of small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Stand for Small initiative provides support and access to business-critical services, offers, tools and expertise, among other benefits through a centralized, digital platform. These resources aim to help small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis and their recovery efforts, by helping business owners reduce operating expenses, manage teams remotely, enhance digital capabilities and address other needs. Through the program, Viasat will provide discounted satellite-enabled business internet services to new U.S. small business customers in need during these challenging times. Currently, Viasat’s business internet service covers 96% of the U.S. population, and offers a variety of unlimited and metered data plans with download speeds up to 100 Mbps in select areas. The Company also implemented a number of initiatives to help U.S. small businesses stay connected during the COVID-19 crisis. For further details, please click HERE.