Mobile satcomms in broadcasting

Inmarsat explains the benefits that satcomms can offer broadcasters.
Inmarsat recently achieved complete global coverage for its mobile broadband services.
Inmarsat recently achieved complete global coverage for its mobile broadband services.
Mobile satellite terminals can be up and running in a few minutes.
Mobile satellite terminals can be up and running in a few minutes.


The Middle East media industry has seen some significant changes in the past decade and is steadily growing, even though the media industry may be perceived to be struggling worldwide. Initially, larger Middle East and North Africa media centres were based in Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, as they were perceived to be more liberal.

As times have changed and government investment has increased, media centres have been developed and created across the Gulf. Dubai Media City has become one of the greater media cities in the region and headquarters to many regional and international corporations. Global media leaders like Reuters, BBC, and CNN have located their head offices in Dubai Media City.

The media sector is an established market for mobile satellite services, using them for live broadcasts, especially ‘live by videophone’ reporting as well as store-and-forward video. Mobile satellite services have paved the way for backpack journalism, where reporters equipped with a terminal can broadcast live news on site. Major international broadcasters like Al Jazeera, CNN, and BBC extensively use this method of reporting.

Reporting live from the scene via video or forwarding photos in the quickest and safest form has become a benchmark for anchoring and journalism.

Field communications

Mobile satellite services (MSS) give the ability to broadcast or transmit video, audio and images from remote areas where terrestrial infrastructure does not exist. That material can be broadcast quality when the service is combined with professional encoders.

Regional TV broadcasters like Al Jazeera, and Al Arabiya TV often report live on breaking news and crisis situations across the Middle East and North Africa. It is during these times when quick deployment, reporting and exiting are sought.

With a mobile satellite terminal, a news crew can quickly and easily set up a small broadcasting site, report their news and broadcast live to their studio. Mobile satellite terminals require little previous technical expertise to set up and use, and can be ready to function in less than five minutes.

Mobile satellite services allow the media to get up close and report on-site live. Without the difficulties – the cost, manpower and technical expertise – of setting up a fixed satellite system, reporters can document within minutes and exit to secure areas.

Field reporters depend on the ease of portability of their team and equipment. Some developing stories require them to move between locations, set up and broadcast as swiftly as possible. They do not have the same ease of mobility with fixed or VSAT systems, including the ‘portable’ VSAT solutions, as they are expensive and time consuming to set up. Neither should a reporter have to worry about the weather conditions or where they are in the satellite footprint.

With sufficient battery life, mobile satellite terminals only require a line of sight to achieve a broadband connection.

Supporting reporters

Any journalist, reporter or camera crew who reports in the field in remote areas is likely to be more productive and effective if equipped with a mobile satellite terminal. They will be able to broadcast their news items with ease, whether based at the centre of a breaking news story or covering the news by moving from site to site.

Teams depending on fixed satellite systems have to make trips to and from their location to broadcast or gain broadband access, or travel to a nearby city which would again be time consuming.

In certain instances, a small team may be required to spread over more than one key site; a few may be spread over a wide area deployed on tasks such as live reporting, editing and in-city coverage.

Fast and reliable communications between these people is vital because delays in communication can cause the work of the entire crew to be suspended or compromised if a vital piece of information – for instance breaking news or an update – has not been received.

A simple case scenario would be a news team monitoring nationwide elections in a foreign country, where, in some cases, election posts fall in remote locations.

Crew safety

Safety is considered a priority for media operating on-site and in the field. A mobile satellite terminal capable of a guaranteed voice and high-speed data connectivity with the outside world can help keep them safe.. These reliable communications links will help any broadcasting company comply with high standards of safety for its crews in the field.

When reporting from sites that have been hit by a communications blackout, whether it is a conflict or natural disaster, a mobile satellite terminal can be one of the only means of direct data and voice communications. This was recently demonstrated during the tragic aftermath of the Haiti earthquake.

Along with the electricity and water supplies, the country’s cellular and terrestrial telecomms network was damaged beyond use, and Haiti was effectively cut off. Satellite communications provided the only means for communicating to, and within, the country. Within a day of the earthquake, and as the world’s attention turned to the humanitarian crisis, crews from CNN, Reuters and other international broadcasters were using mobile satellite communications to share live and recorded reports from Port-au-Prince.

MSS helps go the extra mile when it comes to increasing productivity in all situations. Whether it is reporting from a disaster hit-zone, conflict or remote area, mobile satellite services will assure mobile broadband connectivity at any time with ease. Backpack to broadcast in less than five minutes with a terminal can be achieved effortlessly as no special technical expertise is required to set up and use.

Mobile satellite services are ideal for global coverage, where stories can be broadcast wherever they happen, and news can be sent anywhere in the world. Files can be sent, stored and forwarded while communicating with the studio via simultaneous voice and broadband data capability.

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