Tackling border security challenges through satcom

    12th Sep 2017

    By: Peter Crafter

    NSSLGlobal has worked with governments in different continents to support border control projects and through this work, has built up a wealth of expertise in the ways satcom can aid border security… as this blog will discuss.

    Securing country borders is understandably high on the political agenda. News reports of terrorist attacks, the Syrian refugee crisis, and projects such as President Trump’s US-Mexico border wall have elevated border security into the public consciousness. 

    It’s undeniable that border authorities have a tough job. They must tackle a myriad of risk factors — not just terrorism, but drug smuggling, human trafficking, illegal immigration, etc.

    As an Island-nation we, in the UK, struggle enough with our own border control, but imagine having to deal with 10 neighbouring countries and 16,885km of border. This is the task facing Brazil. Similarly, in Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo (9), Tanzania (8) and Zambia (8) all feature in the list of countries with the most borders.

    Geographic and economic factors, the level of threat and national policy will all impact the border security strategies and systems that are implemented. But for developing countries, who lack the resources of economic superpowers such as US, Russia, China and Germany, it’s crucial that solutions balance security with affordability.

    A border management system will typically be made up of four layers: the underlying terrain; the border and official border crossing points; fixed surveillance and protection assets (e.g. observation posts and sensors, command posts and secure compounds); and mobile border protection assets (e.g. UAVs, mobile patrols and response teams).

    To operate effectively, these layers all depend on the swift, reliable sharing of information between the border posts, control headquarters, surveillance assets and mobile patrols.

    Satcom presents a superb connectivity option for border scenarios. For example, border security programmes can deploy satcom solutions to help monitor and report movement in remote areas where terrain conditions make other methods of communication challenging e.g. mountain ranges, at sea, tropical forests or deserts etc. This includes the use of BGAN systems linked to radars, sensors and cameras for overt applications and Low Profile BGAN terminals for more covert situations. Deployed in sufficient numbers, and carefully placed, these sensors and BGAN terminals can effectively form a virtual fence.

    Satcom solutions also allow border security authorities to exchange information with headquarters, border checkpoints, or on-the-move border patrol units, where it can be used as a primary or secondary communication channel. When border checkpoints have good terrestrial signals, satcom will function as a back-up system. When border patrol units are on-the-move or checkpoints are more remotely located, satcom becomes the primary channel.

    In the maritime environment satcom can also enable border agencies to extend far beyond their own borders, to assist in multinational operations to counter piracy, drug smuggling and people trafficking.

     

    Any satcom platform for border security must also deal with the challenges that come with this kind of operation, such as mobility, service availability, tight budgets and data bandwidth limits. The deployment of bandwidth-hungry sensors and more video, data and voice traffic can put pressure on available satellite bandwidth and be expensive. The need to work with the right supplier is therefore essential.  

    NSSLGlobal’s broad satcom capability and strong pedigree in security and border control applications, particularly in the African government and military sectors, enables us to tailor bespoke services that suit individual needs, budgets, timeframes and geographical regions to ensure our customers stay connected whatever the local infrastructure or terrain.

    As well as our own robust VSAT network for land, sea and air we’re also a distribution partner of Inmarsat, Cobham, Iridium and Thuraya. As a result, we can offer global and regional options across C-, L-, Ka- and Ku-Band networks.

    Ultimately, we strive to give border security agencies the peace of mind to focus on their job through a flexible and affordable satcoms approach that alleviates the traditional challenges synonymous with border security operations over satellite. 

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