Satellite companies see usage surge in Haiti
Satellite communications providers are experiencing a dramatic increase in demand for their products and services from agencies and organizations deploying to Haiti, which has been ravaged by earthquakes that have resulted in more than 150,000 fatalities.
Since the first 7.0 quake struck 10 miles west of Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12, global aid has been dispatched to the affected region, with a significant number of personnel using Iridium satellite communications, said Patrick Shay, Iridium’s vice president of data services.
“Haiti wasn’t a real large market for Iridium — we generated about 100 minutes per day of voice traffic in Haiti [prior to the earthquakes],” Shay said. “After this event, we’re generating 40,000 minutes per day in Haiti. We’re generating more traffic in Haiti than we are in Afghanistan and Iraq [where military customers use Iridium as part of ongoing war efforts].”
To put the usage numbers in perspective, Shay noted that Iridium experienced a 3,000% increase in traffic on its network from the Gulf Coast region during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since the earthquakes struck in Haiti, Iridium usage in the area has increased 18,000%, he said.
Such a spike in traffic is the result of Iridium having palettes of satellite products ready to be shipped for its response-agency customers — for example, FEMA, the Red Cross, the United Nations and food organizations — when such devastating events occur.
“Whenever there is a natural disaster somewhere in the world, we immediately get a huge demand for products and services,” Shay said. “We’re typically the first form of communications that happens in an area, because all other forms of communications are gone.”
Other satellite communications providers also have experienced increased demand for their services. Inmarsat reportedly signed a partnership agreement with fellow L-band satellite provider SkyTerra Communication to support relief efforts in Haiti.
“We are working with Inmarsat to be sure that there’s enough capacity for all satellite communications,” SkyTerra spokesman Tom Surface said. “We’re loaning them some spectrum so they have enough capacity and we have enough capacity, as well.”