The role of satellite in Covid-19 management

6th October 2020

Background Information

Digital technologies are essential in order for the economy and society for functioning during the current COVID-19 pandemic crisis. However, limited access to communications technologies hinders social inclusion in the villages furthest away from large city centres, which exacerbates the digital divide that was already present:

  • Low connection speeds heighten exclusion situations, as residents are unable to use digital solutions to work from home or access online education.
  • The demand for broadband services has seen a rapid increase, which has led to a higher demand for network capacity and the endurance of said networks.
  • Even in countries with better connectivity indexes, around 30% of boys and girls do not have an Internet connection in their homes. Source: Special Report COVID-19, ECLAC (United Nations). 26/08/2020.

The impact of the COVID-19 crisis has cut through all the productive sectors of society, speeding up the processes for digitising work and basic services Source: Spanish Chamber of Commerce: An Initiative for Digital Transition.

Between the first and second quarter of 2020, the use of solutions of working from home went up by 324% and of online education, by more than 60%.

With regard to basic services for the population, health and education have been greatly affected by this crisis, which has started a public debate about the need to reinforce both systems through increased use of digital tools:

  • Online education services and digitising education help to improve the quality of education and ensure pupils and students continue with education during the COVID-19 crisis by using a mixed structure of classroom and online learning.
  • Providing electronic health services means residents are able to access these services more easily, and they are more efficient and better quality. Furthermore, this reduces costs and increases prevention capacity.

Therefore, it is essential for the problem of the digital divide to be dealt with in order to ensure that these basic services are offered to the whole population in the same way.

The Role of Satellites

Satellite technology is able to bridge this divide thanks to its intrinsic characteristics of universal coverage as well as quick and network deployment.

HISPASAT has adapted its solution portfolio to these needs in order to promote the use of technology to provide basic services to the whole community in a fair way.

HISPASAT Solutions Against COVID

Emergency Services to Help Manage the COVID-19 Crisis

The fight against the virus calls for Governments, companies and the public to cooperate and work together. In many cases, this means that the emergency networks which are currently available must be reinforced and extended. Some of the HISPASAT solutions in this field are:

  • Backhaul services for emergency networks: satellite is the ideal solution to act as a complement of overload capacity or as network extension to areas without coverage using the emergency networks such as TETRA, PMR, 4G, etc.
  • Deployment of WiFi hotspots: solutions for providing data connectivity in public buildings such as hospitals, health centres, hotels, sports centres and critical infrastructure management centres.
  • Private network for emergency management: Solutions for deploying multipurpose private networks for bodies in charge of managing emergencies.

Rural Connectivity

Satellite technology has made significant progress, allowing it to provide a competitive connectivity service which has higher quality thanks to the use of the Ka frequency band and HTS technology.

Satellites are able to offer residents broadband connectivity in a network and efficient way, therefore contributing to bridge the digital divide. Furthermore, users are guaranteed to have Internet access regardless of their geographic location. The HISPASAT portfolio in this sphere includes:

  • Direct connectivity to homes: high-capacity Internet access directly to homes through the use of a small antenna and a satellite modem.
  • Deployment of WiFi hotspots: connectivity services in public areas, such as schools, town squares and health centres connected to the Internet via satellite.
  • Solutions for digitising the agri-food sector: communication systems specifically designed for the agricultural sector, including IoT systems and specific applications for this sector.

Telemedicine Solutions and Digitising Education

In the field of telemedicine, HISPASAT has added a service to its portfolio which aims to provide access for residents to primary health care services, as well as to provide specialist care without health professionals having to travel to rural areas. Features of this service include:

  • Managing appointments
  • Videoconferences
  • Access to medical history and clinical reports
  • Multiparameter equipment for basic patient care (blood pressure, oxygen saturation, glucose, etc.)
  • Online training service for rural areas, which includes the equipment and tools needed to efficiently distribute training content to entrepreneurs, vocational training centres and schools. The functions of this service include: managing downloading content to the local server in bulk, remote content management, three-way call service and storage of cache content.
  • Classroom equipment: as part of its commitment to digitise schools, HISPASAT and its partners have equipment available to digitise classrooms (interactive whiteboards and tablets/Chromebooks, etc.).
  • Regarding digital education, HISPASAT solutions include an extensive catalogue of services and technologies, for example: Advanced connectivity for schools: high-capacity connectivity services for rural schools which do not receive land-based technology.

Paving the Way for a Digital Future After the COVID Crisis

The crisis resulting from the coronavirus disease has accelerated the need for a digital transition in the sectors, means and services which are fundamental for the development of society. In this respect, satellites can help provide tools which promote access to digital means and services for 100% of the population.

The world has changed and we are faced with significant challenges which will allow us to not only overcome this crisis, but come out stronger as a society. At HISPASAT, we are committed to helping, using all the means we have, to do what we are best at: promote access to connectivity and digital technologies for everyone.