How NNPC is using satellite services
The NNPC-owned VSAT Hub can secure the corporation’s data, while reducing frequent movement of staff for hitherto centralised business processing, leading to a huge reduction in OPEX, says Don Aholu.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has established its first VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) network to provide communication link to NNPC locations not covered by the NNPC Corporate Telecoms Network (CTN) and to serve as a thin back-up network for the CTN in event of any system failure on its transmission backbone which consisted primarily of fiber optic cable (FOC) and microwave radio links in 1999”.
According to Don Aholu, the corporation’s VSAT network was based on Gilat’s Faraway system which supported essentially analogue telephony of four voice circuits per station and in-band data of very limited throughput. The initial network coverage extended to 45 NNPC locations inclusive of NNPC head office, Refineries, Pipelines & Products Marketing Company (PPMC), Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), Nigerian Gas Company (NGC) and offshore locations. The network coverage was later extended to 5 other locations. The Bandwidth utilized then was 4MHz on Intelsat 907.
“Our objective was to provide a comfortable and convenient environment for our staff at any location. They must be able to keep in contact easily with their family and friends at home. The physical and mental wellbeing of our staff is a primary concern to us,” he says. “For this reason, we have to provide additional services, such as web browsing, inexpensive phone services and enhanced personal e-mail.” “VSAT has improved social communication and increased welfare for our staff”. They are now able to make private phone calls or send SMS using their SIM card to their friends and families back home. They can also browse the web to read news from home, football results or any other news of their interests. Using their off-duty time in a more productive manner has become very popular amongst navigators. VSAT allows crewmembers to attend off-campus distance learning courses through IP applications such as videoconferencing or IP-TV to further enhance their skills and academic levels while off-duty.
In case of failure of engine or other onboard equipment, chief engineers onboard can set up live, on-the-spot remote condition-review and trouble-shooting sessions with service engineers from various manufacturers onshore by using two-way live video streaming. A reliable high bandwidth connection is essential for enabling
these functions, and VSAT provides a perfect solution.
As noted, the data throughput of the first system was found grossly inadequate to support modern business information systems, hence the need for a system upgrade, which commenced in 2013 with Gilat’s Sky Edge II IP based VSAT technology to cover the 50 existing locations.
The upgraded network is provisioned for voice and broadband/enterprise data including video conferencing services using a 20MHz satellite transponder bandwidth and on completion shall serve as an enhanced communication platform for interconnection of all widely dispersed NNPC operational facilities –Depots, Pump-stations, Oil fields and Platforms as noted above.
Design of VSAT Network
The design of the NNPC VSAT network is a star topology. To ensure high availability, therefore, there are central hubs installed with 6 Nodal Centres geographically located in Kaduna, Lagos, NPDC, Warri, Port Harcourt and NGC Warri, he said. Therefore, traffic from all locations are automatically diverted to the fail-over hub should there be any major fault with any of the hub. All 6 Nodal and 43 Remote Stations in a Mesh Configuration with each other. A satellite transponder in orbit deployed by a satellite service provider such as INTELSAT IS23 facilitates the communication between earth stations with a bandwidth of 20MHz is used to support the network. The satellite transponders provide VSAT interconnectivity to earth stations located at different points of the earth where the satellite has footprint).
The VSAT Hub provides a minimum throughput of 5Mbps and 2Mbps on the outbound and inbound channels respectively to our various communication nodes, to support a myriad of NNPC business processes.
The Nodal Stations process more data because they serve as the traffic interface for other NNPC locations in the various zones to the hub in Abuja The Remote Stations carry relatively lighter voice and data traffic on a combined data rate of 2Mbps on the outbound and 1Mbps on the inbound channels.
There are plans to expand this network to all NNPC operational sites to extend coverage to over 300 locations.
In 1999, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) commenced a change management programme to positioned it to discharge its mandate with the goals of ensuring efficient service delivery and safeguarding critical infrastructure, promoting a sound oil and gas industry.
This programme was anchored on the redesign of the business processes and deployment of appropriate technology infrastructure to support the business processes. The redesigned processes gave rise to the need to integrate and centralise the operations of the corporation. For instance, NNPC business units maintained their independent database of their transactions and only made return to the Head Office at the end of the business day for consolidation.