Télécoms Sans Frontières


"Telecommunications Without Borders" — the NGO that’s typically first to arrive at disasters with emergency communications technology — deployed its teams in Haiti within a couple of days of the devastating earthquake. Using Inmarsat’s BGAN terminals, they were part of many "satellites to the rescue" stories in the aftermath.

The British Journal of Healthcare Computing and Information gave this report:

Telecommunications experts from Télécoms Sans Frontières (TSF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have been setting up communications networks in Haiti for the government, aid agencies and survivors of the 12 January earthquake.

TSF is funded by the UN Foundation and Vodafone Foundation and is working in co-ordination with UNICEF and the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination teams (UNDAC). The first TSF team arrived on Wednesday 13 January and a second team flew into Port-au-Prince from Santo Domingo with a UN rescue aircraft on Friday 15 January.

TSF has set up a satellite link, mostly dedicated to UNDAC teams and to emergency responders, and multiple broadband access points for phone and Internet use in the co-ordinating and logistics centres near the airport.

TSF teams are also providing IT support to the nustah (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti). This complex, located close to the airport, gathers all United Nations agencies and NGOs.

By Saturday January 16, TSF had set up three ‘humanitarian’ phone call operations around Port au Prince, allowing local people to phone relatives — 100% were international calls, mostly to the U.S.


 Obviously, the dominant satellite operators made satellite capacity available quickly, with dueling press releases from Intelsat and SES World Skies. But Eutelsat, the only geo satellite operator affiliated with TSF, was first on the scene.

A six-man team from TSF (Telecoms Sans Frontières) has already deployed a D-STAR terminal at the On Site Operations Coordination Center (OSOCC) of the United Nations Mission to Haiti near the airport in Port-au-Prince. It is at the disposal of OCHA, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and also the EC (ECHO). The satellite link is provided by ATLANTIC BIRD™ 1 and the Skypark teleport in Turin which is patching the terminal into the Internet backbone to provide DOIP and VOIP services.


 Satellite capacity is beneficial, but getting the links up and running — and communicating via the Internet — is critical. They ought to consider shipping modems and antennas. SES has a SurfBeam platform on AMC-9, but the coverage of Haiti is weak, so shipping these low-cost DOCSIS-based modems may not be the best idea. AMC-6, with an iDirect platform, does offer better coverage — but the TDMA-based modems cost much more.

So what? Send them out — with pre-configured link budgets, including look angles/pointing instructions for a selection of locations in Haiti. Look, you got the good P.R. already. Make it better with more telecom donations. I’m just sayin.

Hey, you could do worse. Look at Royal Caribbean.