Volume III, No. XI December 2018
Table of Contents
Industry Trends and Analysis: (pg. 3)
Patee Sarasin, former CEO of Nok Air:
"Unlocking the Riches of In-flight Wi-Fi" (pg. 4)
David Bruner, former V.P. Panasonic Avionics:
"Buckle Up! :Turbulence Ahead in Airline Connectivity Markets"
"The Promise of the New Iridium and Aireon Services: Big Advancements in Air Traffic Management on the Horizon" (pg. 26)
Ernst Peter Hovinga, CEO Hiber: "Disrupting the Satellite IoT Connectivity Market: The Promise of Hiber" (p.31)
"Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Events"
Independent Analysis of Maritime, Aero and Land-based Satellite Ventures and Technologies
In This Issue...
"Searching for Answers in Wyler's Bizarre Via Satellite Interview"
"Intellian's New Cutting-Edge Antennas: Multi-Frequency, Multi-Orbit"
With Intellian CEO, Eric Sung
"The Coming Boom in Flat Panel, Phased Array Antennas"
"Iridium's Stunning Success: Promises Made, Promises Kept"
With Iridium's Executive V.P. of Marketing, Bryan Hartin
"Effective Space: Fueling New Life in Old GEOs"
An interview with CEO, Arie Halsband
An Intrview with Arie Hlasband
More NewSpace Inside!
Satellite mobility World
Cover: Effective Space: Space Drone spacecraftTM
Table of Contents...
Industry Trends and Analysis (pg.3)
"Searching for Answers in Wyler's Bizarre Via Satellite Interview" (pg.5)
"Intellian's New Cutting-Edge Antennas: Multi-Frequency, Multi-Orbit"
With Intellian CEO, Eric Sung (pg. 10)
"The Coming Boom in Flat Panel, Phased Array Antennas"
"Iridium's Stunning Success: Promises Made, Promises Kept"
With Iridium's Executive V.P. of Marketing, Bryan Hartin (PG. 28)
"Effective Space: Fueling New Life in Old GEOs"
An interview with CEO, Arie Halsband
Recommended Upcoming Industry Events (pg. 44)
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Welcome to the December 2018 issue of Gottlieb's Satellite Mobility World, and Happy Holidays to our readers around the world. Our December Issue features interviews with Iridium Executive V.P., Bryan Hartin; Intellian CEO, Eric Sung, and Effective Space CEO, Arie Halsband.
First, we look at Iridium 's new high-speed L-Band, Certus service, its technology and its market impact.
We'll also hear from Intellian CEO, Eric Sung, as he discusses Intellian's remarkable, new Tri-Band Antenna, and finally, in our NewSpace section, we'll learn about Effective Space's "Space Drone spacecraft," a small "space tug" designed to extend the life of GEO Communications satellites. This month, we're also doing a progress update on the "hot" Flat Panel ESA offerings.
Finally, in our editorial section, we're reviewing the bizarre Wyler Interview just published in December Via Satellite - an anything but definitive look at OneWeb's progress to obtain financing and launch its constellation.
Gottlieb's Satellite and Mobility World is published monthly (except August) by Gottlieb International Group., Inc. Suite 100, 1209 South Frederick Street, Arlington, VA USA 22204
© Copyright 2018
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Gottlieb's Satellite and Mobility World is published monthly (except August) by Gottlieb International Group., Inc. Suite 100, 1209 South Frederick Street, Arlington, VA USA 22204
© Copyright 2018
Interested in our unique Promotional Capabilities?
Contact us today!
SATELLITE MOBILITY WORLD
Industry Trends and Analysis
FCC Flooded by Comments on C-Band Coalition Spectrum Re-Allocation
November 30, 2018: The much hyped proposal of the C-Band Coalition is now under fire. On October 31st, the last day to submit comments on the FCC's July 12 NPRM, the Agency was deluged by submissions from 62 different parties and over 1,000 pages of commentary.
Support for the Coalition proposal was mixed. On the mobile operator side, ATT was neutral. Verizon was positive but qualified their support on the basis that the amount of spectrum proposed to be surrendered by the Coalition was too limited. T-Mobile came out against the proposal citing the same objection and adding that the proceeds from a Coalition managed process would deliver a windfall of profits to the Coalition partners, not the U.S. Treasury.
This issue was a focal point of a brief submitted by the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition, composed of the Open Technology Institute of America, Consumers Union, National Hispanic Media Coalition, American Library Association, Next Century Cities Public Knowledge, Common Cause, The Institute of Local Self Reliance and Access Humboldt. For those who believe that the C-Band Coalition proposal is almost a "done deal," the PISC document is well worth reading.
According to their brief: "PISC believes the ―market-based approach described in the NPRM is severely flawed. A private auction or negotiated sale controlled by a few incumbent and foreign-based companies, and with no return of the anticipated proceeds of $10 to $30 billion or more to the Treasury, amounts to a massive and needless giveaway of public assets. A market-based approach that is tantamount to a private auction or sale would be an end-run around Section 309(j) of the Communications Act in clear contravention of Congressional intent and precedent. The fact that four satellite operators are lucky enough to be the only cars parked in a half-empty public lot does not mean that they should receive a massive giveaway that needlessly denies the public any return on the spectrum. A market-based approach that is tantamount to a private auction or sale would be an unlawful end-run around Section 309(j) that ignores more recent and repeated expressions of Congressional intent forbidding multi-billion dollar giveaways of federal revenue to licensees that never paid for spectrum." The PISC goes on to note that "a private sale would set a dangerous precedent, suggesting that incumbent licensees should always wage maximum resistance against giving up or sharing unused spectrum unless the Commission agrees to give them all the public revenue that until now has always, with few exceptions, flowed back to the public, as Section 309(j) clearly intends."
Whether or not we agree with PISC's interpretation of the law , there is little doubt that approval of the C-Band Coalition's proposal would be challenged in the courts - a process that would likely obviate any time-to-market advantage offered by the Coalition proposal itself. In addition, as the visibility of the proposal rises, the likelihood of political opposition is almost assured - especially given the precedent that would be set by FCC approval. The FCC meets again on December 12th, but given the huge amount of commentary recently submitted, any definitive action is likely to be postponed until its January session.
FCC Approves Telesat, LeoSat, SpaceX and Kepler Constellations
November 15th 2018: The FCC approved several new satellite constellations encompassing nearly 8,000 low orbit, small satellites designed to provide Internet services over the U.S.
While the constellations are only proposed and it remains to be seen how many will actually be completed, three of the companies, SpaceX, Kepler and Telesat, already have demonstration satellites in orbit. The fourth player, LeoSat, opted to do trials on the ground in an effort to save costs. However, in order to retain FCC regulatory approval, the companies must adhere to strict deadlines. Essentially, they must have half of their proposed satellites in orbit within six years and the full constellations must be in orbit within nine years.
Intellian's Tri-band, Multi-Orbit Antenna Endorsed by SES Networks
November 19, 2018 – Intellian, the world’s leading provider of satellite antenna systems, today announced that SES Networks has endorsed the world’s first and only tri-band, multi-orbit, 2.4-meter antenna, the v240MT, for use on its Ku, Ka and C-band satellites.
Intellian’s 2.4m multi-band, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) and Geostationary Earth Orbit (GEO) broadband antennas provide seamless access to virtually any satellite constellation within seconds. These frequency-agile and orbit-agnostic capabilities, enabled by Intellian’s innovative antennas and its new Intelligent Mediator Solution, ensure that the equipment’s capabilities are future-proof for customers seeking the fastest and most reliable broadband connectivity.
The new Intellian v240MT solution provides the unique capability of switching between different satellite frequency bands (C, Ku, and Ka) as needed without any user intervention required. This then ensures the best solution for the geographic location and flexibility in achieving the highest throughput.
Intellian’s solution, when combined with SES Networks’ satellite-based services, provides truly global, tri-band, multi-orbit coverage that delivers connectivity scaling from 100 Mbps through to multiple Gbps of dedicated capacity to a single vessel.
“At SES Networks, we are very focused on solutions that optimize the user experience. As the only satellite operator offering communications services that leverage GEO and MEO satellites, we strongly believe that a multi-orbit, multi-band maritime solution delivers the optimal combination of performance, reliability and, ultimately, user experience at sea,” said Stewart Sanders, Executive Vice President of Technology at SES Networks.
“The capabilities of Intellian’s new antennas contribute to a frictionless user experience and they have the potential to enable our customers and their end users to fully benefit from our unique multi-orbit approach.”
Eric Sung, CEO of Intellian, commented, “I’m proud that we have managed to deliver the world’s first tri-band and multi-orbit antenna to the industry. The collaboration with SES Networks has enabled Intellian to connect vessels with an innovative and powerful solution that delivers record-breaking connectivity speeds across all satellite frequency bands with the introduction of the v240MT system.”
AST&Science to Open Additional Space Manufacturing Facility and Relocating Corporate Headquarters to Midland, Texas
Space Technology Company to Set up High-Volume Production of Ultra-Powerful LEO Satellite Platforms at Midland Space Port Business Park
MIAMI - November 15, 2018 –AST&Science, after an intensive competitive process, today announced the selection of Midland, Texas, as the location for its new high-volume North American satellite manufacturing plant and corporate headquarters.
The space technology company’s new 85,000 sq. ft. facility is located within the Space Port Business Park at the Midland International Air and Space Port, the first commercial airport to obtain a Space Port License from the Federal Aviation Administration. It will augment the current R&D, engineering and manufacturing capabilities in Maryland and Europe operated by AST&Science and its subsidiary AST&Defense.
The new plant will be one of the largest “New Space” manufacturing facilities in the United States and will create more than 160 space manufacturing jobs in Midland, according to AST&Science chairman and CEO Abel Avellan, who said the company expects to invest over $30 million in the facility over the next several years and to achieve annual production capacity of 100,000 space modules, called Microns.
The new AST&Science plant will design, build, integrate, manage and launch satellite platforms into low Earth orbits (LEO) in a fully integrated aeronautical and space operation. Avellan noted that the collocation of the high-volume manufacturing and direct airside access for the horizontal launch capability, using carrier aircraft at the Midland Space Port, will be an important element in the company’s planned rapid LEO satellite deployments.
The company’s patented modular construction process will dramatically reduce the cost and weight of the LEO satellites, while providing unprecedented levels of power and performance.
“Our revolutionary technology will change the way satellites are manufactured, launched and used in space and on Earth. From Midland, we will scale up quickly to produce high quantities of low-cost, ultra-powerful LEO satellite platforms,” said Avellan. “This will open up an astonishing range of commercial and defense applications not previously possible with traditional satellite manufacturing techniques.”
Construction of the facility is now complete, thanks to the partnership with the Midland Development Corporation (MDC), and initial production is scheduled to commence early next year. The first satellites will be launched for orbital tests in 2019.
“We are delighted to be welcomed by the City of Midland and the grand state of Texas, where big things happen,” commented Adriana Cisneros, a board member and chief strategy officer of AST&Science, as well as CEO of Cisneros.
Brent Hilliard, chairman of MDC, said: “We’re thrilled to announce this partnership with AST&Science. Midland gets 160 jobs in a diversified, high-tech industry, and can offer AST&Science a location with access to an airport and licensed space port. The MDC provided a scalable manufacturing location that was a key factor in bringing this new industry to Midland. It’s a symbiotic collaboration that makes perfect sense.”
Earlier this year, AST&Science acquired a controlling interest in NanoAvionics, a European manufacturer and systems integrator of small lightweight satellites, and forged a partnership with Cisneros, the original founders of DIRECTV in Latin America and a large media player based in Miami, Florida.
Speedcast International Ltd (ASX:SDA) Begins Installation and Commissioning Phase of a Multi-Million Dollar Telecom Systems Integration Solution for Eastern Mediterranean Gas Platform
Sydney, Nov 22, 2018 - (ABN Newswire) - Speedcast International Limited (ASX:SDA) (OTCMKTS:SPPDF), the world's most trusted provider of remote communication and IT solutions, today announced that the company has completed factory acceptance testing and has begun the installation phase of a long-term, multi-solution telecommunication systems integration project for a natural gas platform set to operate in the Eastern Mediterranean by one of its leading offshore energy customers.
This project, awarded to Speedcast by Noble Energy in late 2017, will generate several million in revenue for the company. The scope of work integrates a variety of communications systems, including: telecommunications cabinets; company LAN, Wi-Fi, VoIP, CCTV, Structured cabling, crane/marine/company radio systems, 4G/LTE, IPTV, weather observation system and emergency satellite phones.
"We are proud to continue growing our footprint and demonstrating our strength in engineering and telecom systems integrations," says Terry Babin, Speedcast's Global Director of Systems Integration. "This project is a great example of the breadth of capabilities our team can execute, from initial requirements gathering, to a custom design based on specific RFP details, and now timely and cost-effective implementation. We look forward to helping Noble Energy with our continued 24x7 support once the solution has been fully installed and the platform is operational."
In addition to being the world's leading VSAT services provider, Speedcast offers robust telecoms systems integration services for large integration projects onshore and offshore. Speedcast's technical staff of engineers can design, build and deliver fully custom solutions that seamlessly integrate connectivity services with a variety of networking, security, communications and IoT systems, and are skilled in research studies, front-end engineering design, and full testing and verification services.
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If you're looking for answers, don't expect to find the them in this "definitive interview." We've looked everywhere, and we can't seem to find any. The truth is, there aren't any. Instead, bobbing and weaving around tough questions, Wyler leads us "over the mountain and through the woods," but we never get to "grandma's house."
Whatever you wanted to know about OneWeb, you won't find it in this interview. One of the huge looming questions hanging over the company is whether they'll get the loan guarantees they need. It's been two years since they announced they were pursuing ECA loan guarantees, and no announcements have been forthcoming. Here's what Wyler has to say about the financing:
"You always need more. The need and the vision dictate that. We will see how that comes along, and we will see what the appetite is of the investment community and see what the possibilities are. Things are changing very fast in the satellite industry. Things are changing very fast on the ground. The needs are changing, and you have to adjust, design, and predict to bring those adjustments, new designs, and the predictions confidently to your investor. I think OneWeb is pretty strong here and has earned the confidence of investors. These are big expensive projects, and you have to keep your eye on the ball to make sure you can see them through."
So, where is the money, Greg? Will you get it next year or not? Here, he clarifies:
"Today, we are in the middle of a fluctuating market, which many people predicted, but a number of others are aghast at the possibility. I expect the unexpected over the next year. But, so far this has not had any impact on OneWeb. It is a thing on the front page of the newspapers. It is a large, unexpected volatility.
But, the way I think about investing time and money is related to impact and large scale thematic movements and needs. So, in this case, whether the stock market goes up and down, the need and impact OneWeb can have in terms of the people it will serve and the problems it will solve will remain."
Now we know, he doesn't know or isn't talking. Of course, one of the key reasons that OneWeb hasn't secured additional financing is no one knows how much it will cost, or even how much revenue it will generate. Northern Sky Research recently estimated it will cost $5 billion. As to the cost of the satellites themselves, only Greg knows for sure, but he won't tell.
Originally, the satellites were going to cost $500,000 each. First, Greg tells us that the cost is really close to the original projection, and then he says it doesn't matter if they cost $1 million! So what if he needs another $750 million or a even a billion more? Who cares? He'll just get it from the Saudis.
For sure, there are other target markets and to satisfy doubters, Wyler serves up a never ending assortment. So far, he's gone after the under-served, satellite backhaul, mobility and emergency services. Lately, he's even talked to a couple of airlines and now heaps them on the pile of potential users.
Commercialization - When?
Is OneWeb on track to enter into commercial service in 2019? Let's find out:
It might be early or mid-2020. You just don’t know when you are doing something this new and big. If you miss it by two months, six months, or even a year, you would be considered to have very great foresight. Many bold projects take many years longer than anticipated because you are traveling down a new path. We have done everything we can within the company and the design and architecture to not only ensure the safety and sustainability of space, but also to have the lowest risk program possible to get the satellites up, get them operating, and start servicing customers. From there, OneWeb will have a great foundation to iterate towards its next generation of systems and satellites.
What Wyler doesn't note is the delays have a devastating effect on cash flow. Each time the timeline to commercialization is extended, more cash is burned, driving up the cost. With hundred of people on the payroll, that's no small issue.
Who Are The Customers?
In Paris, at World Satellite Business Week, last September Space News asked Eric Beranger whether OneWeb had any customers, and he claimed "a huge pipeline."
We'd like to hear the names of even a few corporate or government entities (other than Softbank) like IBM, Ford, etc. Instead, we hear only about more potential markets.
According to Wyler,"the biggest, fastest user adoption of the system will be where there is high demand and where there are people with a lot of understanding of technology. That will come from mobility and markets where there are people every day trying to find answers to some of the questions they are looking to solve. So, the mobility markets and the emergency services markets are really important ones."
I guess the great under-served aren't the prime target any more. He's now set his sites on new markets.
Never mind the fact that maritime and aviation markets are already flooded with Ku-Band HTS capacity and prices per MHz are falling to $500. In addition, most of the world's maritime traffic is in the range of GEOs, and most ships are already committed to the integrators through long-term contracts. In fact, the only really high demand market in maritime is cruise, and most cruise activity is within the reach of HTS GEOs and mPower MEOs. In aviation, the prospects for OneWeb are questionable as well.
Gogo, Global Eagle and Panasonic are all struggling and according to our sources, no one is making a profit.
Furthermore, by the time OneWeb is commercially ready, most aircraft will already be connected with Ku or Ka Band HTS satellite systems that cost upwards of $300,000 or more to install.
To adopt OneWeb, aviation customers would have to rip out existing systems to upgrade to OneWeb. So, other than a small number of aircraft that fly polar routes, mass adoption of OneWeb is unlikely in aviation markets. According to Greg, his next opportunity is in "emergency services."
While not well defined in his comments (he does, however, make reference to hurricanes in the Caribbean), this market could consist of provision of connectivity to ambulances or in cases of major natural disasters, provide connectivity.
In emergency vehicles, 5G with its 5-10 millisecond latency and high throughput will be a natural fit for telemedicine, and in natural disasters, with extended power outages, L-Band satellite phones will still provide basic voice and fax connectivity. Notably, Wyler leaves open the question of how his user terminals will work in the case of extended power outages as those experienced in the recent Caribbean hurricanes.
The bottom line is you can't lay claims to these markets without detailed research, and investments of billions of dollars cannot be based on speculation as to where OneWeb might be useful.
In our view, Greg should have given more thought before granting this interview. Without tangible and clear answers, the PR effect fails miserably, casting even further doubts as to the current status and potential viability of the venture. The quality of this interview speaks for itself, and it speaks gibberish.
I'd love to hear any comments. Just e-mail me.
From the Editor...
Searching for Answers In Wyler's Bizarre Via Satellite Interview
For more information
An Interview With Intellian CEO, Eric Sung
The coming of HTS satellites has brought a whole new world of challenges to the satellite industry and, in particular, to antenna manufacturers. Where once there were only C-Band and GEO satellites, there are now C-Band, Ku-Band and Ka-Band satellites and MEOs, not to mention the soon to be launched LEOs. For stabilized antenna manufacturers, maximizing this complex combination of multi-orbit satellites and frequencies has driven the need to develop new and innovative antenna technologies.
Intellian Technologies has been a consistent innovator in this space. Capable of multi-frequencies and using an innovative control system known as "Intelligent Mediator," they have developed antennas that can "work together"as a group, addressing any combination of satellite types and frequencies simultaneously - an advancement offering enhanced bandwidth via channel bonding as well as the capability to minimize and even eliminate blockages. To find out more about Intellian and the capabilities of their, new multi-frequency antennas and the "Intelligent Mediator," we met with CEO, Eric Sung.
SMW: If I recall, you completed an IPO in 2016 raising around $26 million and in 2015 your revenue was around $54 million. Can you brief us on some of the new products you have introduced since then and how you have grown the business? Besides the multi-band antennas, can you tell us about any other new products in your development pipeline?
Eric Sung: Since the very successful IPO Intellian has grown in people, products and facilities. We have opened an office in London, Shanghai, China and Singapore, along with moving into much larger premises in our European and US Distribution centers.
From 2016 after our IPO, we hired more than 100 people, increasing our total employees count to over 370 globally, of which over 100 are for research and development.
During this period, we also introduced a number of new products, increasing the number of convertible Ku to Ka band antenna systems, along with the introduction of the dual band and now Multi-band/Multi-Orbit antenna systems.
It was a strategic plan for Intellian to look to the future to meet the changing demands of the market. Higher throughput has always been a demand, but now lower latency and flexible solutions in frequency and orbits have now become a reality, and we are in a leading position to enable our customers to take advantage of the new and changing networks.
In 2018, we also launched our first land portable terminals, these are auto acquire 85 cm and 1 m Ku/Ka Band flyaway antennas for use by military and aid agencies. These latest land terminals continue our strategy to design and build antennas that can work in multiple bands, basically future proofing the customers investment in the antenna hardware.
SMW: I understand that there have been efforts in the past to develop Tri-band, stabilized VSAT antennas, and that making such an antenna is challenging. Can you describe how you originated and developed the concept into a finished product – the development, testing and trials. Did Carnival work with you on the development?
Eric Sung: This is an interesting question, as in the past there was no real requirement for Tri-band. The actual constellations and networks just were not there, but I saw the opportunity that would enable Intellian to be able to support the demands of customers such as Carnival who needed the flexibility and super high throughput that we knew we could achieve with our strategic direction to design and build Multi-band/Multi-Orbit systems.
As the networks are now evolving we are well placed to provide solutions due to our direction a number of years ago to build antennas that could be easily converted from one band to the other, and in the case of the larger v240M and v240MT, we can switch bands automatically from the NOC and service provider over the IP network.
To develop this type of sophisticated antenna system we worked closely with end customers and satellite operators, such as Carnival and SES, to design and build a solution that is not only industry leading from technology perspective, but also tailored to customer’s real need.
This was a long-term targeted investment into R&D that, over the years, has ensured that we are always leading the world in satellite antenna technology.
SMW: I note that the standard configuration is to deploy two of these antennas per/vessel to avoid blockages. Using these antennas, I assume you can do channel bonding. So, typically, what speeds could be routinely achieved using DBVS2X on the downlink and dynamic SCPC or SCPC on the uplink?
Eric Sung: You are correct, a system would work with two of our v240MT antennas, but for practical purposes, most installations are built with three to five antennas to provide a more resilient network, and allow for a very flexible choice of constellations.
For example, a ship may be using two antennas to track MEO satellites and have the third antenna tracking a GEO satellite. Should one of the antennas get blocked by the vessel superstructure, then the third antenna can automatically take over, ensuring continued up-time of the connection.
The redundancy is not only based around the antennas, but also with the below decks architecture, where the Intellian Intelligent Mediator manages all the antennas onboard, switching over from MEO to GEO or frequency band as required by the operator.
As you mentioned, channel bonding over IP level could increase throughput dramatically.
For example, under a certain Ka band satellite using DVBS2X on the downlink, throughout per antenna could exceed 1 to 1.5 Gbps. One of the reason why this antenna is perfect serving Energy and Cruise customers is uplink performance. Over a certain satellite, we evidenced over 700 Mbps uplink throughput in a live network.
SMW: According to your website, all functions of the antenna can be controlled by the “Intelligent Mediator,” and two antennas can also be managed by the “Mediator.” In the dual antenna configuration, your literature also states that the system also has the capability to track LEOs and MEOs and manage the switchover necessary as the satellites rise and fall from horizon to horizon. Can you tell us more about the features of the "Mediator” and its other capabilities?
Eric Sung: The mediator not only manages the antennas when one may get blocked, but it also takes in the switching and handover rules for operation with MEO satellite constellations and geo-stationary satellites. Each antenna knows exactly the time and the next satellite to switch into during live operation to provide seamless data link to the vessel.
For data centric operation, the antenna cluster can be equipped with hot standby Dual Data Center solution to ensure data continuity to customers. When one data center is compromised, the system automatically switches over to the other data center, without any crew intervention - a much safer and reliable solution.
When operating with dual data centers the mediator also switches modems and antennas, with all the control and RF signals being transmitted over fiber optic cabling. The use of Fiber enables the longer cable runs necessary on cruise ships.
SMW: In the cruise market, do you expect wide conversion from existing single band 2.4-meter antennas to your new dual or Tri-Bands, or will the new Tri -Band antennas be installed in addition to your legacy single band antennas? In the additive case, will the “Mediator” work with your Intellian legacy antennas and the new dual and Tri-Band units?
Eric Sung: Recently, due to extreme demand for high throughput, we have never seen any single customer considering a single band antenna installation. Those days are gone. At least, a C/Ku dual band system is the minimum requirement for the cruise market.
We do already see strong demand from single and dual band antenna systems to our v240MT Tri-band solution, especially with the Intelligent Mediator and the capability that this unit brings to a customer. Such is the flexibility of the Mediator that we can integrate with all of our existing 2.4 M antennas, and with planned new Intellian products in future.
With the option to use MEO satellites, this has enabled us to support much greater throughputs, and also low latency. With new MEO constellations coming on-line, using our systems, customers are able to future proof their hardware investments.
The reduced latency times have greatly improved some of the services used by Cruise lines and other sectors, Voice services, such as VOIP have much better quality with these lower latency speeds and Internet surfing speed is just like at home.
SMW: I assume that you developed the 240 MT specifically for the cruise market a market of around 300 + vessels. Are there other markets you have your targeted?
Eric Sung: The Cruise market is a perfect fit for this solution as they have very high demands on data throughput, high demands on uptime, and must have a very reliable system, but there are other markets that also have similar requirements to the cruise industry, such as the Energy/Oil&Gas users where reliable and high data throughput pipes are always needed as required by their operation. Their multi-band data capability is the right solution to utilize bandwidth available by variety of satellite constellation across the globe .
SMW: Will you also apply the same multi-frequency technology and management system in smaller systems such as 1 meter? Given that there are thousands of cargo vessels with lower bandwidth requirements, would such a smaller version, say a 1-meter version, of the 240 m of 240 mt series be attractive
Eric Sung: Our new NX platform of smaller antenna systems, supports Ku and Ka-Band GEOs now, and will be upgradeable with a soon-to-be-provided hardware upgrade kit.
While these antennas will not have the full auto switching capability of our Tri-band systems, they will be able to be converted as required and have the same tracking performance in whatever network is selected. These smaller antennas will also be able to be managed by the Intelligent Mediator, ensuring a high throughput, low latency, flexible constellation solution onboard smaller vessels, such as Superyachts and commercial shipping.
SMW: I note that there are a significant number of moving parts in the antenna. Not only do the antennas have the capability to track LEOs but switching from band to band also involves many moving parts. So, I expect the antennas will need to be well maintained and quickly serviced. How do you handle the maintenance and repair issues? Can you diagnose and correct problems remotely and can cruise ship technicians make repairs?
Eric Sung: While the antennas indeed look like they have a lot of components, and they do, they actually have been designed to use fewer components and more reliable components. We have invested a considerable amount in Quality at all stages of design and production to guarantee the maximum reliability.
Intellian has developed state of the art antenna monitoring and control platform called AptusNX which enables easy configuration and installation, and remote monitoring and control.
We have also introduced Predictive Maintenance, the ability within the new antenna to monitor their own performance and report back if there is a potential for an issue. This will allow the operator to prepare for preventive maintenance when the ship next makes a port call, rather than waiting for a failure and then sending out a technician. This level of monitoring and preventive maintenance has never been seen before at this level, another first for Intellian.
SMW: You have worked with flat panel ESAs, and, in particular, the Kymeta antenna. Given your advancement in high efficiency parabolic antennas and your experience with the ESAs, do you still see a future of ESA’s in cruise and other markets? If so, in what niches and applications might they be popular?
Eric Sung: While we do see a place for Flat Panel technology, there will always be parabolic antennas, as these are today more commercially efficient and viable in the maritime market. There are a number of technical challenges with flat panels on a ship or commercial vessel, especially those operating in more extreme weather conditions, with greater vessel motion, and even snow on the panel.
We are confident about the future of ESA (Electronic Steerable Antennas), especially when they cross the cost barrier for mass-volume deployment. As a result we are also investing into this technology and have been interacting with the major players in the industry. We also believe the development of 5G technology will provide impetus to more affordable and tangible solution for the satellite industry.
ESAs would be a good solution for fishing or OSV type of vessel that needs relatively low throughput while installation real estate is limited because ESA RF performance compared to parabola is low and price is expensive.
End customers such as cruise and energy sector demand very high throughput in general and also, uplink performance should be high. Therefore, ESA types of antenna can’t perform to meet customer requirement in those sectors.
SMW: As you know, the price of HTS bandwidth has dropped significantly lowering the cost of VSAT based broadband for the maritime industry. In the past, the high price of VSAT has limited adoption of the services in bulk carrier and legacy container vessels. How has the falling price of service affected adoption rates in these segments and in general? Do you have an estimate of how many commercial vessels have VSAT installed and how much of the market you think is still available for penetration?
Eric Sung: There are 75,000 – 80,000 commercial ships that are suitable for VSAT, and we see these continue to adopt VSAT, in fact it is such a massive shift to VSAT we are producing more antennas than we planned for at the start of the year, with most commercial user moving to VSAT.
Also we are seeing strong trend of migration of the traditional MSS maritime market toward the higher date rate VSAT market because of 1) demand for more data and 2) the lowering in terminal and air time cost. Intellian is also actively capitalizing this strategic direction to develop terminals at future proof antenna system to reduce CAPEX but increase usability in the future.
I guess current VSAT penetration in commercial shipping is around 20,000-25,000. So, there is huge potential for additinal maritime VSAT installations.
SMW: Thank you, Eric.
Intellian's New Cutting Edge Antennas: Multi-Band and Multi-Orbit
Intellian 240MT Tri-band Antenna
Auto Band Switching Assembly
"The mediator not only manages the antennas when one may get blocked, but it also takes in the switching and handover rules for operation with MEO satellite constellations and geo-stationary satellites. Each antenna knows exactly the time and the next satellite to switch into during live operation to provide seamless data link to the vessel."
Carnival Vista Antenna Installation
"We have also introduced Predictive Maintenance, the ability within the new antenna to monitor their own performance and report back if there is a potential for an issue. This will allow the operator to prepare for preventive maintenance when the ship next makes a port call, rather than waiting for a failure and then sending out a technician."
About Eric Sung:
Eric Sung is chief executive officer and chairman of the board of directors of Intellian Technologies, the world leader in maritime satellite communication antenna systems.
He established Intellian in 2004, bringing technology industry leadership, extensive Telco experience to the company. Under his leadership, Intellian has grown to the No. 1 market leader and went public on KOSDAQ in 2016.
Eric designs and executes corporate strategy at Intellian, facilitating team's activity in the global business unit, product strategy, strategic business development and finance.
Eric Sung graduated with a BS in Electronic Engineering from Yonsei University in Korea.
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The Coming Boom in Flat Panel, Phased Array Antennas
Once insulated against the rapid change in other technology markets, the communications industry now faces an era of unprecedented disruption. As the price of bandwidth continues to fall, satellite operators are under increased pressure to consolidate, but manufacturers of satellite antennas and modems are benefiting from a surge in new users driven by the lower VSAT service pricing - a phenomenon especially apparent in the world of satellite mobility where more ships and aircraft and other passenger vehicles than ever are being connected. Nowhere is this growth and investment more apparent than in the demand for flat panel, phased array antennas.
For years, the mobility segment has depended on mechanically stabilized antennas for ships and aircraft.
In these highly stressful environments, antennas are exposed to continuous vibration often resulting a shortened useful life. Under these conditions, use of solid state antennas free of moving parts offers a significant advantage. ESAs also also are inherently superior in a LEO environment.
Unlike GEO satellites which hover fixed above a particular point on the earth's surface, LEOs move continuously across the sky. Maintaining connectivity to these satellites involves continuous tracking and the ability to lock onto and track rising and setting satellites simultaneously to avoid signal disruption. So, in the LEO scenario two mechanical stabilized and tracking antennas would be required - a function that could be handled by a single phased array flat panel antenna.
Northern Sky Research has estimated the cumulative market for these antennas alone could be as large as $9 Billion if the antennas could be made affordable enough for mass market applications such as the connected car or for consumer broadband via the coming LEO constellations, the market size could reach $9 Billion.
Currently, only one moderately priced flat Phased Array is available. Manufactured by Kymeta Corp and in development for many years, their 70 cm antenna is based on meta-materials technology, a technology yet to be proven in high bandwidth applications, especially on the return link.
Originally intended for high volume, extremely low cost applications such as the connected car, so far it has only appeared in a $25,000 + panel configuration placing it in direct competition with higher capacity active Phased Arrays intended for enterprise markets.
Other ESAs antennas are now in development by major public companies including Gilat, C-Com and several are being funded largely through venture capital investment - notably Phasor, Alcan and Isotropic and Satixfy.
First, here's what we know about the VC funded companies:
Phasor has been around the longest, and holds a substantial development lead in releasing its first commercial product, a Ku-Band active array, focused specifically on high end commercial enterprise markets such as maritime, rail, aero and land. Currently, involved in round "C" financing, to date, the company so far has raised around $40 Million.
Phasor’s technology is very innovative, using custom RF ASICs (radio frequency microchips) and frequency-specific patch antennas to create a truly solid-state ESA, with no moving parts. This technology is organized into uniform “core modules” which can be combined to create apertures of various dimensions, with no RF losses as is typically found in traditional phased arrays.
The ESA comprised of Phasor’s Core modules is very thin, low weight, and very high performance, as has been shown in multiple live demonstrations over the past year with both Geosynchronous and Low-earth orbit satellites, from a moving platform. The feature/functionality of the ESA is software-defined, allowing incredible operating flexibility, robustness, and agility, such as instantaneous beam switching, and dual beams/aperture.
Over the past year, Phasor has secured contracts valued today at over $300 million including a partnership agreement, signed in 2018, with Spanish satellite operator Hispasat to address rising connectivity demand for professional and passenger land vehicles in its geographical markets, such as Intercity buses.
Also, Phasor recently announced a strategic agreement with Ka-Band operator LeoSat who will launch a laser-linked constellation of up to 108 LEO communications satellites to provide Gigabit-per-second connectivity speed to high-performance networking enterprise markets.
Phasor is also active in the aero sector. Astronics AeroSat will integrate Phasor’s phased-array technology into an agile aviation antenna solution that will operate seamlessly with geostationary (GEO) and non-geosynchronous satellites, such as Low Earth Orbit (LEO) wideband constellations that are currently in development. Phasor and Gogo have also initiated a research and development partnership for application of Phasor's technology in the aero connectivity market.
Additionally, Phasor is actively involved on government and defense communications markets, focused upon modified commercial-off-the-shelf (mCOTS) variants of its sea, air and land ESAs for Comms-on-the-Move (COTM) use-cases.
These agreements underscore the company’s maturation, demonstrate successful early commercial engagement, and underscore the latent demand for innovative access technology in commercial mobile broadband markets for enterprise-grade connectivity on land, sea and in the air. Two other earlier stage companies, Alcan and Isotropic offer intriguing and somewhat different technologies. Phasor contact: David Helfgott
Alcan's approach combines active and passive technologies. Basically, it uses a liquid crystal array to "phase shift" the signal rather than hardware phase shifters which the company claims will result in a significant cost saving over conventional active antenna technology. Initially, the company will launch a Ka-Band in the second half of 2020 and a Ku-Band antenna in 2021.
So far, Alcan has raised around $8 million and will deliver an antenna in 2020 for SES, for use in SES' mPOWER services. The company's initial focus is on the enterprise segment, where a maritime and aero version of the antenna and will target the high-end of the market. Alcan Contact: Esat Sibay
In simplest terms, the Isotropic antenna is composed of individual modular lenses arranged in a honeycomb-like matrix with each module employing an optical beam-forming element to concentrate and focus RF energy onto a small, active array - in much the same way as the lens of a telescope concentrates light before it reaches the eye or photographic plate
According to Isotropic CEO and founder, John Finney, this approach results in a significant reduction in cost vs. conventional active phased arrays, operates at lower power levels and offers higher efficiencies vs. passive arrays - all due to the use of a beam-forming element combined with a reduction in the electronics infrastructure required to build the terminal.
To date, Isotropic Systems have secured over $10 M USD, a combination of public funding sources, private equity and customer contracts, both commercial and defense-related.
OneWeb has selected Isotropic for the development of their ultra-low cost consumer broadband terminal.
According to Finney, Isotropic will have field prototypes in the hands of our customers by late 2019, limited production runs early 2020 and production rate units in 2 H 2020. We will have our aero qualification units available by late 2020. Isotropic Contact: John Finney
Satixfy, an Israeli company with Chinese venture capital investors, expects to release IoT, Comms-on-the Move Ku-Band antennas sometime in 2019 and already have prototypes in the testing stage. The company uses true time delay, an advantage over the use of conventional phase shifters allowing for much larger high capacity antennas to be built. Although time frame for these antennas has not yet been released, CEO Yoel Gat will release more information in February.
Satixfy Contact: Yoel Gat
Gilat is developing Ka-Band Electronically Steered Array antennas based on Phased-Array technology.
Based on an active phased array RFIC chipset, the Ka-band chips were taped-out early this year and are now commercially available. This chipset will be used for designing multiple antenna systems for fixed and mobility applications. Currently, they are working with several unnamed partners to produce actual product.
Gilat is also developing an aero ESA antenna, as part of a joint project with Airbus. The project, called "Clean Sky 2 Joint Undertaking" is conducted as part of the EU Horizon 2020 program. The antenna will be embedded in the wing-fuselage airframe fairing of an Airbus aircraft (eliminating the need for a radome) and will be tested live onboard. Test flights are expected in the first half of 2020.
They are also developing an aero ESA antenna, based on their own chipset, for a major commercial customer. This antenna will support dual simultaneous Rx channels and is designed for better-than-industry spectral efficiency. This antenna fits under a standard radome.
Working with the University of Waterloo, C-Com has been actively developing a Ka-Band Phased Array as and is expected to have a commercial product available by early to mid 2020.
Having followed the attempts of numerous companies in their attempts to develop moderately priced ESAs, it has become increasingly clear that this is a highly challenging endeavor. So far the only companies close to success have taken years and invested millions of dollars.
While there are many innovative approaches in progress, we believe that it may take several more years for a truly broad selection of proven products to emerge into the commercial marketplace. Those who have a clear market strategy that matches their technology's underlying value proposition will most likely be the winners
Iridium's Stunning Success, Promises Made, Promises Kept
For Iridium, success with the Iridium NEXT constellation has been a long time coming. It's been a battle against the skeptics and their arrogant competitor, Inmarsat, who ridiculed their efforts at every turn.
Now they have confounded the skeptics with their success and stand ready to compete and win against Inmarsat's aging Fleet Broadband service. Their new Iridium Certus service, a technologically superior alternative to Inmarsat's aging and underpowered Fleet Broadband constellation, is now on the threshold of commercial launch.
Certus not only offers advanced broadband capability but provides full global coverage, uses a small inexpensive antenna with no moving parts, and soon will be able to offer GMDSS-meeting and bettering all that Inmarsat has to offer. With the launch of Certus, Inmarsat now faces an end to its abusive monopoly power and its ability to impose arbitrary price increases on its shipping customers.
To get where they are today, Iridium took big risks, and they beat the odds. They developed new technology, and they placed their faith in SpaceX, a launch partner who, at the time, was an upstart and still unproven provider. Seven perfect launches later, they have 65 new satellites in orbit – all working perfectly, out of the 75 planned for launch. It's time for all to acknowledge that they have achieved a stunning success.
As we await the final launch of the NEXT constellation in the coming weeks, it's time to take a look at the long and difficult journey that brought Iridium to this milestone moment and the barriers they have overcome. To hear their story, we sat down across the table with Iridium's Executive V.P of Sales and Marketing, Bryan Hartin, who many credit as the architect of the Certus program and the executive responsible for the successful effort to secure Iridium's coveted GMDSS certification.
SMW: I know it has taken a long time to develop Certus. While most of us understand, the risks associated with the satellite launch process, I don’t think that many of our readers really familiar with the amount of design work and testing that has gone into NEXT and the Certus service. Could you tell us more about the technological challenges you faced and how your overcame them?
Bryan Hartin: As you know, satellites don’t last forever, and we knew we would have to have a new constellation as the original one neared its end of life.
We knew it would have to support all our existing products and services, and it would have to offer new capabilities in terms speed and reliability - all in the high reliability L-Band frequency. That’s why we named it ”Certus.” Certus is Latin for certain, reliable and sure.
As to your specific question as to what we did to get to this point in time - on the cusp of launching Certus. It has been a long road as we pursued the objective of meeting the highest standards of functionality and reliability. To meet our goals, we developed a very rigorous testing process. After the very first NEXT launch in January of 2017, we turned on the introductory Iridium Certus service offered through the new satellites - the 352 Kbps transmit, and 352 Kbps receive. We then tested our very own prototype Certus terminal, developed by Iridium, so we could test the service on a device we could totally control, and we went through extensive testing in the lab.
We found issues, and we went through a very rigorous engineering process in which we would identify the issue, determine the cause and provide a fix, and then we would test the fix. We did that repeatedly for every issue, whether satellite related or product related.
Once we got comfortable with the functionality of the satellites, we then had our value-added manufacturers, Cobham and Thales, test again with the antenna products that they had developed for Certus. They first tested in the lab and found issues we had to fix, and they also found issues that they had to fix. Once we got comfortable that they had passed their bench testing, they tested the service on ships and vehicles in an environment that they could control.
Cobham used a fishing vessel and Thales used some patrol vessels in Europe. When they were comfortable with the performance, they shared their data with the actual service providers such as Speedcast, Marlink, Globecomm, AST, etcetera, who, in turn, started their own vessel and vehicle trials.
Once the final testing process is completed in the next month or so, we will set the date we will initiate commercial service. We feel very good about the fact that we have engaged world class manufacturing partners in the development and testing process, and we have service providers who are experienced. Everyone is excited that there soon will be an alternative to Inmarsat for MSS broadband services in maritime, land mobile and aviation.
SMW: If I am a maritime Fleet Broadband L-Band user, and I swap out Inmarsat’s service for Certus, how will my user experience improve? What are the compelling reasons for switching to Certus and Iridium?
Bryan Hartin: Now, you have a choice. Before, as an end user or service provider when it came to L-Band MSS, you didn’t have a choice. You had to go with Inmarsat.
We could compete with Openport but couldn’t match Fleet Broadband’s speeds. With Iridium Certus, we don't just match Fleet Broadband's speeds, we will exceed them. That is one of several key differentiators.
While our existing Pilot terminal will continue to operate as normal, you’ll need one of our new terminals to enjoy the higher speeds offered by Certus. If you buy a new Certus terminal, you will initially experience speeds of 352 Kbps receive X 352 Kbps transmit, and within one year, you will able to increase the speed to 704 Kbps receive X 352 transmit, all with a simple firmware upgrade.
With our Certus 700 terminal, we will have a superior alternative to Fleet Broadband whether it’s an FB 250 or FB 500. There are some other factors that come into play as well.
There is a dramatic difference in the size of our terminal vs. the FB 500 terminal. I can easily carry one of our two terminals, where as doing the same with an FB 500 would be impossible.
It’s also noteworthy that our terminals, unlike Inmarsat's, our antennas have with no moving parts that can fail.
Also, suffice it to say, we will have a very competitive wholesale price point for our wholesalers so they, in turn, can offer an attractive pricing package to their end users as related to hardware and airtime, whether you are a primary user or deploying our services as an L-band companion for VSAT.
For FB users wanting to abandon Inmarsat, it will also be very easy to make the conversion. Our new terminals are designed to easily retrofit into an existing FB installation right down to the point where you can use the existing cabling and pedestal infrastructure. So, a new Certus installation is easy and straight forward. You can install it in an hour or less and be up and running.
So, if your FB terminal is old and you are looking for a superior competitive solution at a competitive price and want to escape the threat of Inmarsat’s habitual price increases, then Certus would be the natural choice.
SMW: We talked about Certus advantages for the end users. Are they any strategic advantages for the service providers?
Bryan Hartin: I’m glad you brought that up. You may recall that offering FB backup for partner VSAT systems gives Inmarsat direct access to the service provider’s Ku-Band VSAT customer base, thereby offering Inmarsat the opportunity to promote and convert the integrator’s own VSAT customer to the Fleet Xpress service.
In fact, we have already seen Inmarsat offering extended length contracts on their FB backup option for VSAT users, a move likely designed to lengthen the time Inmarsat would have available to convert a VSAT user to Fleet Xpress.
You also may recall that service providers with VSAT offerings actually see Fleet Xpress services as competitive due to the fact that the service does not use any of their leased Ku-Band capacity. So, in essence, when they sell Fleet Xpress, they are lowering the ROI on their fixed priced Ku-Band transponder lease commitment and essentially competing against themselves.
SMW: From a contractual standpoint, how difficult will it be for existing FB users to switch from FB to Certus?
Bryan Hartin: While this is a question more easily answered by our service providers, we understand that a significant number of FB users are not under long term contracts, making it easy for them to make a switch. We assume there are also end users near the end of commitments to Inmarsat that would also be in a position adopt Certus. So, while we don’t have exact numbers, we feel confident that a significant number of FB users would be in a position to migrate our way.
SMW: To date, thousands of ships have used L-Band as their primary means of communication. As you know, as the price of Ku-Band VSAT falls, more and more vessels will be installing VSAT enabled broadband. This will shrink the market for L-Band as a primary means of communication but increase the size of the VSAT backup market. How will you accommodate for this shift and still maintain revenue growth in the segment? Will you have a separate pricing plan for VSAT backup?
Bryan Hartin: The good news is that we are really experienced in this today with our OpenPort service over Iridium Pilot.
We have close to 10,000 OpenPort subscribers today and that’s a mixture of L-Band as primary and companion service.
In the future, we expect that a growing portion of our OpenPort business will come from our VSAT companion solution. When paired with premium VSAT, Iridium delivers an ideal hybrid solution combining the benefits of low earth orbit with geostationary orbit and the benefits of L-band with Ku band.
For VSAT companion, we developed a unique commercial offering which allows Service Providers who have a VSAT portfolio to provide attractive fixed price VSAT with integrated L-band solutions. It’s purposely designed to be very competitive with Inmarsat.
We will also have a similar plan for Certus. Thanks to its greater capabilities, Certus will take VSAT companion to the next level. We also still see a large opportunity for Certus as a primary service for a wide variety of vessels.
With its low Total Cost of Ownership and superior L-band speeds delivered in a small form factor equipment, Certus will offer best in-class L-band services to vessels wherever they may navigate.
SMW: How with Iridium’s GMDSS offering along with the Lars Thrane’s new GMDSS terminal compare with the Inmarsat offering, and when will the GMDSS service be available for commercial deployment?
Bryan Hartin: We’re proud of the fact that we participated in this process for over five years with the IMO.
We are different than Inmarsat in that we are a LEO and Inmarsat is a GEO. So, we had to work with all the IMO member states to familiarize them with Iridium.
What it really came down to at the end of 2017 was that we had to demonstrate that we could technically meet the GMDSS requirements. IMSO, the International Mobile Satellite Organization, did an extensive test with us in October of 2017 in which we passed every test. The test involved connectivity to the Rescue Coordination Centers (RCCs), and Maritime Safety Information system. We had to prove that when a vessel, no matter where it is around the globe, hits the distress button,the message goes to the RCCs which can immediately initiate a message to the surrounding vessels instructing them to offer assistance, or in the case of the need to broadcast vital information such as notification of a navigation hazard or severe weather notification, that we could broadcast that information.
So, in May of 2018, at the IMO’s MSC99, the 99th Maritime Safety Committee meeting, Iridium was formally recognized as a GMDSS service provider.
We are now in the implementation phase,working closely with IMSO, and we expect the service to be available the beginning of 2020 with the new Lars Thrane terminal. Additionally, our VAMs are working to get the new Certus terminals certified for GMDSS as well, which will expand the options available for the maritime community.
SMW: What about IoT? Can you tell us what specific markets and applications are a best fit for Certus? I understand that your IoT service would target real-time, high value applications vs. a low-cost store and forward service. Can you give us some examples of those types of applications?
Bryan Hartin: Here is the approach we use: For the last twenty years, we have been predominantly narrowband at 2.4 Kbps.
Although OpenPort can support 128 Kbps, most of our IoT customers are 2.4 Kbps-based. Over the last couple of years, our IoT business has experienced phenomenal growth as we offer low latency, smaller terminals, global coverage, and that’s going to continue.
With Iridium NEXT, we decided to address the gap between 2.4 Kbps and 352 Kbps services for aviation, land mobile, maritime and IoT. For example, if there is a need to get information off of heavy equipment or a tuna buoy at sea, or on small drones that need higher speed connectivity but can’t support a heavy terminal, we will have a module that maintains a small and light weight IoT form factor but offers the higher speeds, and we’ll provide this module to our value-added manufacturers who will then develop products for specific end-user applications.
SMW: In aviation markets you already provide flight safety solutions, and I understand Certus service will soon be available with the introduction of a new aircraft antenna in early 2019. How will the addition of Certus compliment your current aviation offerings?
Bryan Hartin: There are two types of services. At present most of what we provide are cockpit Safety Services to both commercial and business jet markets.
However, we expect that the new broadband capabilities of Certus will lead to increased deployment for passenger services as well, principally in the medium and small business jet market.
Of course, in the larger business jet market, just like in maritime, we could provide backup for Ku-Band services.
Just like in maritime and land mobile, we feel that we have a good experienced roster of value-added manufacturers to build the aviation products and service providers that are more than capable to sell it across commercial transport, business aviation and rotorcraft.
Obviously, our near-term focus is maritime and landmobile. Our approach in aviation is similar, however. Rockwell Collins, L-3, Thales are the original Value Added Manufacturers (VAMs). We then added on Gogo and Satcom Direct. They will be both VAMs and service providers manufacturing their own aviation product using our broadband core transceiver. We have also announced several other service providers in aviation.
SMW: The military has always been a big customer for Iridium, especially in the provision of satellite phone services. How will the arrival of Certus affect your position in these markets?
Bryan Hartin: With Thales today and the MissionLink product, we are seeing a lot of interest from government users, not just the U.S. government but the foreign MODs for Comms-on-the-Move.
To date, they have been limited to BGAN only, but the Thales MissionLink product is very appealing because you get true global coverage in a form factor that’s much more conducive to their needs.
Inmarsat simply cannot provide the global coverage that we can or the consistent performance without the need to stop or constantly point the terminal in the right direction for the best signal..
SMW: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Bryan Hartin: For years we have been talking about NEXT and Certus.
In late 2016, when I stood up at our Certus workshop in Santa Barbara, and we were talking to the partners as to when we were going to launch and when the products and services were going to be available, there were those partners that looked at us very skeptically. They were cheering for us, but they were unsure if we could get the new NEXT constellation up and operating before the original satellites started to fail, if the existing services would transition seamlessly to the new satellites, and if we had the financing to complete the NEXT constellation.
I can stand here today in late 2018, and say we have stuck to our commitments and delivered on them all. We have successfully completed seven launches and deployed 65 satellites. We have basically retired the risk associated with the launches, and you see that fact reflected in our stock price, and we have obtained GMDSS approval. We’re scheduled for a final launch in the coming weeks and our service trials are in their final stages allowing us to launch Certus in early 2019. We’re in great financial shape, and we are excited to be able to really compete with Inmarsat in the L-Band, broadband space.
SMW: Thank you Bryan. Congratulations on a sucess that's been a long time coming.
With Iridium Sr. V.P. of Marketing, Bryan Hartin...
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"Our new terminals are designed to easily retrofit into an existing FB installation right down to the point where you can use the existing cabling and pedestal infrastructure. So, a new Certus installation is easy and straight forward. You can install it in an hour or less and be up and running."
Iridium (L); Inmarsat (R)
Iridium Thrane GMDSS Terminal
About Bryan Hartin:
Bryan Hartin is the Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Iridium Communications Inc., the only company
that offers truly global voice and data coverage.
In this role, he is responsible for Iridium’s commercial global sales and marketing functions; overseeing strategic marketing, product management and corporate communications for the
He also holds responsibility for accelerating the growth
of Iridium’s commercial products and services through a diverse
global distribution channel.
Mr. Hartin holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Le Moyne College
in Syracuse, NY and a Master of Business Administration from American University in
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Effective Space: Fueling New Life for Old GEOs
With the cost of GEO communications satellite build, launch and insure topping several hundred million dollars, satellite operators have long sought a solution to extending satellite life beyond simple fuel exhaustion - an event that causes a satellite to drift away from its assigned orbital slot necessitating replacement even if it is still in perfect working order.
Effective Space, an innovative in-orbit servicing venture, has taken on the challenge to produce a cost effective solution to the problem and, in doing so, has developed a unique, design-to-cost and highly innovative service vehicle known as Space Drone spacecraftTM.
The size of a small washing machine, the drone is launched via an ESPA Ring launch adapter and is deployed into space, docking with the host satellite and providing the necessary thrust to maintain the host in its assigned orbital position. Given the importance of this new technology to the satellite industry, we arranged an interview with Arie Halsband, Effective Space's CEO.
SMW: I understand that Effective Space is in the business of extending the useful life of GEO communications satellites by actually docking them with a small satellite or “space tug” that then provides the thrust necessary for attitude control, “station keeping,” relocation and de-orbiting or inclination and orbit correction. Can you tell us something about your background, how you got into this business, how the company evolved, and where the company is today?
Arie Halsband: I founded Effective Space in 2013, after spending almost 30 years working at Israeli Aerospace Industries' (IAI) space division.
Effective Space was initially created with the aim of decommissioning old satellites to the graveyard orbit. However, we quickly recognized that life extension services presented even greater opportunities.
When overseeing the decommissioning of a satellite at IAI, we noticed that instead of stopping at its intended orbit at 300 km above Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO), it ended up reaching 1000 km above GEO, due to the excess fuel still on board. As a result, it wasted a significant amount of fuel that could have otherwise been used for extended operations.
This prompted the realization that there is a standout use case for extending the life of satellites.
As the enabling technologies for this service became commercially available, we worked to refine our offering to focus on life extension rather than decommissioning.
In the five years since Effective Space was founded, the company has gained significant momentum. In January 2018, we announced a contract worth more than US $100 million with a major regional satellite operator, which will see two SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ launch in 2020 to significantly extend the life of two communication satellites.
Following this, we announced a number of major partnerships with renowned industry leaders, including Ariane Group and Maxar Technologies, and signed a term sheet with IAI for technological and financial cooperation.
This is just the beginning. Anticipated future services include support for Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium Earth Orbit constellations, active-debris-removal, post-mission-disposal, in-space explorations, and other in-space logistics.
Life-extension and in-orbit services are crucial tools that can be utilized to manage future fleets and assets, and ensure commercially-viable services. With over 400 satellites currently in GEO and thousands expected to be deployed in LEO, the market opportunities are huge.
SMW: Of course, a GEO communications satellite can cost up to $400 million to build, launch and insure. Can you give us a rough idea of how much a typical customer might save vs. the cost of launching a new, replacement satellite?
Arie Halsband: Satellite operators would not pay for a servicing spacecraft if the cost was the same as buying and launching a replacement satellite. Our SPACE DRONE spacecrafttm were designed to be built, launched and operated at significantly lower cost than a replacement satellite. This enables the annual service fee, for example, to be less than half the equivalent annual cost of a replacement satellite.
SMW: I believe Skycorp was working on development of just a system similar in concept and called it “Spacecraft Life Extension System.” The technology has since been licensed to Orbital ATK and has been incorporated into the “Mission Extension Vehicle.” This system seems to be quite competitive. If so, how does your system compare?
Arie Halsband: In recent years we’ve seen a lot of momentum for life extension services, which supports our belief that this is going to be a really lucrative and exciting market. The fact that three leading players, including Effective Space, are crafting such commercial capabilities is a game changer. To help further drive the adoption of life-extension services, we recently joined The Consortium for Execution of Rendezvous and Servicing Operations (CONFERS), which is dedicated to promoting and leveraging best practices for satellite servicing.
Unlike other technologies, our SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ have an exceptionally small form factor, weighing only 400 kg, and are around 1x1x1.25 meters in size. This is critical to meet the above mentioned cost-structure goals, as it enables us to reduce both manufacturing and launch costs.
Unlike other concepts, the SPACE DRONE spacecraft's™ patent-pending docking system is non-intrusive, simple and robust, and attaches to the one feature that all telecommunication satellites share: their launcher adapter ring.
We’ve already received very positive feedback from satellite operators about our specific design and docking concepts. They appreciate the inherent technical simplicity, as well as the commercial terms it enables.
SMW: You mentioned that the market for GEO life extension is around 25 satellites per/year. Do you expect it to grow or shrink over the next several years?
Arie Halsband: We are seeing the industry moving towards multi-orbit schemes, where the introduction of mega-constellations and high-throughput satellites will impact the entire value chain. For the next decade or so, Effective Space will serve GEO satellites that are already in orbit, and will extend its offering to lower orbits.
At the same time, satellite servicing may support new business cases that were not applicable in the past. This includes utilizing aging satellites to open new markets before committing on a newly deployed satellite, brokering satellites between operators, and creating a “second-hand” like market. We’re already seeing such examples emerge, and the ability to extend the life of satellites for several years will enable even more use cases.
By minimizing the program buffers required, satellite servicing can also enable satellite manufacturers to reduce the risks associated with replacement programs, mitigating launch risks, and potentially reducing insurance premiums.
SMW: While I understand that your initial focus is on the GEO communications satellite market but that you are also looking at extending the servicing concept to LEOs and MEOs. How is that business case different from the GEO case? Also, in the GEO model, does the drone satellite remain permanently connected to the host, or does it move off after correcting the host satellite’s position and service other satellites?
Arie Halsband: In GEO, the main use case is life-extension. Our SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ can provide up to 15 years of life-extension, whereas a typical mission may last three - seven years. In addition, it can dock and un-dock from host satellites, enabling it to support several missions throughout its life cycle.
During each mission it stays docked to the host satellite, acting as a “jet pack” and taking full control of the host satellite maneuvers (station-keeping and attitude-control). In the future, its robotic capabilities will also allow it to provide further inspection, maintenance and repair services.
In LEO, the main use case will be active-debris-removal and post-mission disposal. As LEO mega-constellations’ satellites inherently have a certain failure rate, satellite servicing can support healthy and sustainable operations in the different orbit planes, while ensuring regulatory and liability compliance.
SMW: Can you tell us more about the design, testing required to build a commercially deployable space craft? I understand you are now testing the docking procedure in a lab where you simulate the actual docking procedure in space. When do you expect to perform your first commercial mission? You mentioned that Proton is your initial launch partner. Are there other potential launch partners that also use the ESPA ring launch adapter?
Arie Halsband: We’re working with over 20 different subsystem suppliers, with each having its own preliminary design review, critical design review, manufacturing, testing, and verification. IAI will serve as our primary manufacturer and will oversee the integration and testing of the spacecraft.
GMV, a leading manufacturing, testing and consulting company, is executing hardware-in-the-loop test campaigns via its platform-art© facility. The partnership will see the verification of the SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ rendezvous and docking system, and the testing of the onboard computers that run the guidance, navigation, and control software.
Effective Space is set to deliver its first commercial launch in 2020 with a major regional satellite operator.
As we announced, we are pursuing a direct-to-GEO launch opportunity. The SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ is fully compatible with the leading commercial launch providers, and we are working with many of them to make sure that we can integrate and exploit launch opportunities, with a plan to accommodate four-six spacecraft per launch on an annual basis.
SMW: Can you take us through a typical deployment sequence including how the satellites are launched, and the technology and processes you use to rendezvous and dock with the GEO target satellite? Please explain how you are able to dock to various satellites given their diversity of manufacture.
AH: The SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ are not much larger than the average domestic washing machine. However, they are very capable, and are able to push and manipulate typical satellites in orbit, utilizing our highly efficient electric propulsion system. The SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ have fully autonomous, robotic capabilities – such as sensors, cameras and their docking system – to enable them to function independently once in orbit, and dock with the host satellite.
Each SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ functions as an external ‘jet pack.’ Launched to orbit as a rideshare, the spacecraft raises itself to orbit, drifts across the GEO belt, rendezvouses and docks with the host satellite using its patent-pending, “one-dock-fits all,” non-intrusive docking system. It takes advantage of the launcher adapter ring - a solid and robust element - that is common to all satellites in orbit. This has been de-facto standardized to allow satellites to be sent to orbit by multiple launcher types, and enables launchers to orbit multiple satellite buses from different manufacturers.
The non-intrusive capabilities are particularly important, as they mean that the SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ can provide service to satellites already in orbit, without requiring the host satellite to be designed in advance for docking. It is also safer, more straight forward and simpler than other docking methods, and allows safe and immediate un-docking as needed.
Once successfully docked, the spacecraft’s electric propulsion system allows for up to 15 years of service, taking control of the host satellite maneuvers (station-keeping and attitude-control). Additional services may include relocation, de-orbiting, inclination correction, orbit correction, and bringing-into-use.
SMW: As you know, there is every growing concern about the amount of “space junk” in orbit. You mention on your website that there is a potential application for your technology for collecting and de-orbiting space junk. Can you discuss your solution to this ever-growing problem?
Arie Halsband: The SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ spacecraft platform is able to be easily adapted to active-debris-removal and post-mission-disposal missions, holding all necessary hardware and software capabilities, and leveraging the accumulated operational and commercial experience in GEO.
Our SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ can hold enough fuel to de-orbit large debris so they burn up in the atmosphere, undock from that descending debris and then travel to another satellite or debris, and de-orbit that too. This use case is possible thanks to the SPACE DRONE spacecraft's™ highly efficient electric propulsion system, and represents a major step toward solving the critical problem of space debris.
We are actively supporting leading programs with the European Space Agency and with major LEO operators.
In the case of debris removal, the ability to come up with a cost-driven solution, as our SPACE DRONE spacecraft™ presents, would be even more critical, as business cases to support such operations are not matured yet, and agencies and nations are still struggling to set such frameworks.
SMW: Thank you Arie. We'll continue to follow your progress and look forward to covering your first mission.
An Interview with Effective Space CEO, Arie Halsband
Image Courtesy of Spaceflight Industries
About Arie Halsband:
Arie founded Effective Space in 2013, aiming to build a New Space company. Based on a unique small spacecraft platform, the objective of the company was to disrupt and revolutionize the satellite service market.
Prior to the founding of Effective Space, Arie led the Israeli low-weight and high-performance small satellite industry as the General Manager of IAI Space Division and was responsible for all commercial and operational activities.
Prior to becoming the GM, Arie served in various positions – Head of Department, Deputy Director of Engineering, Director of Space Technologies Directorate and Managing Director of AIAS Asia. Arie holds a B. Sc in Mechanical Engineering from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and studied System Engineering at Tel-Aviv University’s School of Business Management.
For More Information...
There are many mobility related satellite industry events and unless you have an unlimited budget, here are the "must attends" and others that may be of interest. Note that the "hot" sectors are Cruise, Aero and Yachts. Satellite Mobility World attends those events highlighted in blue.
***PTC: Honolulu, Hawaii: January 20-23. PTC’s annual conference is the Pacific Rim’s premier telecommunications event. The Conference is a strategic springboard for the global communications industry, providing all attendees with a three-day platform to focus on planning, networking, and discovering what the new year will bring.
***Small Satellite Symposium: Silicon Valley: February 4-7. Silicon Valley. Relatively new (4th event), the conference has received good reviews.
*****Satellite 2019: May 6-9: Washington D.C. We consider this one of the two most important Satellite shows and conferences in the industry, the other being the World Satellite Business Week in Paris, held the second week of September.
*****Global Connected Aircraft Summit: June 10-13: San Diego, CA . This is the premier conference for those interested in broadband connectivity on commercial aircraft.
****CommunicAsia: Singapore June 18-20: This is the premier satellite industry event in Asia. Not to be missed.
*******Small Satellite Conference: Logan, Utah, August 8th-12th 2019. While a bit out of the way, this is the primer conference in the industry. With most of the innovation in satellite coming from this segment, it's a must to attend. Last year, over 3,000 attendees from all over the globe attended - far more than any other conference focused on the topic.
***Nor Shipping: Oslo: June 4-7: Important exhibition for those following the Scandinavian shipping industry and the maritime VSAT Market.
******World Satellite Business Week: Paris, France: Typically, the 2nd week of September (dates to be announced) For those seeking the opportunity to meet and easily network with top executives of the satellite industry, this is the premier conference of the year.
***Monaco Yacht Show: 25-28 September: Monaco: For those interested in the use of VSAT on yachts, this is a key event.
*Other Conferences/Shows of Interest:
***Digital Ship CIO Forum/Cyber Resilience Forum: Held in numerous locations around the world, these events are notable for their focus mainly on IT related issues including cyber security, IoT and M2M. Sponsored globally by Marlink, they are held nearly everywhere.
Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Events
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