What is COTM (Communications on the Move)?

What is COTM or Communications on the Move?

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- everything RF

Apr 21, 2022


Communication on the move (COTM) is a term used to refer to vehicles (usually ground vehicles but occasionally marine and airborne too) that are equipped with antennas to establish communication with a satellite or terrestrial network and maintain that connection while the vehicle is moving. COTM solutions combine mobility and reach-back communications to meet the needs for accessing and sharing high-definition video, voice and data while being on the move.

Satellite networks are truly global networks that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. But accessing these networks requires satellite terminals with powerful antennas to remain still in a place and align the antenna dish with the position of the satellite to maximize connectivity and data transfer rates. COTM was developed mainly to introduce on-the-go connectivity in satellite networks and offer similar levels as mobile connections via terrestrial infrastructure. It can even be used to improve connectivity or range to terrestrial networks in some applications. COTM uses several antenna technologies like flat-panel antennas, phased array antennas, electronic beamforming etc. to maintain a high-quality connection while moving.

In comparison to terrestrial networks that are limited by line-of-sight connections, COTM adds mobility to satellite networks and delivers fully global on-the-go access. COTM can be used to broadcast high-definition audio and video from a moving vehicle to the main station in real-time. It can also provide high-speed internet access and enable users to make phone calls, participate in video conferences, and so on. Selective access, VPN connectivity, encryption, and other security capabilities are all available on COTM terminals, which can add an extra degree of network security. It can also increase GNSS connectivity for applications such as location tracking, fleet maintenance, and so on.

Satellite on the Move or SOTM was primarily designed for mission-critical military and defense applications. Military vehicles carrying network equipment to connect to the main station were stopped or halted to maintain connectivity, making them ideal targets for enemy forces. As a result, special security was required for these communication vehicles to maintain communications for essential missions. SOTM enables these vehicles to connect to the network without halting and to maintain that connection while moving, making them more difficult to target and less vulnerable to attacks. SOTM equipment is also deployed in marine and aerial vehicles in military and defense settings, giving network access to a range of military formations (army, navy, marine corps and so on). SOTM's additional network security layer also guards against the theft of vital military data.

COTM systems are also useful when existing communications infrastructure has been destroyed or is completely inaccessible. In emergencies such as natural disasters, large-scale fires, capturing criminals, and so on, emergency services such as the police, fire department, or homeland security must quickly set up a working communications environment. In all of these situations, data - primarily in the form of video - must be transferred from the scene of the incident to a command center to facilitate decision-making. COTM systems can also be set up to run independently, cutting down on the time it takes to set them up for satellite operation in an emergency.

COTM solutions can be installed in the cars of media firms' reporter and camera teams, covering a variety of events such as local news, gatherings, sporting events, and accidents. Before COTM, these transmissions were typically rebroadcast via a helicopter through terrestrial and microwave lines, which was extremely expensive. In these cases, using ground vehicles with antennas involved time to set up and calibrate antennas and establish a proper connection, resulting in a delay before they are ready to operate and transmit on-air. COTM systems can be pre-configured to connect to satellite or terrestrial news networks, and they can stay connected even while on the move. This frees up reporters and camera crews to concentrate on the event rather than technical details like network configuration. It also allows media fleet managers to monitor their camera teams' locations and grant them transmission capacity remotely when and when needed.

INSTER Getsat, EM Solutions, Alico Systems, Boeing, Gilat Satellite Networks, ND SATCOM, Comtech Mobile, Datapath, ReQuTech, General Dynamics SATCOM Technologies, iDirect, Inmarsat (BGAN), L3, Raytheon, Exelis, Step Electronics Australia, ViaSat etc. are some of the major telecommunications companies now offering COTM systems. SlingShot is a piece of lightweight equipment designed by Spectra Group (UK) Ltd that can convert existing tactical UHF and VHF radios to SATCOM frequencies, providing a simple and cost-effective means to obtain tactical and secure COTM.