Monday, December 21, 2009

Article from RFID Journal: Kentucky, West Virginia Mines Try RFID Combined With Telecommunications


Kentucky, West Virginia Mines Try RFID Combined With Telecommunications

To improve safety, the mines are adopting or testing systems that use Axcess International's active RFID tags and readers, integrated with communications technologies from Tunnel Radio or Foundation Telecommunications Inc.
By Claire Swedberg

Sept. 23, 2008—West Virginia and Kentucky mines are using or testing wireless systems that employ telecommunications technology in conjunction with active RFID tags and readers to locate miners in underground tunnels. Although the mines in both states use Axcess International RFID Dot tags, they utilize different wireless platforms to relay RFID and telecommunications data.

An unnamed West Virginia mine, for instance, is using an RFID-based tracking system known as MineAx, provided by Tunnel Radio of America, in conjunction with Tunnel Radios' UltraComm wireless networking technology. Several other West Virginia mining companies will be installing the system later this year as well.

The MineAx system employs Axcess' active RFID tags and wireless readers to ensure real-time data regarding its miners' locations as they move around tunnels underground. The system will help West Virginia mines comply with the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, which requires improved communications and emergency plans in the event of an underground mine accident.

With MineAx, when miners enter a shaft, they first pass through an Axcess reader portal. The portal reads the miners' Axcess Micro-Wireless ID active RFID tags, which can be placed in a pocket or attached to a hard hat. The portal emits a 126 kHz signal that awakens a dormant tag, which begins transmitting a signal in the 315 to 433 MHz ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) band. Typically, the portal contains two readers, one located in front of a mine's entrance, the other behind that entrance. The read sequence is then interpreted by Tunnel Radio software and provides data as to whether a particular miner is entering or leaving the mine. Elsewhere throughout the mine, additional RFID readers are deployed.

At the West Virginia site, the readers transmit data to the mine company's back-end system via the UltraComm wireless network, which includes a leaky feeder—a cable deployed throughout the mine that has "gaps" enabling it to function as a radio antenna and thereby emit and receive RF signals along its entire length. The mine utilizes the same UltraComm wireless network to support its two-way telecommunication system, also provided by Tunnel Radio. According to Mark Rose, Tunnel Radio's president and CEO, the two-way wireless communication system enables the mining company to contact underground miners via a Motorola radio each worker carries on a belt.

On the back-end system, Tunnel Radio software interprets that data and displays the employees' locations on a mine map generated from a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing of the mine. On that map, Rose says, a small hat icon represents each individual in the mine, color-coded according to that person's job function or experience. By placing the cursor over a hat, a manager can read the employee's name, as well as any other necessary data about that individual. If a miner has a problem, he can use the Motorola radio to place a call, and the manager or dispatcher can then utilize the RFID system to locate that worker on the display and communicate with him accordingly.

The UltraComm-MineAx system is especially effective, Rose says, in situations in which miners lack specific information, such as which shafts are clear, or which have collapsed or contain fires. In such a case, a dispatcher can determine where the miners are located on the display and, based on information about a fire or collapse, call them and describe what they must do to reach safety.

The system does not always provide real-time data, Rose says, but instead pinpoints the location of the most recent RFID transmission—that is, when the miner last came within range of an RFID reader, and which reader it was. Based on the sequence of transmissions, he explains, as well as information regarding the miner's work assignment for that day, dispatchers can approximate that miner's location.

Tunnel Radio software also allows a user to pull up manifests listing who is in a particular tunnel at any given time, Rose says, and who has recently entered or exited. During an evacuation, for example, a manager can watch names leave the "in" manifest and appear in the "out" manifest.

Rose has been at mines when accidents have occurred, he says, noting, "The first thing managers ask is, 'Who's in?'" At any given time, a mining company may have employees, contractors, electricians, inspectors and various other visitors within its tunnels. "If everyone is electronically tracked, you have a really good idea of who is where," he says.

Tunnel Radio is providing the MineAx Bird Dog system to existing customers using the two-way radio system, and also has some new customers for the combined solution. "We're a one-stop shop, and people really like that," Rose states. Some mines span as much as 80 miles, he says, and the system can transmit data throughout their length. The system has received the requisite Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and State of West Virginia approvals for operating in that state's mines.

Combining RFID with existing communication systems is a natural fit, says Allan Griebenow, Axcess' president and CEO. Because the wireless backbone is already in place, he adds, it is logical to employ that same backbone for RFID tracking.

According to Griebenow, the active RFID tag is small enough that a person can easily carry it into the mine, but has a transmission range of 150 feet to 1,000 feet in optimal conditions. UHF-based transmissions are the best in this environment, he says, because they are robust and do not interfere with any existing Wi-Fi systems.

Axcess is currently working on further features for the DOT tags and readers, including panic buttons for miners in emergency conditions, as well as sensor capabilities that would transmit a person's temperature or indicate whether that individual is moving.

The state of Kentucky has also been looking into RFID tracking systems that work in tandem with communications backbones. Last week, Foundation Telecommunications Inc. (FTI) completed a pilot for the state using its own satellite communications and tracking system, combined with Axcess RFID tags and communications hardware and integration services from Architron XRF.

The 30-day trial was completed on Sept. 19. In this case, the research team utilized a system of tunnels closely resembling the coal mines of Kentucky. FTI placed 12 wireless nodes every 250 feet throughout the tunnels, which are located in Missouri. Each node, provided by Architron, contained an Axcess interrogator, a telephone handset, a video camera and a computer keyboard that enabled voice, data and video communications.

Testers carried Axcess RFID tags in their pockets, and the tags' 315 to 433 MHz RF signals were picked up by the wireless nodes. In this case, the nodes could forward such data as the individual's ID number, as well as any voice or video data, via an 802.11 wireless mesh system. When the information reached the tunnel's surface, it was received by a satellite dish that then transmitted it to FTI's satellite hub in Salt Lake City.

From there, explains Byron del Castillo, Architron's CEO, the data was made available on a Web server that authorized users in remote locations could then access via the Internet to gain information regarding the miners' location in the tunnels, or real-time audio or video images of what was happening in the mine. Because the nodes were placed 250 feet apart, and since the RFID readers proved able to receive transmissions at about 125 feet, FTI had real-time visibility the entire time a miner was in the tunnels.

The wireless mesh system, del Castillo says, enabled multiple transmissions, including voice, RF data and video, all to be directed to the Internet-based system. "At any time," he explains, "if there was a collapse, we would know what zone they are in."

Kentucky has approved the initial pilot's results, and the system must now receive MSHA approval before FTI can commence marketing it to Kentucky mines. FTI first began discussing such a system with the state approximately two years ago, according to FTI's president and CEO, George Livergood.

"We started looking at RFID companies, and we came across Axcess and liked the technology path they were taking," Livergood says. "That was when we hooked up with them [Axcess and Architron]. With this system, you could be in a conference room in Kentucky and see a miner down in a tunnel in Missouri."

The FTI software system displays a list of employee names, and when a name is selected, it also provides pictures and other details about that particular miner. While awaiting MSHA approval, Livergood says, researchers plan to spend several more weeks working out the mounting of the nodes on tunnel walls. The nodes must be installed within 3 inches of the ceiling, he says, noting. "We've proven without a doubt that wireless mesh works."

© Copyright 2002-2009 RFID Journal LLC.

http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/articleprint/4336/-1/1

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

FTI Newsletter Dec. 2009

Quarterly newsletter printed by FTI showcasing our latest developments and accomplishments. See what new products and services we now provide and review our projects completed throughout the year.
Vol. 3; Issue 6

FTI Newsletter Dec. 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

SCOLA Announces Launch of 8th Channel

FTI is proud to announce the launch of the 8th SCOLA broadcast channel. Founded over twenty-three (23) years ago in 1986, SCOLA is a non-profit educational organization that receives and re-transmits digital television programming from around the world in native languages to an estimated 41 million viewers via satellite and has announced the launch of “SCOLA Eight Eurasia”. The eighth channel is the most recent addition to the SCOLA channel line-up which includes:
  • Channel One - Europe
  • Channel Two - Spanish & Portuguese 
  • Channel Three - The Confucius Institute Channel—Mandarin Chinese 
  • Channel Four - Asia Channel Eight - Eurasia
  • Channel Five - Africa
  • Channel Six - Middle East & Near East
  • Channel Seven - Far East (South Asia)

SCOLA’s eight satellite channels broadcast 24 hours a day seven days a week from 115 countries in more than 100 languages. That is over 70,000 hours of programming a year broadcast to approximately 41 million viewers. This adds another level of excellence to this premier provider of foreign language training and cultural awareness providing educational programming to Universities, Colleges, K-12 schools, cable systems, government language schools and individuals. SCOLA is the best source for Satellite provided content for current foreign language news, language study and cultural enhancement.
“SCOLA has always been very proud to be the near sole-source provider for the Less Commonly Taught and Virtually Never Taught languages,” said Francis Lajba, SCOLA President and CEO. “We are the go-to network for incredibly hard to get countries and languages.”

SCOLA emphasizes the importance and effectiveness of modern information technology as a tool in overcoming barriers to global understanding and will remain at the forefront of its applications. FTI is honored to be the sole provider of satellite related hardware and technical support to the SCOLA organization.
Foundation Telecommunications, Inc. has been providing SCOLA uninterrupted satellite network technical and operational support for over fifteen (15) years and anticipates many more years as the network continues to grow and evolve technically.
For more information about SCOLA and their broadcasts visit http://www.scola.org





Monday, November 23, 2009

President's Corner:

2009 is a benchmark year for Foundation Telecommunications, Inc. with much to look back on since its original incorporation in 1979. Thirty years of continuously providing telecommunications solutions through innovative applications of leading edge satellite and wireless technologies has served both the company and its clients well over the years. Some of those include:

  • 15 years of continuous engineering support for SCOLA, a non-profit institution now serving over 41 million viewers with foreign language programming
  • 17 years of the provision of continuous uninterrupted two-way high-speed satellite Internet to extremely rural geographically isolated K-12 schools in the Wyoming Equality Network
  • 17 years of providing two-way high-speed Internet and secured VPN services via satellite technology to schools, businesses, government agencies, cable television companies, Internet Service Providers and others
The next decade promises to include the development of even more impressive telecommunications technologies that will allow higher data rates at lower power requirements providing wireless services direct to end users over wider distances more reliably than every before.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

FTI Product Spotlight: PRI in the SKY!

Foundation Telecommunications, Inc.announces the newest lineup in satellite services available to small and large companies alike. An addition to our satellite internet backup solutions, PRI in the SKY, a telephone system recovery service that restores your existing PRI service instantly in the event of a disaster or service interruption.

After an outage occurs, PRI in the Sky™ enables your existing phone system to switch over to a satellite connection, instantly restoring normal functionality and turning every connected station into a satellite phone.
PRI in the Sky™ is compatible with Avaya, Nortel, Lucent, Cisco, NEC, 3COM, Alcatel, Mitel and any other system using PRI/ISDN for carrier connections.
A single satellite dish can support up to 92 concurrent calls in multiple formats (PRI, analog, E & M trunks) and simultaneously provide backup internet service.

Other PRI in the Sky™ benefits include:

  • Always on, easy to test
  • Move a PRI connection anywhere there’s broadband internet access with Portable PRI™
  • Circumvent carrier failure and/or congestion
  • Backup internet service simultaneously provided
  • Included Voice Recovery Service™ provides unrivaled flexibility and control: route some calls to PRI in the Sky™, others to mobile phones, landlines, other locations, voicemail, and more, all controllable remotely in real-time
  • Voice Recovery Service™ also provides complete backup to PRI in the Sky™ in case of power failure, equipment failure, or evacuation
  • VoiceCast mass notification (voice, text, email) and Fax Recovery Service™ are included
  • Satisfy compliance requirements (including 2009 Joint Commission EM.02.02.01)
  • May qualify for ASPR, DHS and other federal and state grant programs

After an outage, PRI in the Sky™ satellite-enables your entire existing phone system, and every phone connected to it.

In partnership with Telecom Recovery, this service rapidly restores control of incoming calls during telecom outages, whether caused by power outage, equipment failure, cable cut or disaster.
  • Quickly recover all your existing numbers, including DID’s and toll-frees
  • Recover from all types of outages and disasters, even catastrophes such as Katrina and 9/11
  • Unparalleled control during the outage with the Web Call Controller™
  • Connect live calls to the right employees – during your outage – even employees still inside the building that's experiencing the outage
  • Highly transparent and professional to callers, who may have no idea you're experiencing an outage
  • Unlimited voicemail boxes are included, to back up every phone number, every extension, every department, every employee
  • Easily testable, with free minutes to burn every month
  • No hardware, No software, No change of carriers
  • Scalable, from small business to enterprise
  • Surprisingly affordable, with No declaration or activation charges

  •  VoiceCast Mass Notification--rapidly sends messages to thousands of people; voice, SMS/text, and/or email messages, and more...
  • Fax Recovery Service--recover incoming faxes after almost any outage or disaster, secure online storage of originals, immediate delivery to email as PDF or TIFF, and more...
  • Emergency Information Hotline--Always on, always ready, unlimited recordings, unlimited voicemail, multiple languages supported and more...
  • Compliance/BCDR Plan-satisfies compliance requirements in many industries, hard/soft copies provided, diagrams, and much more...
  • Many cool tools to enhance your service: instant conferencing, polling, boomerang, uniform call distribution, and much much more...
Phone outages are no fun. In a disaster, a lack of communication can be deadly. Though more common outages such as cable cuts and equipment failure are more temporary, they can still be quite costly, and they're always embarrassing to your organization's reputation.
What kind of pain do you feel when the phone lines are down? How much pain do your callers feel?
Telecom Recovery is a pioneer in the rapid recovery of communications after a telecommunications outage, with a unique focus on the restoration of the incoming calls to existing phone numbers. With the partnership of Telecom Recovery's Voice Recovery Service™ and FTI's satellite internet system, complete control of incoming calls to all phone numbers – including individual DID's – can be restored in only minutes, allowing callers to be handled in almost any way imaginable, and enabling quick adaptation to changing circumstances on-the-fly, even while calls are in progress.
There's no hardware or software to buy or install and it works seamlessly with existing carriers and equipment. It's powerful, fast, flexible, comprehensive, and perhaps best of all, affordable.
If you want to see a real-time demonstration of one of the coolest – or hottest – technologies you've ever seen, contact us soon to schedule a time. It takes less than an hour, and it will surprise and impress you with its capability and value.


Monday, November 9, 2009

KS Recommends 22 Projects, FTI is one! http://ping.fm/RRPL2 btop bbstim

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Check out our used Equipment for Sale: http://ping.fm/5Kx7R

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kentucky, West Virginia Mines Try RFID Combined With Telecommunications

Kentucky, West Virginia Mines Try RFID Combined With Telecommunications

To improve safety, the mines are adopting or testing systems that use Axcess International's active RFID tags and readers, integrated with communications technologies from Tunnel Radio or Foundation Telecommunications Inc.
By Claire Swedberg

Sept. 23, 2008—West Virginia and Kentucky mines are using or testing wireless systems that employ telecommunications technology in conjunction with active RFID tags and readers to locate miners in underground tunnels. Although the mines in both states use Axcess International RFID Dot tags, they utilize different wireless platforms to relay RFID and telecommunications data.

An unnamed West Virginia mine, for instance, is using an RFID-based tracking system known as MineAx, provided by Tunnel Radio of America, in conjunction with Tunnel Radios' UltraComm wireless networking technology. Several other West Virginia mining companies will be installing the system later this year as well.

The MineAx system employs Axcess' active RFID tags and wireless readers to ensure real-time data regarding its miners' locations as they move around tunnels underground. The system will help West Virginia mines comply with the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006, which requires improved communications and emergency plans in the event of an underground mine accident.

With MineAx, when miners enter a shaft, they first pass through an Axcess reader portal. The portal reads the miners' Axcess Micro-Wireless ID active RFID tags, which can be placed in a pocket or attached to a hard hat. The portal emits a 126 kHz signal that awakens a dormant tag, which begins transmitting a signal in the 315 to 433 MHz ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) band. Typically, the portal contains two readers, one located in front of a mine's entrance, the other behind that entrance. The read sequence is then interpreted by Tunnel Radio software and provides data as to whether a particular miner is entering or leaving the mine. Elsewhere throughout the mine, additional RFID readers are deployed.

At the West Virginia site, the readers transmit data to the mine company's back-end system via the UltraComm wireless network, which includes a leaky feeder—a cable deployed throughout the mine that has "gaps" enabling it to function as a radio antenna and thereby emit and receive RF signals along its entire length. The mine utilizes the same UltraComm wireless network to support its two-way telecommunication system, also provided by Tunnel Radio. According to Mark Rose, Tunnel Radio's president and CEO, the two-way wireless communication system enables the mining company to contact underground miners via a Motorola radio each worker carries on a belt.

On the back-end system, Tunnel Radio software interprets that data and displays the employees' locations on a mine map generated from a computer-aided design (CAD) drawing of the mine. On that map, Rose says, a small hat icon represents each individual in the mine, color-coded according to that person's job function or experience. By placing the cursor over a hat, a manager can read the employee's name, as well as any other necessary data about that individual. If a miner has a problem, he can use the Motorola radio to place a call, and the manager or dispatcher can then utilize the RFID system to locate that worker on the display and communicate with him accordingly.

The UltraComm-MineAx system is especially effective, Rose says, in situations in which miners lack specific information, such as which shafts are clear, or which have collapsed or contain fires. In such a case, a dispatcher can determine where the miners are located on the display and, based on information about a fire or collapse, call them and describe what they must do to reach safety.

The system does not always provide real-time data, Rose says, but instead pinpoints the location of the most recent RFID transmission—that is, when the miner last came within range of an RFID reader, and which reader it was. Based on the sequence of transmissions, he explains, as well as information regarding the miner's work assignment for that day, dispatchers can approximate that miner's location.

Tunnel Radio software also allows a user to pull up manifests listing who is in a particular tunnel at any given time, Rose says, and who has recently entered or exited. During an evacuation, for example, a manager can watch names leave the "in" manifest and appear in the "out" manifest.

Rose has been at mines when accidents have occurred, he says, noting, "The first thing managers ask is, 'Who's in?'" At any given time, a mining company may have employees, contractors, electricians, inspectors and various other visitors within its tunnels. "If everyone is electronically tracked, you have a really good idea of who is where," he says.

Tunnel Radio is providing the MineAx Bird Dog system to existing customers using the two-way radio system, and also has some new customers for the combined solution. "We're a one-stop shop, and people really like that," Rose states. Some mines span as much as 80 miles, he says, and the system can transmit data throughout their length. The system has received the requisite Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and State of West Virginia approvals for operating in that state's mines.

Combining RFID with existing communication systems is a natural fit, says Allan Griebenow, Axcess' president and CEO. Because the wireless backbone is already in place, he adds, it is logical to employ that same backbone for RFID tracking.

According to Griebenow, the active RFID tag is small enough that a person can easily carry it into the mine, but has a transmission range of 150 feet to 1,000 feet in optimal conditions. UHF-based transmissions are the best in this environment, he says, because they are robust and do not interfere with any existing Wi-Fi systems.

Axcess is currently working on further features for the DOT tags and readers, including panic buttons for miners in emergency conditions, as well as sensor capabilities that would transmit a person's temperature or indicate whether that individual is moving.

The state of Kentucky has also been looking into RFID tracking systems that work in tandem with communications backbones. Last week, Foundation Telecommunications Inc. (FTI) completed a pilot for the state using its own satellite communications and tracking system, combined with Axcess RFID tags and communications hardware and integration services from Architron XRF.

The 30-day trial was completed on Sept. 19. In this case, the research team utilized a system of tunnels closely resembling the coal mines of Kentucky. FTI placed 12 wireless nodes every 250 feet throughout the tunnels, which are located in Missouri. Each node, provided by Architron, contained an Axcess interrogator, a telephone handset, a video camera and a computer keyboard that enabled voice, data and video communications.

Testers carried Axcess RFID tags in their pockets, and the tags' 315 to 433 MHz RF signals were picked up by the wireless nodes. In this case, the nodes could forward such data as the individual's ID number, as well as any voice or video data, via an 802.11 wireless mesh system. When the information reached the tunnel's surface, it was received by a satellite dish that then transmitted it to FTI's satellite hub in Salt Lake City.

From there, explains Byron del Castillo, Architron's CEO, the data was made available on a Web server that authorized users in remote locations could then access via the Internet to gain information regarding the miners' location in the tunnels, or real-time audio or video images of what was happening in the mine. Because the nodes were placed 250 feet apart, and since the RFID readers proved able to receive transmissions at about 125 feet, FTI had real-time visibility the entire time a miner was in the tunnels.

The wireless mesh system, del Castillo says, enabled multiple transmissions, including voice, RF data and video, all to be directed to the Internet-based system. "At any time," he explains, "if there was a collapse, we would know what zone they are in."

Kentucky has approved the initial pilot's results, and the system must now receive MSHA approval before FTI can commence marketing it to Kentucky mines. FTI first began discussing such a system with the state approximately two years ago, according to FTI's president and CEO, George Livergood.

"We started looking at RFID companies, and we came across Axcess and liked the technology path they were taking," Livergood says. "That was when we hooked up with them [Axcess and Architron]. With this system, you could be in a conference room in Kentucky and see a miner down in a tunnel in Missouri."

The FTI software system displays a list of employee names, and when a name is selected, it also provides pictures and other details about that particular miner. While awaiting MSHA approval, Livergood says, researchers plan to spend several more weeks working out the mounting of the nodes on tunnel walls. The nodes must be installed within 3 inches of the ceiling, he says, noting. "We've proven without a doubt that wireless mesh works."

Monday, October 26, 2009

FTI is opening the doors to a whole new world... check our blog @ http://ping.fm/WLTPR !

Frequently Asked Questions......


Frequently Asked Questions......

FTI understands that our High-Speed Satellite Internet Solution is a new concept for many cable operators and poses some concern for others that have experience with other satellites solutions. Here are a few of the questions we hear most often from operators. If you would like more information on any of these topics or have more questions please contact the sales team at sales@ftionline.com or by phone at 1-800-833-3353.

 
Q: How long has FTI been in the Internet business?

A: FTI has been offering two-way satellite Internet services since 1996 to schools, businesses, and ISPs throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. The FTI system uses advanced satellite technologies to provide the most reliable and technically available system despite the presence of the most difficult of local weather conditions.

The FTI two-way satellite Internet service was first offered under contact in 1996 to provide parity of service to rural schools in Arizona and Wyoming where the requirements were for “fiber levels of availability” and “metropolitan area Internet data rates”. The original Wyoming school service was a two-way C band offering with subsequent similar service provided to Hispanic schools in Mexico and to ISP’s in the Northwest Territory of Canada. Years of satisfaction with the service has resulted in the contract being renewed with the stipulation that all schools be upgraded to the high-speed system now being offered to cable operators for even greater reliability and faster data rates.

Although the C band satellite Internet service was very reliable, the costs associated with of C band uplinks, frequency coordination, recurring frequency protection and FCC licensing made the offering less than ideal for small cable operators. The service FTI offers today utilizes the best of both worlds as a C/Ku band hybrid. This unique service uses complementary polarized satellite transponders on a cable TV satellite (IA-5) to provide C band downlink service to eliminate fade from localized weather anomalies together with a Ku band uplink with UPC (Uplink Power Control) to mitigate rain fade factors. The result is a single antenna solution capable of achieving fiber levels of availability.

The FTI system has already been proven in this difficult operating environment for the past seven years and has been further improved with the use of DOCSIS-compliant and certified equipment to provide high-speed Internet services to small cable systems.
 

Q: How much does it cost?
A: FTI has alleviated the risk of offering Internet service because; FTI’s service is priced based upon the number of subscribers only. There are no other charges such as line charges or satellite fees. The capital cost is comparable to the requirements of traditional telephone services but the fixed reoccurring fees for bandwidth and connectivity are no longer required. With this business plan, a cable operator is cash profitable with the first subscriber with up to 75 percent gross operating profit.
 

Q: What are the Data Rates?
A: The equipment provided allows data rates delivered to the headend up to 18 Mbps downstream and up to 4 Mbps on the upstream. However, unlike residential satellite-delivered Internet services, FTI’s solution includes a CMTS that allows the operators to set the data rates to the subscribers and has built-in TCP acceleration, traffic management, and a local proxy/cache. The cable headend is connected directly to the Internet backbone via the FTI satellite connection. All of the features not only result in increased throughput but also eliminates potential bottlenecks as typically experienced in a rural terrestrial Internet connection. The standard Internet service package to the cable headend is limited to 2 mbps outroute and 512 kbps inroute. As the cable system grows, the data rates are automatically increased by FTI up to 10.0 mbps for system with over 500 subscribers.
 

Q: What is the Excess Usage Fee and why is it needed?
A: The Excess Usage Fee is FTI’s way of encouraging cable systems to monitor and control their own subscribers. Although the current usage limits have been used for the past seven years with only one system exceeding them in the entire period and, then, only for one month; there is a general agreement that the limits should be evaluated based upon domestic cable television subscriber usage patterns. FTI has established a moratorium on the Excess Usage Fee through the end of the year in order to determine the average monthly Internet use per subscriber for the purpose of raising the limits on the contracted Excess Usage Fee to more realistic levels.

With a telephone provided connection, a cable system receives 1.544 Mbps and is unable to exceed that limit. As a result, the cable operators are forced to monitor individual usages within the system and impose their own controls to ensure that all subscribers may share relatively equally in the fixed data rate made available at the headend.

By way of contrast, the FTI system provides a much bigger pipe but it is shared with other cable systems, usually in different time zones so that peak network usage is at different times of the day. Rather than limit each system to a T1 service level FTI has elected to offer the higher data rate based upon cable system data demands while providing the software tools to manage subscriber use locally. As such, each cable system has the capability to use substantially more than what a fixed T1 service might provide.

In this configuration it is imperative that each cable system monitor and control their subscriber’s usage just as in the example system above. To ensure sufficient bandwidth at a system level, FTI provides the software tools to allow systems to control their own total usage. FTI is not considering this fee as an additional revenue source but rather as a motivational tool for local system monitoring and control and furthermore, FTI hopes that it is never applied.
 

Q: Will the Proxy/Cache allow Chat and File Swapping?
A: Absolutely. The purpose of the proxy/cache is to give real-time users priority to the satellite link. It increases the quality of service that cable operators can provide.
 

Q: What about Java Script?
A: Java Script works fine. As a matter of fact some of the tools FTI uses to control the system are Java Script based. FTI has yet to find any application that does not work with this service.

 
Q: Is there an auto transmit power adjustment?
A: Yes. The FTI system utilizes an advanced uplink power control system that is only limited by the excess gain in the transmitter unlike other systems that either do not have UPC (Uplink Power Control) or are limited to only a few dB. Typically, the excess gain of the FTI system is greater than 10 dB above the gain required to achieve 99.5 percent availability in any given site location with resulting uplink availabilities greater than 99.99 percent.

 
Q: Is there Forward Error Correction (FEC)?
A: Yes, the FTI system uses the most advanced FEC available. It is referred to as TPC or Turbo Product Code and provides an additional 2 to 3 dB margin above and beyond current cable television digital FEC systems. In other words, if two C band satellite links were providing HBO and the FTI Internet services to the cable system when a terrible thunderstorm caused the HBO signal to fade, the FTI Internet service would require nearly twice the downpour of rain to occur before Internet fade would begin.
 

Q: Is this service Virtual Private Network (VPN) friendly?
A: It is better that friendly; it is secure. The FTI system is capable of VPN traffic in both an Internet and Intranet applications. The satellite modem is equipped with a Defense Encryption Standard 3 (“DES3”) chip set that can be activated at anytime. “DES3” allows for totally secure VPN communications between the cable system’s headend and any other comparably equipped location in the Internet or Intranet. Moreover, communications through the FTI satellite system to other systems also on the FTI Intranet never touch the public switched telephone network and are totally private.
 

Q: Aren’t satellite links unfriendly to file uploads and lose connection?
A: This is a very valid observation for typical two-way residential and SOHO satellite technologies that are being marketed by FTI competitors. Lost data due to interrupted or lost connections between the system and the satellite are not uncommon in these residential applications. Setting aside the FTI provided data buffer located at the cable headend, the FTI system is designed to maintain connectivity to the satellite in the most extreme localized weather conditions.

The possible data rates far exceed any normal or practical small system inroute file upload requirement. The FTI system utilizes an inroute caching system that provides a number of functions including a buffer that prevents any degradation or loss of data due to the loss of the inroute (or outroute) carrier. The cache (data buffer) continues to accept any data or information from the cable Internet user regardless of the condition or continuity of the connection between the backbone and the cable system headend. The only link where a lost connection may result in actual lost data would be the loss of a connection between the cable Internet subscriber and the cable headend.

Notwithstanding the above, FTI’s commercial grade solution was designed by a cable operator for small cable systems. Inroute data rates from the cable subscriber to the cable headend are limited by the tier of service authorized by the cable company. Typically, these service rates range from 128Kbps to 512Kbps. The inroute data rates from the cable headend to the Internet backbone are limited by the capabilities of the satellite modem at 4 Mbps.

At least one FTI customer provides the most difficult application possible with respect to lost packets in uploads or downloads by uploading streaming video of concerts via the FTI platform and service and, does so without the buffering provided to the cable operator with the proxy/cache server.
 

Q: Isn’t satellite latency an unavoidable problem with satellite Internet?
A: Ordinarily, yes; but not with the FTI satellite system. Traveling at the speed-off-light, a signal originating from a cable system and passing through the satellite to the Internet access point in Woodbine, Maryland would normally take half a second with a corresponding time delay or latency on the return signal path. With any latency or time delay for terrestrial Internet queries, a typical lowest possible latency or time delay for a satellite transmission is 1300 msec with much greater (over 2000 msec) latency typical of the residential satellite Internet systems; but NOT with the FTI system.

Round trip ping tests of the FTI satellite Internet solution are normally average between 500 to 600 msec; a test result that testifies to the effectiveness of the TCP acceleration built into the satellite modems included with the FTI solution. While somewhat greater than the latency of a terrestrial connection, the FTI solution makes up for the slight increase in latency with blindingly fast file downloads. When both factors are considered, the net effect is faster downloads and Internet access.

As a point of comparison, the normal latency associated with a cellular telephone call is comparable to that of the FTI satellite Internet service.
 

Q: What about “Gamers”?
A: The subject of “Latency” cannot be raised without also addressing on-line gaming applications. Competing satellite Internet applications do not have the advantages of Internet acceleration; download speeds and caching or proxy capacity at the cable system headend. As such, latency of gaming applications through these “residential” satellite Internet services is quite substantial.

When satellite transport latency is reduced to the 500 msec to 600 msec range, however, other contributing latency in the on-line gaming experience begin to become factors. These latency factors include the type of video card, hard disk read/write speeds, memory type, total RAM and memory speed. All of these factors contribute to latency with the FTI satellite Internet latency being relatively inconsequential in the overall total of all latency contributions to on-line Internet gaming.

Profitable Internet in Small Cable Systems

Profitable Internet in Small Cable Systems

There seems to be general industry agreement that broadband Internet services represent the greatest new revenue source since the three decade old introduction of Pay TV while presenting the cable subscriber a clear and favorable distinction between DBS and the local cable TV services. Systems that have introduced high-speed Internet services report increased revenues, decreased “churn” and Basic subscriber “lift”. For those systems fortunate enough to be able to purchase high-speed Internet services from the telephone company or long distance carrier, the business model is overwhelmingly convincing in favor of the introduction of Internet services in the local cable system. Conversely, there also exist large numbers of cable systems that either cannot contract for or cannot “affordable” high-speed Internet in their communities.

These cable systems are typically serving rural communities with three hundred or less subscribers. The business model becomes increasingly unjustifiable as the size of the cable system decreases below the 300 subscriber level to the point at which an Internet service offering by the cable operator simply cannot be economically justified with conventional telco high fixed priced Internet services. Unfortunately, as long as a cable operator must depend upon the high fixed costs of an Internet service from the phone company, the introduction of high-speed Internet into small systems will be a significant financial challenge.

The Foundation Telecommunications, Inc. (“FTI”), Internet service costs are billed and paid on a “per subscriber” basis irrespective of the data rate contracted. Use of technologies such as satellite Internet would allow maximum information rates (“MIR”) of 2, 4 or 6 mbps to the cable headend rather then the more conventional 1.536 mbps of the standard telephone company T1 channel. The basic choice of the cable operator becomes to either pay $6 per month per subscriber for a 2 mbps satellite Internet signal at the cable headend or to pay $650 per month whether there is one subscriber or twenty subscribers connected to the cable Internet service.
Unlike previous attempts by other companies to use satellite technology for the delivery of Internet or other broadband data or television services (HITS), innovative approaches to Uplink Power Control (“UPC”) and Internet acceleration have resulted in near “fiber levels of availability” and much faster data rates than conventional telco provided T1s.

Nearly all satellite based Ku and Ka-band Internet systems utilize some form of Uplink Power Control (“UPC”) that automatically increases the uplink power from the end user location (cable headend) to the Internet backbone in order to overcome weather related losses of signal. If local weather interrupts the signal to the remote site, the critical data required to control the uplink transmitter is lost resulting in a total loss of service until the signal from the Internet to the remote site can be restored. The FTI approach to this problem has resulted in significantly increased availability and immunity from localized weather.

The second historically characteristic element of satellite delivered Internet services relates to “latency”. This factor involves the time delay associated with a round trip signal from a user’s computer to the Internet and back again. Although it cannot be totally eliminated, latency can be mitigated through the FTI application of sophisticated Internet acceleration techniques.
In 2002, the FTI satellite delivered Internet service adopted a system architecture that utilized C band satellites for the signal from the Internet to the cable headend. As C band, only the most severe weather affects the outroute signal that both provides the Internet service and the control signals for the uplink power control. C band is immune from nearly all weather related anomalies due to its lower frequency band and is ideal for this application. With the C band control signal uninterrupted to the cable headend, the Ku band Internet return signal can be transmitted and controlled resulting in optimum use of the Uplink Power Control feature.

The new FTI satellite Internet service incorporates the latest Internet acceleration chip sets providing the lowest possible latency of any satellite transmission with the highest possible reliability.

The Foundation Telecommunications, Inc. satellite Internet service contracts are based solely upon the numbers of Internet customers rather than contracted data rates thus ensuring operating profits with the first cable Internet subscriber connected rather than the guaranteed losses associated with high fixed telephone company rates. Rural cable operators are now able to purchase high-speed Internet services with fiber levels of availability on a per subscriber basis AND at higher data rates than those offered by the telephone companies.
This innovative satellite Internet service is available from Foundation Telecommunications, Inc. today.

Pushing Internet into Small Cable Systems: The Wireless “Last Mile”

Pushing Internet into Small Cable Systems: The Wireless “Last Mile”

The key to a successful implementation of high-speed Internet systems is no different than the proven formula for good cable television operations; large numbers of happy contented subscribers that receive reinforcement of the wisdom of their monthly purchase of services through good experiences with the technology. As in any business, large numbers of satisfied customers remain the one constant of the determination of “success.” Unlike conventional businesses, however, the cable operator must take the technology to the customer. Unlike conventional businesses, the cable operator must provide a wide range of flexible services capable of change with local market conditions. This is particularly true of small cable system operations given the limited numbers of homes passed by the cable plant together with the high fixed costs of new technologies.

Today, multi-megabit wireless technologies exist that allow the small cable operator to cost effectively extend the reach of the most profitable service offering available to the cable operator since the 60’s; that service being high-speed Internet. Typical last mile delivery of Internet services is accomplished via an upgraded two-way cable system. Some cable operator are able to accomplish this task with the addition of two-way electronics only while others must contend with aging cables and connectors configured in a sometimes unworkable two-way cable system architecture.

In the alternative, a number of wireless technologies are available that allow distribution of the two-way high-speed Internet services up to 30 miles in a line-of-sight path with short range coverage using technologies that are relatively immune from path obstructions such as trees or small structures. These technologies present the small cable operator an alternative to time consuming and sometimes costly system upgrades while concurrently extending the coverage area miles beyond the franchise boundaries.

Unlike the capital costs associated with a system wide upgrade in order to offer a service to a select few subscribers, the implementation of a wireless last mile to the Internet subscriber restricts the capital costs of installation solely to those the subscribe to the service. Concurrently, the relatively low capital costs associated with today’s wireless alternatives provide a means to extend the service to other franchise areas, surrounding homes that cannot be reached economically with cable plant extensions or businesses that may not ordinarily consider subscription to the cable services.

A wireless last mile solution provides many small cable operators an immediate solution to the provision of high-speed Internet services whether or not there are future plans to upgrade the system to two-way. At the same time, the “homes passed” by the wireless signal becomes significantly greater though a line-of-sight 30 mile radius coverage area of up to 2,800 square miles in the extreme case using “backhaul installations” and a 10 mile radius of coverage (300 square miles) with typical subscriber installations.

Finally, while it is unlikely that the entire cable channel line-up can be economically microwaved to a nearby community or cluster of homes, the two-way high-speed Internet signal may be easily cost justified for an “Internet Only” service in most areas.

As a result of the consideration of a wireless last mile solution, the small cable operator is now able to significantly increase the number of homes passed by the high-speed Internet service thus meeting the primary objective of successful business operations; large numbers of satisfied customers.

How many subscribers can you afford to lose...

How many subscribers can you afford to lose...

Several months ago a small cable system owner in Montana asked the question, “How many subscribers can you afford to lose before you have to add high-speed Internet?” He had been observing basic cable losses to EchoStar and DirectTV for months with little sign of a reversing trend in either other cable systems or his own. With only a few hundred subscribers and being located in a extremely rural area, standard commercial Internet options were either too costly or not available. The future appeared to be frustratingly depressing as more and more subscribers responded to the lure of hundreds of “digital quality channels” for less than the cable bill. Clearly, something had to be done. Understandably, he was not surprised to hear that he was not alone in his dilemma.

In the August Multichannel News article, “STEALING SUBS – Cable Sustains More Tough Losses to DBS”, columnist Mike Farrell reported second quarter increases in DBS subscriber growth of 795,000 subscribers while the cable industry claimed 280,000 of that figure in losses. Annualized, this represents a cable industry loss of over 1 million basic subscribers IF the trend does not continue to escalate. In the same article, Echostar chairman, Charlie Ergen, made it clear that the 67 million strong cable television subscriber base is the primary marketing target for Echostar growth. “The real focus is cable companies,” Ergen said. “They have 67 million customers. If we are going to grow our business, we’ve got to get customers, for the most part, from those guys.” The second quarter growth figures for DBS together with the reported cable industry subscriber losses suggest that the Echostar strategies are working and the DirecTV is likely vying for the same subscribers.

Today, setting aside local channel carriage in rural cable markets, there is one service that differentiates DBS from the cable services; reliable high-speed Internet. For those cable companies fortunate enough to be operating in larger communities, Internet services can be contracted from the telephone company and can be provided cost effectively to relatively large numbers of Internet subscribers. For those cable companies in rural America without these telecommunications resources, often times the choice is either to purchase expensive telephone company Internet services and attempt to amortize the expense over a dozen or so Internet subscribers or not offer Internet services. It will likely become increasingly evident that the latter option will be met with steadily declining basic subscriber numbers and a proliferation of small dishes throughout the community if the DBS industry has anything to say about it.

Today, there is an option for the small system cable operators. Two-way high-speed Internet services can be provided without the need for telephone connectivity. Moreover, the Internet rates are based upon a fixed fee per subscriber, thus, ensuring profitability with the first subscriber added. Unlike the DBS attempts at two-way satellite Internet using small rooftop dishes, the cable company solution is a reliable high-speed system designed for businesses and cable companies with a larger two-way satellite dish designed to be immune from all but the worst local weather. Maximum data rates may be contracted up to 6 mbps or as low as 2 mbps on a per subscriber basis.

Last mile delivery to the cable subscriber can be via a two-way cable plant or wireless solution direct from the cable headend.

Today, the small cable operator can meet the challenge presented by Charlie Ergen and the DBS industry as easily and cost effectively as the larger metropolitan cable operations…………..or not.