The ICRC, headquartered in Geneva, is an impartial, neutral and independent organization. Established under the Geneva Convention, its humanitarian mission is to protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and to provide them with assistance. It employs 20,000 people in more than 80 countries.
As part of its digital transformation, the ICRC is planning on moving to SD-WAN from its current MPLS network. This will give it greater control over the scalability of its network, enhanced performance and the ability to cost effectively mix Internet terrestrial and satellite connections.
Moving to Internet VSAT paves the way for their upcoming SD-WAN rollout. ICRC operates in many locations where terrestrial Internet is still not available or reliable enough to meet their needs.
VSAT connections are an essential solution for connecting ICRC Operations in remote areas and crisis regions. As of today, more than 3,000 ICRC employees rely on Orange VSAT connectivity to deliver aid and support to prisoners and refugees around the world. As VSAT technology is evolving, the ICRC is looking forward to being one of the first organizations to use new Low and Medium orbital constellations, leveraging Orange expertise in VSAT technology.
Tim Grosser, Chief Information Officer at the International Committee of the Red Cross
Connecting aid workers
The ICRC has around 20% of its staff connected via an older generation of VSAT, but they get a poor user experience due to high latency and limited bandwidth. Despite fiber becoming available in more countries in which the ICRC operates, satellite communications remain critical for many sites. With the latest version of VSAT Internet, the ICRC realized it could get significantly more bandwidth for its budget. This will allow it to improve the user experience for its aid workers between terrestrial and VSAT connections.
Orange was ICRC’s incumbent VSAT supplier, but the ICRC decided to put its VSAT connectivity out for tender to see what was available in this highly competitive marketplace. Against strong competition, ICRC chose Orange based on its global capabilities, its support network and the cost-effectiveness of its VSAT solution.
Orange is building on its strong relationship with ICRC, developed over the last eight years. This includes joint processes with ICRC’s field engineers. In war zones, for example, ICRC personnel can only enter on United Nations (UN) or ICRC flights. Here, Orange has trained ICRC engineers so they can work in partnership to support ICRC operations.
In transitioning to the new generation of VSAT, Orange is deploying the latest VSAT modems, which make more efficient use of bandwidth and satellite frequency, reducing overall costs. ICRC’s remote sites have a satellite connection to the Orange central teleport in France, which provides the Internet breakout.
Keeping one step ahead
Aid workers need to access local news websites and social media quickly to find out what is happening on the ground to trigger support programs during times of crisis. They also need access to the ICRC’s central Datacenter, where all civilians escaping conflict are registered. This allows separated families to communicate and hopefully eventually be reunited. VSAT connectivity provides the connectivity and reliability they need to achieve this goal in remote locations.
Moving forward, when the ICRC fully deploys SD-WAN, SD-WAN over VSAT will provide it with large savings and enhanced performance over traditional VSAT and MPLS circuits.
Maintaining connectivity during a time of crisis time
When a crisis arises, very often one of the first actions from a local government is to block the Internet connectivity in the country. The only remaining option for ICRC to maintain the contact with its operations is by activating the backup VSAT connection provided by Orange. This activation is completed within minutes, allowing great flexibility and agility.
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Photo credit: Reference: V-P-BR-E-00441; Source: ICRC.org; Photographer: Victor MORIYAMA; Date: 10/06/2018