Ensuring individuals safety through secure critical communication anywhere on the planet

AST Networks has provided global charity Tearfund with a secure satellite communication solution to help ensure the safety of individuals when out travelling and responding to humanitarian disasters.

About the customer

Tearfund is a Christian charity supporting people in over 50 countries worldwide by working in close partnership with local churches and Christian organisations to help end global poverty.


The challenge

Tearfund’s communication policy stipulates that two completely independent means of communication are required by individuals or a group when travelling. In many cases, this may be as simple as a mobile phone and an internet connection at each end of the journey, to allow travellers to report their safe departure and arrival. However, in insecure contexts, it is common that terrestrial communication networks are inadequate for users due to poor coverage in remote locations.

A method of communication adopted by Tearfund in the past was high frequency (HF) radios, these were prone to intermittent connectivity and often required manual set-up by users that were not familiar with using radio equipment. This meant that travellers were often unable to use the equipment to communicate their movements, which resulted in them being at risk and not adhering to the policy.

Tearfund approached AST Networks for advice and guidance for an alternative form of communication that is highly dependable, suitable for use in varied remote locations and flexible. The solution needs to:

  • enable communication over long distances
  • have universal coverage
  • work in a wide variety of geographic environments including urban, undulating and forested areas.
  • be easy for users to adopt and use
  • be easily repaired/replaced without engineer support
  • be low-cost to operate
  • be independent and not rely on other equipment
  • work in fixed locations and on travelling vehicles

The Solution

Putting the push-to-talk solution to the test

In order to find the right solution, AST Networks recommended that Tearfund trialled Iridium’s push-to-talk handsets that deliver low-latency and secure communication at the push of a button, anywhere on the planet.

Push-to-talk handsets enable two-way voice communication. A user must press the button on the device when talking and release when finished and await the user on the other end to respond.

Tearfund performed three field trials with equipment from AST Networks – the Iridium 9575 push-to-talk (PTT) handset and the ICOM IC-SAT100 push-to-talk (PTT) Satellite Radio. The handsets were put to the test in live environments in central African countries.

During these field trials, the hardware was tested in locations close to fixed compounds as well as out on a densely forested road. The team established the benefits of push-to-talk hardware and found that as a solution it was much better suited for them to use in the field.

The Benefits

The hardware Tearfund has chosen to replace their HF solution with Iridium’s PTT solution going forward due to its robust, simple and dependable service.

The PTT hardware requires no set up at a local level and can be administered centrally over-the-air, removing any dependency on local engineers that the high frequency (HF) models previously required. Tearfund was particularly impressed with the ease of use of the ICOM PTT hardware due to its design and capabilities meaning that it was much easier for users to operate with minimal training.

Truly global connectivity The PTT solution provided by AST Networks utilises Iridium’s global network meaning that wherever Tearfund’s teams are operating on the planet the same handsets can be utilised for secure communication at the push of a button.

The push-to-talk solution replaces the high frequency (HF) radio alternative that required time-consuming complicated installation processes. The simple PTT handsets are designed to enable simple communication fast, with automatic programming and registration and an easy-to-use navigation menu.

The ability to instantly communicate at the push of a button is not only more efficient for the users, but it is also more cost-effective as it removes the need for expensive set-up costs – hardware for this solution is typically around 60% less than leading alternatives. This is of great benefit to the charity as it will enable them to allocate as much of their funding to their high-impact activities.

Steve Prior, Technical Support Officer at Tearfund said:

“The opportunity put the solution to the test in the countries where our teams will be using it greatly reduced the risk of investing in hardware that is not fit for purpose for us and helped to make the right decision after seeing them in action.

The simple to adopt a push-to-talk system recommended by AST Networks will help our teams to communicate safely at all times in places where this is most critical.”

Wherever you are, whatever your remote connectivity requirements, AST Networks has a solution. To discuss how we can take you further with one of the friendly team call +44 (0)1493 440 011 or email [email protected]

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