In 2014 the World Teleport Association (WTA) began certifying the facilities and operating procedures of teleports. Certification provides an objective and transparent way for teleport operators to validate the quality of their operations, and for customers to choose vendors that offer the right price-performance level for their needs.
1 in 5 Achieve Tier 4 Certification
WTA Teleport certification is based on an in-depth questionnaire created by a standards committee of teleport and satellite executives. It covers business continuity, transmission systems, network operations, safety and security. The survey questions explore how the teleport manages capacity, maintains service levels, ensures security and oversees changes. Full certification includes a site inspection by a WTA auditor, who also issues a report suggesting ways to improve operations. The result is certification at one of four quality levels, from Tier 1 at the bottom to Tier 4 at the top.
What does it take to become a Tier 4 teleport? It is not meant to be easy – and it isn't. Only one out of every five teleports certified by WTA achieves the coveted Tier 4 level. Tier 4 teleports are designed and maintained with remarkable attention to all the factors that ensure high availability and resilience in the face of problems.
More than Satellite
Certification for teleports is especially important at a time when they have become so much more than uplink sites. Teleports that serve the media and entertainment business are data centers and content hubs. They ingest content, format it, schedule it and play it out. They protect it. Teleports feed content not just to the sky but to networks that drive the OTT business. These operators are experts at overcoming the technical and operational problems that can stand in the way of OTT monetization. Certified teleports add value to media and it provides their customers with the assurance that they can give high-value content the treatment it deserves.
Inside a Tier 4 Teleport
Let’s look closer at what a typical Tier 4 teleport must provide.
These teleports are located on company-owned property that has a low risk for natural disasters, no frequency restrictions and where most antennas have a full view of the GEO arc. The operators have invested in full redundancy with automatic monitoring and switching for power, for HVAC, for transmission systems and cabling. Their transmit antennas are motorized for flexibility, capable of advanced tracking and are equipped with highest quality waveguides, dehydrators and other systems. Terrestrial connectivity is diverse and operates at OC-4 or even higher capacities.
The teleport also controls physical access with people, automated systems and perimeter barriers. Staffed 24 by 7 by 365, the teleport operates its own onsite network operations center, which is equipped with a robust monitor & control system. The teleport has a strong safety program as well, with a low volume of reportable accidents. And it maintains a geographically diverse backup facility able to offload its communications and processing traffic in the event of a major problem.
The right facilities and technology are crucial. But just as important are procedures that prevent human error from affecting service and anticipate problems from technology or configuration changes. When problems do occur, the right procedures ensure fast escalation to a solution and then using the issue as learning lessons for the future.
Comsat’s Southbury teleport recently received its WTA tier 4 certification.
Tier 4 teleports have detailed capacity plans, service continuity plans and information security plans. They make sure to review those plans regularly against service level agreements and actual service levels. They have a comprehensive change management process involving all the right people in the organization and constantly learning from experience.
A configuration management system makes sure that the requirements for each service are implemented throughout the operation and the right information is always available to operators in an emergency. And all of these vital procedures are captured in Key Performance Indicators that are automatically monitored and analyzed, and undergo frequent review and improvement.
Is it easy to obtain Tier 4 WTA certification? No, but combining the right facilities with the right procedures delivers excellence that stands out from the competition. The certification process also shows operators where their greatest strengths and weaknesses lie. This information helps guide future facility investment and improves procedures. And that is the real point. Whether a teleport is certified at Tier 4 or Tier 1, the goal is the same: to improve the operation year after year to ensure that customers fully understand what level of quality they’re paying for.
Robert Bell, Executive Director, World Teleport Association.
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