Making a Difference – Martin Coleman, Executive Director, Satellite Interference Reduction Group

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An estimated 4 billion people around the world tuned in at some point to the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London, and it’s a safe bet that a substantial portion of that programming was carried by satellite at some point in its journey from arena to television set.

This is the type of revenue-generating opportunity satellite operators can ill afford to miss and so they prepare accordingly.

For the world’s three biggest satellite operators — Intelsat, SES and Eutelsat — preparations for this year’s Summer Olympic Games included an important new wrinkle: Carrier ID, a digital stamp on broadcaster signals that enables the companies to quickly identify sources of unintentional interference that can cut into their revenue.

Satellite interference is a big problem that’s only going to grow worse as the airwaves become more congested. Martin Coleman, who heads the group created to combat the problem, conservatively estimates that interference can cost $1 million per year per satellite, which can stack up to a fairly high number for companies like SES and Intelsat, which operate some 50 satellites each.

And here’s the kicker: Experts say more than 95 percent of all satellite interference is unintentional, often the result of faulty or improperly installed ground equipment, which at least in theory means it’s preventable. That’s where Carrier ID comes in: If operators can quickly identify the source of interference they can notify the broadcaster, who can then adjust accordingly.

Because of the intense worldwide interest in Olympic competition, the 2012 Summer Games were the ideal venue to debut Carrier ID. Getting the satellite telecom industry’s Big Three to adopt the service in time for the event is bound to compel smaller operators to follow suit — it’s not hard to envision universal adoption of Carrier ID in the not-too distant future.

The person most responsible for making it all happen is Coleman, who in addition to coordinating Carrier ID’s rollout by Intelsat, SES and Eutelsat helped uplink-hardware manufacturers establish technical standards for the service. His efforts should go a long way toward making a dent in this longstanding problem for the satellite industry in the future.