Using multiple technologies to make a solution work, Part 2 – Cellular and Satellite

Submitted by Larry Bellehumeur on 

Hello and thanks for reading....In a multi-part series, we will be examining how to use two or more technologies (often ones that seem competitive) in order to make a solution work.  We will try to use real-life examples, to show you the solution, what problem it was trying to solve and what the benefits were. 

Part 1 - Cellular / Short Haul Industrial Wireless technologies (Industrial BlueTooth / ZigBee / Private Radio)

Part 2 - Cellular / Satellite technologies

Part 3 - Cellular / Long Haul Wireless (Microwave / Radio)

Part 4 - Cellular / WiFi for Computing

Part 5 - Cellular / traditional Landline services

In this post, we look at how to utilize what looks like two competitive technologies (satellite communication and cellular) to create a complete solution.  For many customers, the choice is often satellite OR cellular, in that they tend to choose satellite for its ubiquitous coverage, or they opt for the higher bandwidth offered by today's cellular networks.  Our thought....why not have both?

Scenarios where both may be beneficial:

1) Speed MAY not be the most vital part of your solution

The reason why the word "may" is highlighted here is that many solutions that seem to always need high-speed communications may only need it for some portions of work or in some geographical areas.  An example is an in-vehicle office, as used by many different markets (Public Safety, Utilities, Oil/Gas, etc).  For the most part, the high-speed cellular network is ideal as it allows for fast transfer of information to and from the field. However, part of the benefit of a remote solution is also to increase the safety of the worker, through GPS-enabled technology.  Many top-notch solutions allow for a hand-off to satellite when the cellular networks are not available.  The solutions go one step further as to limit/forbid the transmission of non-vital information while the system is using the satellite network, thus preventing possibly large bills.  Only vital information such as GPS locates and work alone alarms are sent over satellite.  For the most part, non-vital information is stored until the unit returns into coverage.

2) Redundancy

As cellular networks begins to be used to provide valuable data from the field (such as readings of Oil wells, pumps, etc) at an increasing rate, one of the concerns for communication and IT teams is the availability of that data.  As reliable as cellular networks are, the increased reliance on mobile data has made many IT professionals look for back-up solutions for redundancy.  Since it does not use the same technology or rely on the same infrastructure, satellite is often a great backup to many cellular connections.  While the user may sacrifice some throughput speed while using satellite, the benefit of having a fully redundant solution for remote applications is well worth it.  

Common applications that use a combination of Satellite / Cellular

- Oil and Gas Rigs

- Digital Signage

- Vehicle Tracking / Fleet Management

- Work alone / remote worker safety solutions

Thanks for reading, and hope to see you soon....Larry