Volume V, No. X November 2020
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 Connectiviy 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"
Highlighting Disruptive, New, Mobility-Focused Satellite Ventures and Technologies
Satellite mobility World
In This Issue...
Editorially Speaking: "The New Battle in the Satellite In-Flight Communications Market"
"Hughes' Jupiter & The Inmarsat Partnership - Upset in the IFC Market" with HNS' E.V.P., Paul Gaske
"Digitalization and the Changing Business of Oilfield Communications" with Rignet COO, Errol Olivier
"IoT, Big Data and AI: Maritime's Race to a Digital Future" with ST Engineering's Andrew Faiola
"Iridium vs. Inmarsat GMDSS: The Challenge and the Choice"
"The Ultimate Communications Challenge: The 2020' Vendée Globe"
"Innovations in High Bandwidth, Small Terminal Mobility" with Ovzon CEO, Magnus Renee
Welcome to the November 2020 Issue of Satellite Mobility World. Inmarsat's partnership with Hughes is at the top of the news this month. Announced weeks after Intelsat's acquisition of Gogo's commercial IFC business, it's the topic of our Editorial, The New Battle in the IFC Communications Market, and our interview, Hughes' Jupiter and the Upset in the IFC Market, with Hughes Network System's, EVP, Paul Gaske.
Next, in interviews with RigNet's Errol Olivier and ST Engineering's, Director of Mobility, Andrew Faiola, we explore digitalization's impact on the Energy and Maritime industries. Errol's perspective is unique. As one of the first CEOs of Caprock Communications, he's a legendary figure in the Offshore Communications Industry. In Maritime, Andrew has led Intelsat's and ST-Engineering's initiatives in the sector and was a star panelist on ST Engineering's recent webinar, the Devil, and the Deep Blue Sea.
Moving on, we focus on safety at sea and the next-generation of GMDSS and L-Band systems from Iridium and Inmarsat. We review the two offerings and assess each provider's prospects in this hotly contested market. Following that, we have an article on the upcoming Vendée Globe. Learn how these brave sailors communicate as they sail through the treacherous polar regions - alone.
Lastly, in our continuing coverage of innovative ventures and technologies, we look at Ovzon. In CEO Magnus Renee's interview, he reveals how the company avoids adjacent satellite interference and delivers ultra-high-speed service to tiny terminals. Enjoy!
Satellite Mobility World
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Satellite Mobility World
Gottlieb Gottlieb International Group
Washington, DC USA
Satellite Mobility World
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Table of Contents...
"Hot News and Commentary" (pg.3)
"SmallSat News and Ventures" (pg. 4)
Editorially Speaking: "The New Battle in the Satellite In-Flight Communications Market" (pg. 5)
"Hughes' Jupiter & The Inmarsat Deal - Upset in the IFC Market" with Hughes EVP, Paul Gaske (pg. 8)
"Digitalization and The Changing Business of Oilfield Communications" with RigNet COO. Errol Olivier (pg. 15)
"IoT, Big Data and AI: Maritime's Race to a Digital Future" Andrew Faiola, Director of Mobility at ST Engineering (pg. 26)
"Iridium vs. Inmarsat GMDSS: The Challenge and the Choice" (Pg. 34)
"The Ultimate Communications Challenge: The 2020' Vendée Globe" (pg. 40)
"Innovations in High Bandwidth, Small Terminal Mobility" with Ovzon CEO, Magnus Renee (pg 45)
Upcoming Satellite Industry Events (Pg.55)
SATELLITE MOBILITY WORLD
Inmarsat and Hughes Bring Unrivaled Inflight Connectivity to North American Airlines and Passengers
October 20, 2020: Inmarsat, the world leader in global, mobile satellite communications, today unveiled a major strategic collaboration with Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), the global leader in broadband satellite networks and services, marking an important new step change for North American commercial airlines and their passengers.
GX+ North America is a transformational aviation connectivity solution, which has been specifically designed for North American commercial airlines and is available today. It seamlessly integrates the unrivalled capacity of the Hughes JUPITER™ High-Throughput Satellite (HTS) constellation across North America with the extensive worldwide coverage and resilience of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress (GX) HTS satellite network, bringing a unique combination of unprecedented capacity, speed and reliability to the region, unavailable from any other satellite provider.
The ground-breaking new solution underscores Inmarsat’s strategic vision as it looks past the pandemic and into the future needs of commercial airline fleets in North America, whose passengers will require ubiquitous connectivity as they return to the skies.
The ultra-high capacity of GX+ North America will, for the first time, make it possible for North American airlines to meet increasing passenger demand, including the surge in traffic expected from free-of-charge inflight Wi-Fi. Today, satellite networks are trying to serve thousands of commercial aircraft in the world’s busiest airspace, and as they reach capacity, airlines will struggle to meet the demands of data-hungry passengers who want reliable, affordable, high-speed Wi-Fi while on board.
For too long, North American airline passengers have had to settle for constrained bandwidth activities such as email and limited messaging while on board flights. GX+ North America will give passengers the freedom to stream videos and audio, shop online, check and update social media, and catch up on work, all while in the air.
The superior capabilities of GX+ North America mean that North American airlines no longer need to compromise on speed, reliability, availability or coverage for inflight broadband, even when flying at full capacity over the busiest airport hubs. This also offers full flexibility for route planning, even on short notice, as the solution can cover any route worldwide through the GX global network — whether to Hawaii, Canada, Bermuda, the Caribbean, across the Gulf of Mexico, to Central and South America, across the Atlantic or even to the most extreme northern latitudes.
ST Engineering iDirect Provides High-Performance Ground System for SES O3b mPOWER
Herndon, Va., November 3, 2020 – ST Engineering iDirect, a global leader in satellite communications, has announced that it will provide its high-performance ground infrastructure for O3b mPOWER, SES’s next-generation Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) communications system. Pairing ST Engineering iDirect’s breakthrough ground technology with spacecraft innovations, O3b mPOWER will enable a flexible, low-latency, high-speed, fiber-like experience for industry segments that include telcommunications/Mobile Network Operator, government, aerospace, cruise, offshore energy, mining and commercial shipping.The O3b mPOWER system is a critical innovation milestone for the satellite industry. STEngineering iDirect’s high-performance ground technology is key to optimizing the end-to-endcapabilities of the MEO constellation for delivery of highly efficient networks with highly reliable services.
Gilat Successfully Demonstrates Carrying 5G Traffic with Outstanding Performance over Thaicom’s GEO HTS Satellite
Petah Tikva, Israel, October 29, 2020 — Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (NASDAQ, TASE: GILT), a worldwide leader in satellite networking technology, solutions and services, announced today that it successfully demonstrated carrying 5G traffic with outstanding performance over Thaicom’s GEO HTS satellite. With this successful demonstration, Gilat’s cellular backhaul solution is declared operational and ready for implementation in the 5G architecture.
Superior user experience was recorded using Gilat’s Capricorn PLUS VSAT in the live demonstrations last month with two MNOs over Thaicom’s IPSTAR GEO satellite. Using a 5G handset, a large number of applications including: Browsing, Speedtest, Youtube 4K, VoLTE, ViLTE, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and even communication with a drone providing a live video stream, were tested with excellent results.
The tests were done with a number of 5G architecture options, including Standalone (SA) and Non-Standalone (NSA), using Gilat’s Capricorn PLUS with adaptation of its patented GTP acceleration, reaching speeds of 400 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload and at times showing results better than the terrestrial connection.
Iridium Announces Third-Quarter 2020 Results; Improves 2020 Outlook
MCLEAN, Va., Oct. 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Iridium Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: IRDM) ("Iridium") today reported financial results for the third quarter of 2020 and updated its full-year 2020 outlook. Net loss was $4.0 million, or $0.03 per diluted share, for the third quarter of 2020, as compared to net loss of $18.0 million, or $0.14 per diluted share, for the third quarter of 2019. This decrease in net loss was primarily the result of lower net interest expenses related to the refinancing of Iridium's credit facility and high-yield notes from the year ago period. Also contributing to the improvement was growth in service revenue and lower selling, general and administrative expense. Operational EBITDA ("OEBITDA")(1) for the third quarter was $93.4 million, as compared to $88.5 million for the prior-year period, representing a year-over-year increase of 6% and an OEBITDA margin(1) of 62%. OEBITDA primarily benefitted from increased commercial revenue and a reduction in operating expenses.
Iridium reported third-quarter total revenue of $151.5 million, which consisted of $116.9 million of service revenue and $34.6 million of revenue related to equipment sales and engineering and support projects. Total revenue increased 5% versus the comparable period of 2019, while service revenue grew by 1%. Service revenue, which represents primarily recurring revenue from Iridium's growing subscriber base, was 77% of total revenue for the third quarter of 2020.
The Company ended the quarter with 1,429,000 total billable subscribers, which compares to 1,269,000 for the year-ago period and is up by a record 67,000 from 1,362,000 for the quarter ended June 30, 2020. Subscriber growth during the most recent quarter was driven by rising activations of personal communications devices. Total billable subscribers grew 13% year-over-year, driven by growth in commercial IoT customers.
"Iridium's business model has proven quite resilient given the importance of our services in the face of a global pandemic," said Matt Desch, CEO, Iridium. Desch continued, "Iridium delivered a record 67,000 net subscriber additions during the quarter, which drove sequential growth in commercial services. Subscriber equipment sales also increased by 18% year-over-year, driven by increased demand in the third quarter."
Commenting on the full-year outlook, Desch added, "In light of continued momentum, Iridium is raising its full-year guidance for 2020. We now expect to generate approximately $355 million in operational EBITDA and finish the year with net leverage of approximately 4.0 times operational EBITDA. With nearly a full turn of deleveraging in 2020, we are well on our way to achieving our targeted leverage range and undertaking material returns of capital to shareholders."
Starlink Mission - SpaceX's 100th Successful Flight
On Saturday, October 24 at 11:31 a.m. EDT, 11:31 UTC, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched 60 Starlink satellites to orbit from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Falcon 9’s first stage previously supported the GPS III Space Vehicle 03 mission in June 2020 and a Starlink mission in September 2020. Following stage separation, SpaceX landed Falcon 9’s first stage on the “Just Read the Instructions” droneship, which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The Starlink satellites deployed approximately 1 hour and 3 minutes after liftoff.
Intellian launches C700 Iridium Certus® Maritime Terminal
October 20, 2020: Intellian’s eagerly-awaited C700 Iridium Certus® maritime terminal has now been launched and is expected to quickly secure a reputation as the most powerful and technically advanced Iridium Certus® terminal on the market.
With its best-in-class RF performance, the C700 can deliver out-of-the-box uplink speeds of 352kbps and downlink speeds of 704kbps by default, with equally impressive low-elevation-angle RF efficiency thanks to its unique 12-patch phased array antenna technology. It will support three high-quality, low-latency phone lines simultaneously; and as a solid-state antenna with no moving parts inside, the C700 is especially robust, requiring no scheduled maintenance over its lifetime.
The advanced performance of the C700 provides customers across all markets with the flexibility to deploy it as the primary communication antenna or as a companion to a VSAT system for seamless redundancy. For primary communications, the Below Deck Unit (BDU) incorporates key features which make it ready to deploy without additional cost, including firewall, IP PBX, WAN port and built-in Wi-Fi. Hardware and software functions such as these, incorporated into the system, make the C700 the most powerful, feature-rich L-band solution on the market, delivering best in class performance and functionality. The innate stability and reliable connectivity afforded by the C700 also make it an ideal platform for future safety services, including the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
The C700 delivers installation efficiency both through the product design and the commissioning process. The BDU, weighing approximately 1.2kg, is available as a standalone bulkhead mount system or a 19” all-in-one rack-mount version. With its small, lightweight and space-saving form factor, the C700 can be carried on board by just one technician or crew member for rapid and low-cost installation. Once the C700 is installed, the built-in, user-friendly AptusLX software enhances the commissioning and setup experience of customers and partners. An attractive proposition for crew communications with its multiple high-quality voice lines, the C700 is also protected with Intellian’s international support and service network infrastructure, and comes with a three-year warranty for parts and labor.
Aireon Expands Global Aviation Data Services
MCLEAN, VIRGINIA – 28 October 2020 – Today, Aireon LLC (Aireon) announced the launch of three new commercial data products: AireonFLOW™, AireonINSIGHTS™ and AireonSTREAM™. These products aim to provide unique solutions to stakeholders in the aviation industry and beyond—significantly expanding the use cases of Aireon’s high-fidelity, Air Traffic Services (ATS) surveillance-grade data to a global audience.
This announcement marks the first time Aireon’s global dataset will be available beyond its traditional ATS surveillance enhancement application from Aireon directly, a move that will offer exciting and innovative solutions to the broader Air Traffic Management (ATM) industry and beyond.
“This is an exciting next step for Aireon in our mission to expand the implementation of single-source, high-fidelity data to a global audience,” says Don Thoma, CEO, Aireon. “Since the Aireon system went live in 2018, our space-based ADS-B air traffic surveillance data has provided the first-ever solution for surveillance of aircraft in real time, anywhere on earth. With our new commercial products, we can leverage that data to help provide innovative solutions to challenges in aviation, across air traffic flow management, aircraft operations and more.”
Each product, while leveraging Aireon’s high-fidelity data, has its own use cases for customers, such as Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs), aircraft and fleet operators, tracking systems, financial institutions, insurance companies and across the Air Traffic Management (ATM) industry as a whole.
Ovzon Signs Strategic Agreement with Hellas-Sat, Expanding Geographic Reach
Stockholm - October 12, 2020: Ovzon and Hellas-sat have entered a strategic partnership to jointly offer high-capacity portable broadband solutions. The partnership leverages both companies’ technologies, industry expertise, resources, and market presence to promote joint business. Hellas-sat provides satellite capacity to power the services in Europe and the Middle East, while Ovzon will package and market the solutions. The agreement is complementary to Ovzon’s present agreements with Hispasat and
Intelsat, bringing additional regional capacity in Europe. The service is based on Ovzon’s mobile, easy-to-use, terminals and are brought to the market as a flexible service with fixed or mobile connection. The service includes terminal and
connectivity and is available with different service levels. The terminal equipment is included in the service and the customers can get started at a basic level and gradually expand the use as needed. Under the agreement Ovzon and Hellas-sat will share the revenues from the services.
Hunter Group ASA Partners with Nautilus Labs, KONGSBERG, DNV GL and OSM to Optimize Fleet Performance
(New York, NY — OCT 13) Hunter Group ASA, a VLCC owner/operator based in Norway, formally commenced collaboration with Nautilus Labs, KONGSBERG, DNV GL and OSM. The collaboration was forged with the goal of elevating Hunter’s focus on vessel operational excellence through a commitment to achieving a greener supply chain operation.
Nautilus, the technology firm advancing the efficiency of ocean commerce through artificial intelligence, has been selected by Hunter to deploy its decision support software solution across 7 new VLCCs. Access to Nautilus Platform will allow Hunter to reference a sophisticated system to ensure that the company maximizes vessel yield. Nautilus’s intelligent decision support solution unifies all fleet intelligence and recommends optimal operating configurations that will reduce Hunter’s environmental footprint and promote overall business sustainability.
Kongsberg Digital, will enable Hunter’s vessels with Vessel Insight, the next generation data infrastructure that will facilitate reliable and consistent sensor data connectivity and transmission to the cloud where it can be shared with partners of KONGSBERG’s ecosystem, such as Nautilus Labs and DNV GL.
Speedcast Files Plan of Reorganization and Disclosure Statement Outlining Clear Path to Emergence from Chapter 11
Terms include a $500 Million equity investment and a reduction in secured debt of $634 million
Sydney – October 10, 2020 – Speedcast International Limited (ASX:SDA) today announced that it has filed a Plan of Reorganization and Disclosure Statement outlining the terms for its financial restructuring under chapter 11 of the United States Bankruptcy Code. The documents set out a clear and defined timeline for creditors to submit their votes in advance of a Plan confirmation hearing anticipated in December 2020. The Company expects to emerge in the first quarter of 2021, after receiving final regulatory approvals and customary closing conditions outlined in the Plan.
Upon emergence, the terms of the Plan would provide Speedcast with a new $500 million equity investment, led by affiliates of Centerbridge Partners, L.P., and a reduction of all of the $634 million senior secured debt of the Company. The Plan has received the unanimous support of Speedcast’s Board of Directors and has the support of the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, which has issued a letter recommending that all unsecured creditors vote to accept the Plan.
The Company and its Board of Directors are confident the current Plan represents the best opportunity to position Speedcast for long-term success, while maximizing value for its creditors and other stakeholders. As part of the Plan process, the Company and its creditors can also consider any higher and better Plan proposed prior to the Plan confirmation hearing.
The Plan provides for a cash payment to holders of secured claims. A number of the company’s trade vendors are crucial to its future, and the Plan provides these crucial trade vendors with a partial cash payment on account of their unsecured claims.
Unsecured creditors generally will share in recoveries from a litigation trust. As previously indicated, the Plan does not contemplate any recovery for existing shareholders, and existing shareholders would no longer have an equity interest in the reorganized Speedcast Group following its emergence from chapter 11.
Speedcast first announced its decision to recapitalize its business through voluntary Chapter 11 proceedings on April 23, 2020.
Comtech Telecommunications Corp. Receives $1.7 Million in Orders from Government Entity in Asia
October 14, 2020 at 9:00 AM EDT
MELVILLE, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Oct. 14, 2020-- October 14, 2020-- Comtech Telecommunications Corp. (NASDAQ: CMTL) announced today that its Tempe, Arizona-based subsidiary, Comtech EF Data Corp., which is part of Comtech's Commercial Solutions segment, received an aggregate of $1.7 million in orders for Up and Down Frequency Converters and Low Noise Amplifiers (“LNAs”) from a large government entity in Asia.
After a competitive request for proposal process and vendor evaluation, the government entity selected Comtech EF Data’s Frequency Converters and LNAs to support a significant network upgrade. The Comtech equipment will replace a mix of vendors’ installed equipment. The enhanced network infrastructure will support critical voice, data, and video applications, as well as inter-branch office communications.
Comtech EF Data has developed and manufactured an extensive line-up of Frequency Conversion and Amplifier solutions for over 25 years, with L-, C-, X-, Ku- and Ka-Band offerings. The indoor and outdoor products are field-proven, cost-effective and provide the reliability and performance needed to support fixed and mobile/transportable applications for commercial and government customers. The industry-leading Frequency Converters feature high gain and low phase noise performance along with a patented Daisy Chain Redundancy system that fits within minimum rack space.
“I am pleased that Comtech was selected to supply equipment for this government network,” said Fred Kornberg, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Comtech Telecommunications Corp. “This customer’s decision to exclusively utilize Comtech products is a testament to our demonstrated performance and quality.”
Comtech EF Data Corp. is a leading supplier of communications equipment with a focus on satellite bandwidth efficiency and link optimization. The high-performance satellite communications ground equipment is deployed globally to support mission-critical and demanding applications for government, mobile backhaul, premium enterprise and mobility. Service providers, satellite operators, governments and commercial users wanting to optimize communications, increase throughput and delight customers, are leveraging the performance and flexibility of the Comtech brand. The solutions are facilitating fixed and mobile networks in 160+ countries and across every ocean. For more information, visit www.comtechefdata.com.
Hot News and Commentary
Jerry Welsh, New CEO of ICEYE US, Ramping Up US Manufacturing and Operations
Washington, D.C. – October 29, 2020 – ICEYE, the global leader in small satellite synthetic-aperture radar (SAR) technology, today announced that Jerry Welsh, who joined ICEYE in 2017 as COO/CFO, will take on the CEO role for ICEYE US. Welsh, an operations and technology expert who specializes in scale-up strategy recently oversaw the completion of ICEYE’s $87 million Series C financing. He will lead a team focused on deploying capital to scale operations and serve the needs of US customers.
“2020 has been an incredible year for ICEYE,” said Welsh, CEO of ICEYE US. “I am looking forward to broadening our footprint and deepening our impact in the US. Our next steps include expanding teams on East and West coasts, creating US production facilities, and developing a US satellite operations center. We will continue to champion the revolutionary value of SAR technologies to US government and commercial markets.”
ICEYE, which has raised a total of $152 million in funding to date, has big plans for continued growth through the rest of 2020 and into 2021. The company successfully launched two radar imaging satellites last month and is on track to launch additional satellites by the end of the year. ICEYE is planning to deploy eight additional satellites in 2021, including spacecraft manufactured and launched in the United States.
Cobham SATCOM and Kepler Communications Achieve Best-in-Class Data Rates on Maritime Satellite Terminals Over LEO Network
October 23, 2020 -Toronto, Canada and Copenhagen, Denmark –– Cobham SATCOM, a market leading provider of radio and satellite communications solutions, and Kepler Communications, a pioneer of nanosatellite telecommunications solutions, have today announced its completion of connectivity trials on Kepler’s low-Earth orbit (LEO) network with the SAILOR 600 VSAT Ku antenna system. The companies demonstrated downlink rates of 150 Mbps and uplink rates of 130Mbps on a 65cm antenna with a 6W BUC over the Kepler LEO network. These data rates are the fastest achieved in an antenna of this class. Typically these speeds are only achieved on much larger antennas with bigger amplifiers and using much larger satellites.
The tests were the first of their kind to be carried out by an antenna and satellite operator and obtained data transfer speeds 30x faster than any antenna of a similar size currently available for the maritime sector; further strengthening the market leading capabilities of Cobham SATCOM’s and Kepler Communications’ partnership.
The successful completion of the test will pave the way for the commercial rollout of the SAILOR 600 VSAT Ku on the Kepler LEO network. The partnership’s steadfast reliability and ability to rapidly transfer large quantities of data will make it the optimal choice for highly specialized vessels operating in remote locations, such as Arctic research vessels and seismic exploration vessels. For example, it will enable such vessels to manage and offload large quantities of data in near real time, and, in cases where relevant, enable much faster progress on studies pertaining to critical global issues, such as climate change. The two companies are already working on a number of live customer trials using the SAILOR 600 platform for both maritime and fixed site applications.
This announcement follows the successful launch of Kepler’s first pair of satellites in their GEN1 constellation. Osborne continued: “With the official launch of our GEN1 service satellites combined with the demonstrated performance of our network, Kepler is taking a leading position in the delivery of wideband SATCOM services from LEO.”
The recent Cobham SATCOM and Kepler Communications network collaboration follows a strategic partnership announced at the end of last year which aimed at eliminating barriers to the widespread adoption of high capacity data services over Kepler’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) network through their ‘User Terminal-as-a-Service’ (UTaaS) offering. The new UTaaS partnership saw two re-configured Sea Tel 9711 antennas successfully installed on the Polarstern research vessel, which is set to complete its voyage later this year.
Kepler Communications Awards Service Agreement to Momentus
October 20th, 2020 --Santa Clara, CA --Momentus Inc. (“Momentus” or the “Company”), a commercial space company offering in-space infrastructure services, and Kepler Communications Inc. (“Kepler”), developer and operator of next-gen satellite communications technologies, have signed a launch service agreement to deploy two additional satellites for Kepler’s GEN1 constellation in 2021. Momentus’ rideshare service will include launch provisions and delivery to the customer’s desired orbital altitude while maintaining the SSO inclination using Momentus’ Vigoride transfer vehicle.
The GEN1 platform supports both Kepler’s Global Data Service, a wideband high-capacity data service, and EverywhereIoT, a narrowband solution for Internet of Things applications. With deployment beginning in late 2020, Kepler’s GEN1 constellation is the first to offer both wideband and narrowband services from LEO. The two new satellites will deliver additional
commercial capacity for Kepler’s Global Data Service and provide additional support for
on-going technology demonstrations for EverywhereIoT. For communications and IoT satellites, the Local Time of the Ascending Node (LTAN/LTDN) is important in terms of offering fleet coverage diversity so that a satellite operator can offer data and analytics over a variety of times. Once in orbit, Momentus' Vigoride transfer vehicle can change the LTAN/LTDN of a spacecraft deployed by using precession -- a change in the orientation of the rotational axis of a rotating body. Kepler will be a prominent customer for Momentus’ LTAN shift service as they build out their constellation.
AFWERX Announces Hawkeye 360 Among Top Teams Selected To Revolutionize The Space Ecosystem
Herndon, Virginia (October 15, 2020) — AFWERX, the catalyst for fostering innovation within the U.S. Air Force, announced HawkEye 360 as one of the top 26 participating teams out of 809 total teams selected from across the globe competing in the EngageSpace challenge, working to revolutionize how the space ecosystem works, dismantle the walls between sectors and close the “believability gap” for what’s possible in space.
The EngageSpace Challenge is centered around four key topics – Department of Defense Commercial Space Partnerships, Global Space Transport and Delivery, Persistent ISR and Space Asset Resiliency.
Located in Herndon, Virginia, HawkEye 360 competed in the Department of Defense Commercial Space Partnership Challenge alongside a diverse group of teams – originating from the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia, Brazil and other allied countries – that represent entrepreneurial startups, small businesses, large enterprises, academic institutions and research labs all vying to enable government buyers to pursue the most promising solutions to the most pressing challenges in the space domain.
“The AFWERX EngageSpace Challenge is critical to the future of industrial development in space,” stated Mark Rowland of AFWERX. “On behalf of AFWERX and the Department of Defense, we congratulate the teams advancing to the next phase. Their contributions are invaluable and have the potential to create game-changing results across the Air Force enterprise.”
The Department of Defense Commercial Space Partnership Challenge focuses on magnifying the capabilities of the Department of Defense (DoD) by expanding and strengthening its commercial portfolio. Teams competed to identify cutting-edge commercial satellite technology and uncover new payload ideas, designs, and prototypes to expand the DoD’s capabilities.
HawkEye 360 will provide its on-orbit satellite constellation to collect, store and transmit shared RF GEOINT to the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and its mission partners. This proven and cost effective ISR platform will augment and collaborate with existing overhead, airborne and terrestrial systems to provide a more complete and sharable stream of actionable data to the war fighter. HawkEye 360’s signals library and analytics platforms will be extended to reflect potential threats and systems of interest identified by the USAF.
International Consortium Adds Hyperspectral Imaging and Communication Payloads to NanoAvionics’ Rideshare Mission Named D-2/AtlaCom-1
October 23, 2020: NanoAvionics, a leading nanosatellite bus manufacturer and mission integrator, has revealed the remaining three payloads of its ‘D-2/AtlaCom-1’ rideshare mission hosted on board its M6P 6U nanosatellite bus. The additional payloads, a camera for hyperspectral remote sensing, a new high-gain X-band antenna and an upgraded X-Band downlink transmitter, are all part of an international collaboration by an international consortium and its partners called “HyperActive”.
The consortium partners for this international collaboration comprise Dragonfly Aerospace (South Africa), Space JLTZ (Mexico) and NanoAvionics US as a supplier to the consortium, as well as mission contributors Polytechnical University of Atlacomulco (Mexico), and CubeCom (South Africa). Expected to launch in mid-2021, the primary aim of the HyperActive program is a flight demonstration of the hyperspectral imaging and communication payloads. The secondary aim is to evaluate market interest for hyperspectral imaging data captured and processed as part of the program.
Within this collaboration, NanoAvionics will act as the supplier to the HyperActive consortium, taking care of all aspects related to the satellite mission including among others payload integration, performance testing, spacecraft registration and logistics, frequency allocation and payload on-orbit operations.
TriSept Inks U.S. Army CubeSat Mission Set to Launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron
CHANTILLY, VA – October 21, 2020 – TriSept Corporation, a leading provider of launch integration and mission management services, today announced it has signed a launch services contract with the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC) unit to broker and integrate a milestone CubeSat technology demonstration mission scheduled to launch aboard a Rocket Lab Electron early next year.
As part of the demonstration mission, the U.S. Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command will test a proven small satellite bus as host of its new 3U Gunsmoke-J technology initiative aimed at fostering the development of new, game-changing capabilities for the U.S. Army’s tactical ground forces.
“Gunsmoke-J is a joint capability technology demonstration executed by the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command and sponsored by both the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense and the U.S. Army,” said Eddie Johnson, Gunsmoke-J Program Manager, U.S. Army SMDC Technical Center. “This science and technology effort will demonstrate an entry-level capability in a 3U form factor relevant to U.S. Army warfighter needs. The mission will also help inform future acquisition decisions.”
TriSept secured both the U.S. Army’s rideshare slot and payload dispenser, which will release the 3U CubeSat into orbit once in space aboard the Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle. TriSept will integrate the small satellite with the CubeSat dispenser at Rocket Lab’s Long Beach, California facility about 30 days before the scheduled launch date.
TriSept’s team will then travel to the Rocket Lab launch site in Mahia, New Zealand, where it will manage the integration and encapsulation of the dispenser device, carrying the satellite and electrical interfaces inside the fairing, about two to three weeks prior to liftoff atop Electron’s upper stage.
“This leading-edge mission for the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command will orbit aboard a satellite smaller than a loaf of bread, but will have a huge impact on milestone developments in warfighter capabilities on the battlefield and beyond,” said Rob Spicer, TriSept CEO. “TriSept is thrilled to have secured the rideshare slot, dispenser hardware, regulatory compliance in both nations, and spacecraft integration for this important technology demonstration in space. We look forward to integrating this small but game-changing payload aboard a Rocket Lab Electron in the coming months.”
“This rideshare exemplifies the very heart of our overall vision at Rocket Lab; that even the smallest of the small satellites can make a major difference in both commercial and government markets,” said Lars Hoffman, senior vice president of Global Launch Services for Rocket Lab. “The U.S. Army will be able to hone its capabilities around the world as a result of this CubeSat mission for the Space and Missile Defense Command. We look forward to another Electron launch with TriSept’s key launch integration and overall program support ahead of liftoff set for Q1 next year.”
Smallsat News and Ventures
The New Battle in the Satellite In-Flight Communications Market
The commercial airline IFC market is about to become a battleground. Following Intelsat’s market-moving purchase of Gogo, Inmarsat just announced that they will be leasing capacity on Hughes Network Systems' Jupiter satellites, making them a major competitor in the North American market. That’s a bombshell event and a gut-punch to the ambitions of existing competitors and Intelsat.
Believe it or not, the situation could get even worse. To remain competitive, Panasonic Avionics, Thales and Global Eagle also need to integrate vertically. If any of these providers locate an acquirer-partner, Intelsat, Inmarsat, and ViaSat, they will face more vertically integrated competitors in a dangerously saturated market.
In today’s IFC business, Airlines no longer get hardware, bandwidth, and satellite capacity for free and enjoy risk-free revenue share. They have to pay for it.
If free in-flight Wi-Fi becomes a reality, as many expect, Airline in-flight Wi-Fi becomes a cost center subject to the same tight cost controls Airlines impose on other services. Consider that they are legendary cost-cutters. It's an industry that takes olives out of martinis and even charges for water. Here, it’s wildly optimistic to believe that a competing pack of IFC providers can charge prices high enough to make a profit, especially when their airline customers are firing thousands of employees, cutting routes, and begging for government subsidies.
Of course, it’s no secret that conditions in the airline industry today are abysmal. The demand for IFC is down substantially due to COVID, and it may take 3-4 years before it will return to pre-pandemic levels. With passenger demand at a fraction of normal, airlines may need only 20 Mbps per/aircraft vs. the normal 100 Mbps.
In addition to intense competition and reduced demand, another concern for commercial satellite service providers are the new, ultra-high-speed ATG services about to enter the market.
Forget the seemingly endless wait for a web page to load. By combining licensed and unlicensed bandwidth, Gogo will soon offer 100 Mbps ATG to its current 1,500 ATG customers and SmartSky, deploying similar technology will have equivalent capabilities. ATG hardware costs a fraction of satellite hardware. The service is much less expensive to operate than satellite, making it an obvious choice for regional jets that don’t operate outside of ATG’s ground infrastructure. Of course, Inmarsat’s EAN ATG network is also available in Europe and stands to grab a substantial portion of that market.
These new market dynamics could be advantageous for SES, Eutelsat or another satellite operator. It's also no secret that Panasonic is interested in selling its Avionics business and, due to the channel conflict created by the Intelsat Gogo combination, needs a new satellite operator partner.
Global Eagle is in a similar situation to Panasonic Avionics . It's now owned by a group of PE firms, making it also ripe for acquisition. Additionally, a purchase of either Panasonic Avionics or Global Eagle could yield a rich harvest of IFE content, which could be a significant differentiator in the competition for the commodity-based IFC business. Both companies rely on aging Ku-Band infrastructure that needs to be replaced, making them fair game for satellite operators with excess Ku or Ka-Band capacity.
Given SES' previous initiatives to sell directly to end-users and its propensity to follow Intelsat’s strategic moves, we think a Panasonic acquisition is the next major event in the rapidly evolving consolidation scenario. In any case, the vertical integration of Panasonic, Global Eagle, or Thales' aviation business is a near-term certainty. Survival and ultimately, dominance in this market belongs to a low-cost provider with a differentiated service offering. Given the complex technology offerings of each provider, it's hard to quantify any cost advantage. Eventually, all operators will have new satellites with steerable beams, beamforming, onboard processing or other efficiency-enhancing technologies.
What is clear is that there will be too many players and too much capacity in the market, and LEOs and MEOs will add even more. Competition will be fierce, bandwidth prices will be slashed and low cost, commodity capacity will need to be enhanced by value added services and content.
- Alan Gottlieb
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An Interview with Paul Gaske, Hughes Network Systems Executive V.P. and GM North America
Inmarsat's partnership with Hughes is a significant enhancement to the communication giant's IFC capabilities. Strategically, it's a brilliant move for Inmarsat, giving it access to the enormous Ka-Band capacity of the Hughes Jupiter constellation. While the company was previously at a disadvantage due to its limited satellite capacity in the Americas, it can now compete head-to-head with the other vertically integrated IFC players, Intelsat and ViaSat.
To find out more about this hugely significant partnership and what it means for the market and HNS, we met with Paul Gaske, Hughes Executive V.P. and General Manager for North America.
SMW: You have said previously that your business strategy is to work with airline service providers and not go directly to airlines. Are you changing your business model?
Paul Gaske (PG): Our approach with Inmarsat aligns directly with our business model. We decided that we didn't want to be a retail provider of IFC to the airlines a long time ago. Instead, we wanted to support retail IFC providers with products with products and services, which is what we are doing with Inmarsat.
Inmarsat is a significant player in in-flight communications, and we are delighted to offer our JUPITER technology and capacity to them. While they have the global capacity, they don’t have high-density capacity in the United States, one of the key in-flight connectivity markets. Our JUPITER high-throughput satellites are focused in large part on the U.S., which makes them an excellent complement for Global Xpress. So, it’s a good use of our capacity, and I think it’s going to be a good partnership.
That said, we have other customers that are also using our capacity in the IFC market. For example, Thales, with SES, is using our satellites for some of their airline customers. Ultimately, we hope to be a provider to virtually all IFC providers because of our JUPITER fleet's unique capabilities.
SMW: Can you tell us how you structure your partnerships?
PG: Our partnerships are standard commercial agreements with certain support obligations. We’re selling our services and JUPITER hardware and software, and the partner marries it with their systems and solutions. In each deal, we try to provide custom offerings that suit our service provider's and their customers' needs, making each one unique.
In Inmarsat’s case, they have a unique value proposition due to their global satellite fleet. It’s the marriage of our satellite capacity with theirs that makes this IFC offering very interesting. The result is one of the most stable and tested satellite platforms globally. With our massive capacity over the United States in combination with Global Xpress, the combination is powerful.
SMW: As we both know, the airline industry is in deep financial trouble due to the COVID crisis. Even in good times, the industry is legendary for its ability to slash expenses to rock bottom.
Now, three vertically integrated IFC providers, Intelsat, Inmarsat, and ViaSat, will be competing for the business. In addition, Panasonic, Global Eagle, or Thales could vertically integrate with another satellite operator – possibly SES.
With Wi-Fi likely to be free, IFC will be a cost center for the airlines. How can anyone make a profit in such a price-sensitive, crowded, commodity market?
There is going to be a lot of competition. While Panasonic, Inmarsat, GoGo/Intelsat, and Global Eagle have been large players, Thales could be a major player in a couple of years as well.
At the same time, consider the capacity requirements when hauling several hundred people around in an airplane: as more and more people want to be connected, the amount of bandwidth required is pretty astounding, especially if the service is low cost or free. That means there is going to be quite a demand for capacity, enough to support many competitors. Their relative success will depend on the quality of their service, which can depend on the quality of their underlying suppliers and partners.
SMW: Do you think that together, you and Inmarsat will be the lowest cost provider? Is low-price all you need to succeed in this market, or does it take more? If so, what sort of value-added offerings make a difference?
PG: It’s the right mixture of features and satellite capacity that leads to success. Obviously, if you own the satellites, you have access to the best economics available. But given the fact that our competitors also own their own satellites, differentiation is in other areas. For example, our system is rock solid. Our satellite network is the most tested platform on earth, with over 1.5 million people using it every day, and we have reliability and robustness that no one can surpass.
In addition, if you look at our teaming partners, they all have special capabilities. Thales does a lot of in-cabin applications. Inmarsat has already deployed its L-band network on a lot of airplanes. Global Eagle has a strong entertainment capability due to its very substantial content library. So, everyone has different offerings that they bring to the party. Depending on the customer, they are all going to have some degree of unique positioning.
In each case, winning the business will depend on a combination of price and features most suitable to the customer’s requirements. All of the players have additional services, and each airline will have to decide which services they value the most. However, I think the most basic requirement is meeting the broadband performance metrics for speed and capacity.
SMW: If Wi-Fi becomes free, the percentage of users soars from eight percent to sixty percent. How much capacity will an aircraft need to service a near full aircraft?
PG: It’s a big number. I hear numbers anywhere from 10 to 400 Mbps. If you have the infrastructure to support demand at extreme levels, it’s quite an opportunity.
SMW: Gogo has a large percentage of the U.S. market, and many of its commercial customers are still on Gogo’s ATG network. In addition, Gogo will soon be launching a new, high-speed, 5G version using unlicensed spectrum and capable of 100 Mbps. As ATG hardware is much less costly than satellite to install and operate, won’t many regional jets choose it over satellite?
PG: As far as ATG is concerned, I think it’s a good fit for lower bandwidth aircraft, such as small business jets. However, if Wi-Fi becomes free on commercial jets, demand could increase to the level where satellite is the only alternative.
SMW: Hughes and Inmarsat operate on Ka-Band, they utilize different hub and modem infrastructures. How will you manage the integration of the two networks?
PG: Inmarsat is building a new Modman for this project. It’s a small chassis that includes a seamless controller and both iDirect and Hughes JUPITER modem boards that can switch automatically between the two networks as required. We supply our JUPITER modem to Inmarsat, and the Modman is their product.
SMW: Can you compare your Hughes-Inmarsat Ka-Band infrastructure to that of Intelsat-Gogo’s Ku-band? How do you differentiate in terms of capacity and economics and technology?
PG: I can’t speak to other offerings, but what I can tell you is: Ka provides greater capacity and the ability to focus more bits per square mile, yielding a greater concentration of capacity. The Ka frequency band lends itself to high throughput design as there is more Ka-band spectrum available. Hughes made an early decision in moving from Ku-band to Ka-band and we are very happy with that approach. When JUPITER 3 launches, the JUPITER constellation will bring more than 1 Tbps of high throughput Ka-band capacity to serve the Americas.
SMW: You have chosen to use the ThinKom Ka-Band antenna. What is the logic behind your choice to use the VICTS rather than a conventional gimbaled or, for example, a flat panel, phased array?
PG: The antenna selection is an Inmarsat choice, but that said, Thinkom first developed their style of antenna for the Gogo 2Ku system. We have tested their Ka-band solution, a subsequent product, for several years, and we have had excellent results on our JUPITER network that we believe the airlines will like.
SMW: It won’t be long before LEOs and MEOs become available, bringing even more capacity to the market. How do you see these new constellations impacting the market?
PG: I think all of the satellites – LEO, MEO and GEO – are complimentary. In fact, we demonstrated GEO-MEO roaming in an aero demonstration with SES and Thales last year – achieving over 256 Mbps!
If you think about the region around a major airport, the amount of capacity required there is massive, and you will need all the satellite technologies to meet demand. Also, if you are trying to fly over the poles, a LEO or MEO will be very useful. So, aircraft are likely to be able to accommodate different satellite networks.
SES’s mPower, for example, is expected to blend GEO and MEO capacity. Initially, aircraft will switch from one satellite network to another, but ultimately, when multi-beam capable, phased array antennas become available; capacity from different networks could be combined.
Hughes' Jupiter & The Inmarsat Partnership: Upset in the IFC Market
"In Inmarsat’s case, they have a unique value proposition due to their global satellite fleet. It’s union of our satellite capacity with theirs that makes their IFC offering very interesting."
Paul Gaske leads the North American Division of Hughes, responsible for: HughesNet®, the company’s flagship satellite Internet service; the company’s managed network services for enterprise customers, incorporating satellite, wireless, and wireline technologies; the in-flight broadband business; and numerous SATCOM and emergency service solutions for government and military customers.
Mr. Gaske also oversees Hughes manufacturing, which has produced and shipped more than 7 million terminals to-date, cementing the company’s global leadership in VSAT technology.
Mr. Gaske joined Hughes in 1977 as a digital design engineer and has held a variety of engineering, marketing, and business management positions.
Mr. Gaske earned a Bachelor Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Maryland and a Master Degree in Computer Science from Johns Hopkins University.
Mr. Gaske was inducted into the Space & Satellite Professionals International Hall of Fame in 2020.
An Interview with RigNet COO, Errol Olivier
Digitalization & The Evolving Business of Oilfield Communications
The oil industry has always been an important satellite service market. Driven by the need to connect remote drilling and production, the industry depends on VSAT. Yet the business is changing. It's rapidly evolving beyond the simple provision of bandwidth to include Big Data collection and Artificial Intelligence driven analysis.
Providers in the segment are also under increased pressure to vertically integrate, driven the need to operate more efficiently. No one knows more about this industry than RigNet COO, Errol Olivier.
I have known Errol for a very long time dating back to his 17 year tenure where he served as President and Chief Operating Officer of Caprock Communications, provider of VSAT services to the energy, maritime and government services industry. To help us better sort through the technological change and economic turmoil disrupting this industry, he's been kind enough to share his thoughts and predictions with us.
SMW: As I am sure you are aware, Intelsat recently purchased Gogo’s commercial airline IFC business. The acquisition is notable as it is the first time a major satellite operator has chosen to create a fully vertically integrated service. Do you think the acquisition is the beginning of a trend and, if so, could it spread into the oilfield?
Errol Olivier (EO): We're not surprised. We've thought for years that we could see these sorts of moves.
For example, operators are already disrupting the value chain and bypassing the integrators. They now sell Megabits vs. MHz, enabling them to go around integrators and penetrate further into the group of end-users who have enough sophistication to manage their own terminals.
SES uses its internal service group to sell a full service offering directly to the cruise industry, and even before that Hughes and ViaSat were already selling directly to consumers.
However, in the energy markets, it’s not as easy to grow organically because of the complexity of the customer's needs. The regulatory challenges compounded by a geographically dispersed customer versus one concentrated in predefined areas, create significant challenges for anyone who wants to start from scratch. So yes, I expect you to see the same kind of vertical integration in the energy market as we we're seeing in the airline IFC industry.
SMW: The COVID crisis has resulted in a huge drop in the demand for fuel in the transportation sector and rig counts have fallen precipitously. You interface with some of the largest and most sophisticated oil companies and drilling contractors every day. Do you and your colleagues see the current downturn as short-term, or is the industry planning for a long-term sustained drop in oilfield activity?
EO: With over forty years in the energy industry, I have seen so many cycles like the one we are in now. Will it ever get back to its best days? – I can confidently say that day is not coming back, but it’s not doom and gloom for this industry either.
Petroleum products are not going away - ever. Electric cars will not make oil unimportant. The extensive use of plastic parts in automobiles makes motor vehicles more dependent on petroleum products than ever before in history. Nearly everything we buy has some petroleum-based components - pharmaceuticals, chemicals, fertilizers, plastics. Petroleum is everywhere.
The problem today is not so much a lack of need. It's too much supply. We cannot shut down exploration to flip the supply–demand balance. It’s not that easy.
Production must go on, and with it, there is a tremendous need to reach the most remote locations, many of which are offshore. That's why the industry can't do without reliable satellite communications.
SMW: Satellite technology is rapidly evolving. New satellites will soon be launched, equipped with onboard processing power and beamforming capabilities. We will have small GEOs, LEOs, and MEOs. Which of these technologies and orbital solutions do you believe will have the most significant impact on oilfield communication?
EO: Good try, but you won’t get me to reveal my most valuable and insightful secrets! On a serious note, you can’t pick just one platform. Each of these solutions plays a role and can co-exist for niche needs within the oil and gas industry.
Yes, LEO and MEO low latency is a sweetener. However, even if you take the latency away using these satellites, the problem is the cost and complexity of the ground equipment required to support them. It's complex and expensive to own, operate, and maintain. So it's a trade-off.
We've learned to deal with a GEO's latency. So, it doesn't matter that much. Due to their proven ground infrastructure and high-efficiency, GEOs still have the advantage, except in polar regions.
Ultimately, no single platform will disrupt the world of satellite communications. However, I think the most powerful satellites with the lowest cost per bit will prevail as long as the ground infrastructure to support them is reliable, cost-efficient and manageable.
For instance, at RigNet, we’re agnostic about the technology. Our goal is to deliver the best service in the industry at a competitive price without being tied to specific technology or satellite platforms.
SMW: As you are aware, companies such as Infrastructure Networks is providing private cellular capacity to land-based drilling and fracking operations. Does this business have a future given the new oilfield economics and the coming of lower cost per bit satellite communication? Can cellular still compete?
EO: Terrestrial mobile connectivity is here to stay and will continue to be an underlying carrier medium in somewhat rural locations.
However, I don’t see economics strong enough to justify building out cellular networks in the most remote locations. Drilling operations in these areas could be much more economically supported by satellites at reasonable rates.
The fact is that land-based drilling is a challenge. Rig counts fluctuate up and down like a roller coaster, and drilling areas can shift quickly and dramatically. Flexibility is the key, and it's very complicated to achieve it in remote areas with fixed infrastructure.
SMW: Everyone in the oil patch is always talking about the “digital oilfield.” Are the major oil companies and drilling contractors adopting IoT, Big Data, and Artificial Intelligence in a big way or is the trend still in its infancy? Can you give us some examples of recently completed projects that are illustrative of the trend?
EO: The oilfield is moving on to utilizing smart analytics to help operate safer, faster, smarter, and more profitably.
What if I could tell you by sensing shock, vibrations, temperature, and pressure that something bad was about to happen, and an artificially intelligent system could redirect your driller to avoid a catastrophe?
What if I could tell you that the pressure and torque you're sensing on a drill pipe string wasn't some small anomaly but a critical situation you needed to avoid immediately to save lives, property, and the environment?
What if I could give you a drilling plan to follow, backed by real data and logic from a dozen wells previously drilled by the same class of rigs in the same geology to shorten your drilling schedule by days?
EO: That's the value of AI where collecting and analyzing data brings the increased productivity and cost reductions, which far outweigh the investment.
At RigNet we had a choice; stick around and continue doing what we do in the satellite industry only to fall victim to commoditization of bandwidth or chart a new course and build a stack of solutions that creates true value for our customer base.
We recognize how important it is to provide more than a simple "pipe" of connectivity. We are gaining market share in energy because we not only provide great service at a competitive price, we’re delivering value in ways no one else can.
SMW: Gathering sensor data from drilling rigs and supportive equipment and transmitting it to the cloud is relatively straight forward. However, to be useful, the data must be analyzed, and actions taken based on the analyses' results. Can you give us some examples of how this is done now?
EO: There can be thousands of tags of data collected on a drilling rig each day. Before transmission, they must go through data aggregation, data normalization, and data quality management. We do that and more.
Think about a spreadsheet with thousands of lines of information coming to you daily in raw form. It’s incomprehensible, isn’t it?
People say data is valuable. It’s not the data, it’s the synthesis of it that lets you draw conclusions and take action.
At our Intelie subsidiary, we help customers rationalize the mega data in several ways so it can be seen, read or acted upon either automatically using Artificial Intelligence or with the support of the human component.
SMW: AI-based video surveillance is being used more often in the oilfield. We recently interviewed Osperity, and I understand you have a competitive product. Can you describe your capabilities in this area and give some examples?
EO: We all have a mousetrap; the debate is whose is better. In video transmission, bandwidth is always the primary concern, even as we see the price per megabit dropping over time.
Our AVI (Advanced Video Intelligence) solution allows us to manage the bandwidth required intelligently for each application. If high resolution is needed, we dynamically increase the bandwidth only when it's needed. Note that we are not always transmitting high-resolution. We are recording it locally on-site. So, with a few keystrokes the customer can recall the high-resolution picture or video. There are quite a few applications for the technology.
For example, we can create geo-fences to alert us if unauthorized personnel stray into restricted areas on a rig. We also have a helmet cam where a technician on the rig can talk to someone onshore who can direct him through a repair process without the cost and delay of flying someone to the remote site.
SMW: As you know, there is a huge rush to develop flat panel, electronically steered antennas. Do you see a role for these antennas in the oilfield, or do you believe offshore rigs and OSVs will continue to rely on traditional, mechanically stabilized antennas?
EO: The desire for better antennas has been around as long as I can remember, and we still aren't there yet. Why can’t we have an antenna with no physical moving parts that's highly efficient, low-cost and reliable? So yes, flat panel, electronically steered antennas would be desirable.
As a service provider, our profitability on a site can go negative with a single antenna failure - not to mention the customers' frustrations with downtime.
While ESAs may offer enhanced reliability, I have yet to see an Electronically Steered Antenna (ESA) that offers a conventional stabilized antenna's efficiency. Assuming equal efficiencies, I would embrace the use of such antennas if the footprints were small.
Despite the size of an offshore rig, there is always a challenge to find space for a 2.4-meter dome, much less, two of them to mitigate blockage. So, bring me a small-footprint antenna where failure is no longer an issue, reliability is unmatched, gain is better, and the price is comparable to stabilized antennas, and I might have your PO.
SMW: Errol, you have been in the oilfield communication business longer than anyone I know and probably the best-known authority on oilfield satellite communications.
During your career, how has the business evolved and what's your perspective on the future?
EO: Alan, your comment is very flattering, and I appreciate your thoughts. My contribution to the industry was the multi-tenant model. By enabling multiple entities - oil companies, drilling contractors, and service companies - to share communications infrastructure, I made the use of satellite communications affordable.
That strategy still exists today and has truly been a win-win for the foursome at play: (1) the communications service provider, (2) the drilling company, (3) the operators, and (4) the third-party contractors, as each party enjoys a better service at a reasonable price.
Today, we have entered an era when the remote operations are so sophisticated and the connectivity so secure that companies can run many operations from abroad.
Despite the advancements in oil field communications, we will never eliminate the need for offshore rig personnel. However using robotics, data aggregation, data normalization and analytics will greatly reduce the need for so many people offshore.
Today, the offshore communications industry has transformed in a way that we never thought possible. HTS satellites have made bandwidth magnitudes much less costly. AI and Big Data are actively used and vertical integration of the industry may soon be a reality.
"... in the energy markets, it’s not as easy to grow organically because of the complexity of the customer's needs. The regulatory challenges compounded by a geographically dispersed customer versus one concentrated in predefined areas, create significant challenges for anyone who wants to start from scratch. "
"At RigNet we had a choice; stick around and continue doing what we do in the satellite industry only to fall victim of commoditization of bandwidth or chart a new course and build a stack of solutions that creates true value for our customer base."
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About Errol Olivier
Mr. Olivier manages all customer-facing functions including sales, sales engineering, service delivery, bids and proposals and the company’s Global Network Operations Centers.
Mr. Olivier brings more than thirty years of experience in telecommunications for the oil and gas, maritime, cruise and leisure boating, government services and satellite industries.
Prior to joining RigNet, his previous roles include President and Chief Executive Officer of MTN Satellite Communications; President, Chief Executive Officer, and Chairman of Broadpoint; and President and Chief Operating Officer of CapRock Communications.
Mr. Olivier graduated from Louisiana Technical College/T.H. Harris Branch in Opelousas with a degree in Industrial Electronics Technology.
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IoT, Big Data and AI: Maritime's Race to a Digital Future
An Interview Andrew Faiola, Director of Mobility at ST Engineering iDirect
In ST Engineering iDirect's recent webinar, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, panelists explored the maritime industry's quest for digitalization, its challenges, and its ultimate benefits. Digitalization is a critical topic for the shipping industry as its never been more important to control costs and improve efficiency at sea, especially in a sagging global economy.
To explore the topic in greater detail, SMW prepared a list of questions and caught up with ST Engineering's Andrew Faiola, one of the webinar's panelists.
SMW: While maritime IoT, combined with Big Data Analysis and Artificial Intelligence, offers significant advantages for the maritime industry, the adoption of these technologies has not yet been widespread. What do you believe is holding back their adoption? Note that Kongsberg has been very active in this area but has only been able to equip a relatively small number of vessels.
Andrew Faiola (AF) The industry is historically conservative and tends only to adopt new technology when forced to by regulations or enticed by a clear profit-making opportunity. Milestones like compliance with Maritime Labor Convention 2006 for crew welfare, International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 for reduced sulfur content, and IMO 2021 for cyber-security, along with de-carbonization, have all catalyzed the demand for satellite technology.
It is also worth noting that the shipping industry is incredibly fragmented. Even when the name brands start to adopt digital technologies, tens of thousands of other vessels are ill-equipped to confront digitalization and will struggle to justify adoption.
SMW: Digitalization appears to be a somewhat-complex IT-driven project involving many stakeholders, consultants, and high economic cost. Can you give us some actual examples from shipping companies who have gone through the digitalization process? What are the steps in the implementation of a digital strategy? How long does it take, and how much does it cost?
AF: I can provide a good example of a shipping company that has engaged in the digitalization process. P&O Logistics partnered with Baker Hughes to implement VitalyX. This lubricating oil monitoring platform utilizes enhanced algorithms and machine learning to create a picture of a machine's health and prevent asset loss.
The main driver behind the decision to digitalize was to improve up-time by 10%. Partnering with Baker Hughes, P&O Logistics co-developed the solution over 12 months, and enabled them to gain great insight into their equipment's health on board their vessels.
The monitoring of lubrication oil levels was previously a very lengthy process, involving a sample being taken and sent away for analysis. It could take weeks to get the results. Today, the VitalyX solution runs checks on the levels every 15 seconds, giving up to the minute analysis and improved operations transparency.
The adoption of VitalyX has led to the implementation of other types of monitoring, such as engine data and vibration analysis. It is a case of putting the pieces of a puzzle together to give a complete and improved picture. With more insight into the health of on board systems, P&O Logistics can increase operational efficiency. The solution was affordable, and the ROI took about a year and a half.
SMW: In the containership industry, a relatively small number of very large operators control a substantial percentage of the vessels. While these companies have substantial resources to implement a digitalization strategy, small operators find implementation difficult due to limited budgets and manpower. Will there ever be “off-the-shelf” digital solutions that will make it easy and economical for small operators to adopt digitalization?
AF: There is a vibrant start-up scene for various digital solutions with many ports, service providers, shipping companies, and equipment vendors launching incubators or garage-style environments for innovation.
However, both large and small shipping companies mainly want to work with known quantities, so gaining traction for some of these “off-the-shelf” solutions is a challenge. That said, I think, large well-established companies will acquire truly valuable start-ups and their solutions and incorporate into their established offerings.
We are also seeing many traditional connectivity service providers moving toward full-spectrum IT services. This integration should reduce the risk of working with small, less established companies and remove the burden of managing multiple vendors' systems.
SMW: In the “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” several use cases demonstrated digitalization's value. Can you recap some of those examples? Are voyage optimization and the associated fuel savings still the primary driver of adoption, or are there other major economic benefits emerging?
AF: As long as bunker fuel is the largest OPEX item, and it is typically at least two-thirds of a vessel's running costs, the first applications will reduce fuel consumption. These include voyage optimization, trim, and hull monitoring applications.
Other cost-saving applications such as predictive maintenance and condition-based monitoring programs will also be popular since they can lower repair bills and reduce the frequency of unexpected breakdowns, and even lower insurance premiums. Augmented reality (AR) and AI-based collision avoidance systems can result in further savings through crew size reductions.
SMW: As you know, collecting sensor data alone is not enough. The data needs to be transmitted and analyzed. How has the analysis and interpretation of data progressed?
AF: Multitudes of companies base their business models on the delivery of actionable data. Ultimately, many users want to transmit it back to shore, where multiple users can access it.
However, what needs to be transmitted in real-time, near real-time, or not at all, is yet to be resolved. In the future, under 5G, some data may be processed and analyzed at the edge rather than transmitted via satellite to the Cloud.
SMW: One of the critical questions relating to sensor data analysis is “who owns the data?” For example, can a vessel owner gather and analyze data from an engine manufacturer's engine sensors, or is access proprietary?
An age-old question! I believe it is generally recognized, that the vessel owner owns the data generated by it.
But this is largely useless if it is sitting un-formatted in a database somewhere. In that state, it is of no use to the vessel owner, fleet manager, or OEM. Once that data is manipulated somehow, that output is usually owned by the company doing the analysis.
To definitively resolve the "property rights issue," there need to be rules around data ownership and a much greater willingness to make some level of standardized data available to a larger community.
SMW: What new benefits does 5G bring to the maritime sector? How will 5G improve IoT services in the future, and how is ST Engineering iDirect participating in its implementation?
AF: I am working closely with my colleague, Semir Hassanaly, our Head of Cellular Backhaul, where the maritime environment intersects with the world of cellular technology, especially 5G.
Semir and I believe that 5G will facilitate in-vessel communication services and also enable communication with external entities. Applications and entertainment information will be delivered using different types of satellite constellations and access technologies.
Maritime has the potential to capitalize on all of 5G's capabilities, including virtualization, but also to leverage a very dynamic allocation of resources resulting in the ability to accurately streamline requests based on latency, cost, and throughput as an example.
Implementation of Virtualization with Software-Defined network architecture provides scalability, dynamic capacity management, and the integration of multiple access technologies such as the 5G NR, 4G, IoT, and Wi-Fi
ST Engineering iDirect has been actively contributing to 3GPP standards and has been developing IoT services across our range of platforms.
SMW: Will adopting 5G protocols over satellite help lead to interoperability between satellite networks operating different hub and modem infrastructure?
AF: 5G lends itself towards standardization and integrating multiple access technologies, which could be satellite networks using different hub and modem infrastructure.
Another way to look at it is the concept of a universal modem. We believe there are markets for universal modems which will ease interoperability between multiple systems, and we are contributing to the cross-industry related initiatives. However, universal modems cannot meet the demand for very high performance, scalability, and efficiency.
SMW: Vessels generate increasing amounts of data, and the need to efficiently transmit it to the Cloud is becoming more and more important. What is ST Engineering iDirect doing to minimize latency and increase transmission speeds, especially with the trend toward relying on cloud-based applications?
ST Engineering iDirect takes Quality of Experience for the end-user extremely seriously. Of course, we all have to obey the rules of physics, but by enabling acceleration and compression, we can improve that overall experience.
We have also been working with numerous NGSO constellations to ensure that our systems support those applications that truly need lower latency. Our existing modems, suited to extreme bandwidth applications, will complement a next-generation series of Non-Geostationary Satellite Orbit (NGSO) capable modems.
SMW: The COVID crisis has disrupted supply chains, extended crew contracts, and put a significant number of cargo vessels out of service. Have these disruptions heightened the interest in using IoT, Big Data, and artificial intelligence to improve efficiencies? When the industry recovers, do you believe that the demand for digitalization will accelerate?
AF: The COVID crisis has emphasized the need for digitalization across many industries, including shipping. It has served as a stark reminder of the world's dependency on ease of movement of goods and people and what happens when parts of that ecosystem start to break down.
Digitalization's benefits could be as simple as ensuring that there is toilet paper on the shelves of your local grocery store or as severe as mitigating the humanitarian and economic crises of seafarers stuck at sea.
But, like in any crisis, the most successful companies will be those who have the data and tools to observe the world around them, make educated decisions based on insightful analysis, and accelerate out of the downturn. An important part of this will be the developing strategic and technological partnerships that will help make this a reality - and we are here to help enable that recovery.
About Andrew Faiola
Andrew is Director of Mobility at ST Engineering iDirect.
Prior to IDirect, Andrew lead Intelsat’s Mobility Solutions sales teams in Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific.
Andrew was also European Sales Director at New Skies Satellites in the UK, and held various sales and marketing roles at ESATEL Communications, a small, independent teleport in the USA.
He has also authored publications about the North American DTH market, distance learning in America, U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America, and Latin American economic development.
He received a BA in Economics from Washington University in St. Louis, and an MA in International Affairs from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.
GMDSS: Iridium vs. Inmarsat - The Challenge and the Choice
The new Iridium Global Marine Distress System (GMDSS) service is about to launch, and with it, the last vestige of the decades’ long maritime communications monopoly is about to disappear. Once the new Lars Thrane GMDSS terminal is approved, the new service will launch – likely before the end of 2020.
While GMDSS services are not a revenue generator (except for the sale of the hardware), they are an essential component of a complete maritime communications offering. With GMDSS, Iridium will compete head to head with Inmarsat.
In the GMDSS market, the two satellite communications providers will offer two different products, a basic GMDSS service and an integrated GMDSS-broadband platform.
At the basic level, Iridium GMDSS will face off against Inmarsat C. The Iridium service features actual global coverage, the standard text-based distress alerting, voice with prioritization and preemption, e-mail capability (via third party software), and Maritime Information Services.
The competitive product, Inmarsat C, provides the standard text alerting, limited e-mail capability, and Maritime Information Services. Still, it lacks GMDSS voice, and due to its dependence on GEO satellites, it cannot cover the polar regions.
While Inmarsat offers GMDSS voice on its F77 terminal, on December 1st it will be discontinued. It will not be available again until the introduction of their GMDSS Fleet Broadband integrated terminal.
By mid-2021, both Inmarsat and Iridium will offer fully integrated broadband terminals to add to their initial offerings. Features of the two broadband GMDSS terminals will be similar and will provide GMDSS service and broadband communications all in one terminal.
The notable differentiation includes coverage, broadband speed, and the size, type, and cost of the antennas. To better understand the differences, let’s look at the features in-depth.
Kyle Hurst, Iridium's Director of Safety and Security, notes that GMDSS prioritized and preempted voice offers significant enhancement to any rescue operation. According to Hurst, “With Iridium’s voice feature, within 30 seconds, you will have a distress alert and distress call, which arrive at the same time. Prioritization and preemption ensure that any GMDSS call will be connected, regardless of conflicting traffic.
Almost immediately, the Rescue Coordination Center will know not only who you are, where you are and that you are in distress. With voice, they will also know the nature of the distress i.e.,will you need to abandon ship. Is it Icy? Do you have enough lifeboats – all key factors in mounting a successful rescue effort?” As GMDSS voice will only be available in Iridium’s basic service and not in Inmarsat C, we expect a significant Iridium basic service preference. At the integrated product level, both companies will offer this feature.
The Iridium GMDSS-Certus terminals will operate at 704 Kbps while the Fleet 500 units operate at a maximum speed of around 432 Kbps.
With the increasing number of vessels venturing across the Northwest Passage, L-Band polar coverage is a natural advantage for those ships sailing in far-northern waters. Even when sailing at latitudes above 65 degrees, connectivity could be spotty in rough seas unless you are using Iridium.
While Inmarsat will continue to rely on its bulky, mechanically stabilized antenna, Iridium’s antenna is much smaller and uses no moving parts, resulting in easier installation and enhanced reliability.
At the basic service level, Iridium GMDSS hardware will cost at around $5,000 or slightly less. Inmarsat C is $5,000 - $6,000. There will be a much greater price differential in the hardware required in the integrated terminals, mostly due to the much higher cost of the Inmarsat Sailor 500 antenna, $10,000, vs. $5,000 for the Iridium unit.
While GMDSS certification requires a reliable backup system, Iridium and Inmarsat satisfy the requirement differently.
As a LEO constellation with 66 satellites and eight backup satellites, new satellites are visible every eight minutes. So, satellite failure is not an issue. For Iridium, meeting the GMDSS requirement has been confined to demonstrating redundancy in its Gateway.
Unlike Iridium, Inmarsat, as a GEO operator, must meet the backup requirement with a backup satellite. That's why the launch of its new integrated terminal is contingent on the launch of it's I6 satellites.
According to Hurst, Iridium has already trained RCC personnel on their system and is developing a virtual training program for vessel crews. During the installation of the service, crews area receive through instruction.
Inmarsat has always offered training and has several instructional videos available on YouTube.
With two disparate GMDSS infrastructures, RCC operators will initially need to work with two separate systems. Separate alerts will need to be issued through each system. However, the IMO is currently working to achieve interoperability and is developing an API that will automate the RCCs outgoing messaging, enabling it to reach both Iridium and Inmarsat equipped ships with a single message string.
Based on the system's numerous advantages, both the entry-level and fully integrated GMDSS service are likely to be preferred in the new-build and replacement market.
However, because Inmarsat has a very large installed base of Fleet Broadband terminals and will offer a GMDSS upgrade kit, existing Inmarsat FB users will have a low-cost upgrade to the new GMDSS-FB service. While Iridium will ultimately gain market share as old FB antennas are replaced, displacing existing FB users will take time. Ultimately, we expect Iridium will capture a significant portion of the GMDSS and L-Band broadband market.
Lars Thrane Iridium GMDSS Terminal
Once again, on Sunday, November 8th, thirty-three fearless skippers from ten countries will set out from the French hamlet of Les Sables d’Olonne on one of sailing's most demanding challenges, the Vendée Globe.
The Globe is a non-stop race round the world race via the three capes. Often referred to as the “Mount Everest of Sailing,” it's an insane race through the world’s most turbulent and dangerous oceans, one that each sailor dares to face alone.
Created some 20 years ago by Philippe Jeantot, and run every four years, the Vendée Globe is the seminal event of French offshore racing. It entered sporting legend from its first edition in 1989, which Titouan Lamazou won after 109 days at sea.
Today, many contestants compete using carbon fiber yachts equipped with hydrofoils, enabling speeds that, at times, can exceed thirty miles-per-hour. In the most recent race, Armel Le Cleach, the winner, completed the course in a record seventy-four days, three hours and thirty-five minutes using hydrofoils.
During the race, the risk of calamity far from shore and civilization is an ever-present fear to be reckoned with, mitigated only with extensive preparation and a communications technology that keeps these lone adventurers in constant touch with the outside world.
The route covers over 24,000 miles of some of the roughest and most challenging seas on earth, including the treacherous passages around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.
In the far Southern Oceans, beyond the reach of traditional Inmarsat services, Iridium is the only service that can provide the reliable, life-saving communications services that sailors need to challenge the elements.
With 66 satellites and eight spares, the new Iridium NEXT constellation is a significant upgrade to the older system. Recently carried aloft in a series of eight SpaceX launches, the constellation offers a substantial improvement in broadband speeds, fully global coverage, and much lower latency than GEO satellite-based Fleet Broadband.
Based on Iridium's Certus service, their partner,Thales, offers VesseLink, an advanced communications solution that helps make this legendary event a safer reality. The Thales service is the official choice of IMOCA, The International Monohull Open Class Association, sponsor of the around the Vendée Globe, and other well-known sailing races.
The VesseLINK Broadband, voice, and data-enabled terminals make telemedicine, location tracking, and receipt of vital weather and navigation information possible. Skippers can monitor their position and competing vessel positions and request the aid they need in case of disaster.
Jeremi Beyou, one of the favorites to win the race onboard Charal, says Thales VesseLINK on Iridium Certus is a major and important asset on board all the boats in the fleet. "The equipment we have with Thales and Iridium is top technology at the top level of reliability,” said Beyou, who used the system earlier this summer when winning both the Vendée-Arctique-Les Sables d’Olonne Race and the Défi Azimut 48-hour race. "When you have a safety issue and you have to call land, the system has to work, and we know we have the equipment to do that."
“It is really important when you start the Vendée Globe and know you will have issues with your boat, and you will be alone for nearly three months, that your communication system works. You need it for safety and for data communications for weather forecast information – and we know we have that with Thales and Iridium.”
Each Thales VesseLink features three voice channels, 720 Kbps X 302 broadband, an embedded 802.11b Access Point, multiple users capacity with up to 12 connected devices and a user interface compatible with IoS and Android.
According to Brian Aziz, Vice President of Satcom Solutions, Thales Defense & Security, Inc.
"It’s been over a year since Thales & Iridium became the Official Communication Partners of IMOCA, and we’ve been looking forward to the Vendée Globe from the start. The skippers have shared incredible feedback about VesseLINK and how crucial the solution is at sea. We couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve built and how we’re empowering so much talent. We’re excited and will be cheering the skippers on this November 8th.”
In addition to the Vendée Globe, Thales and Iridium support four other major races, the Rolex FastNet Race, the Transat Jacques-Vabre, the Vendée-Arctique and the Defi Azimut. Participation in these races serves as pre-qualification to compete in the Vendée Globe, the most challenging race of all.
Beyond yacht racing in the Southern Ocean, the need for pole to pole L-Band coverage is increasing. With the Arctic ice thawing, there will be a significant increase in commercial shipping traffic in the far north. In these remote regions, the Global Marine Distress System (GMDSS) is also of critical importance. In early 2021, a Thales VesseLink with fully integrated GMDSS capability will be available.
The Ultimate Communications Challenge: The 2020' Vendée Globe
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Innovations in High Bandwidth, Small Terminal Mobility
Delivering ultra-high-speed broadband to small, mobile terminals is a challenge. Powerful beams typically cause intolerable adjacent satellite interference on small antennas, precluding their use.
Ovzon, a small Swedish satellite integrator, has met and overcome this challenge. Relying on an unusual frequency of Ku-band spectrum, adjacent to the commercial FSS bands and a small terminal, the company delivers very high-speed broadband to the DOD for use in land-based mobility applications.
While currently leasing steerable beam capacity from several commercial satellite operators, Ovzon will soon launch its first satellite. To find out more about the company and its unique offering, we tracked down CEO Magnus Renee.
SMW: Can you give us some background on the evolution of Ovzon and its subsidiary Overhorizon LLC?
Magnus Renee (MR): The company was founded in 2006 by Per Wahlberg and the team that founded the Swe-Dish satellite system, the developer and manufacturer of small, portable satellite terminals.
The vision of Ovzon, developed by CTO Kennet Lejnell, is a very high speed, bundled service, which includes bandwidth and easily portable terminals, the Ovzon T5, and the recently released new Ovzon T6, a terminal for “comms on the pause.”
Using our technology and the extended Ku-band frequencies, we deliver very high-powered satellite beams without generating adjacent satellite interference. Our primary customer is the U.S. DOD.
To handle the government business, we formed a U.S. based subsidiary, Ovzon LLC, which has offices in Washington D.C. and in Tampa F.L., where we have our secured NOC facility.
SMW: I reviewed your 2018-05-23 PowerPoint presentation and your website and have found only information on your satellites. Can you tell us more about the service?” What are the offerings, and how do they differ from existing mobile broadband solutions?
We offer a fully managed network service that uses extended Ku frequencies and steerable high-power beams to deliver very high bandwidth to very small aperture terminals. We designed the service to meet the defense industry's needs, which led to our choice of frequency bands, polarization, and modulation methods.
Our industry-focused design is what makes our service a very attractive fit for “comms on the move” and “comms on the pause” applications. Its combination of high bandwidth and portability makes it an ideal alternative to the much slower and even more costly Inmarsat BGAN service.
SMW: You also address specific applications on your website, including News Gathering and Drone Connectivity. Can you tell us more about the suitability of the Ovzon solution for these applications?
Ovzon is especially well suited to these applications due to its ability to deliver high bandwidth in a relatively confined area to mobile users who require an extremely portable, lightweight, and easy to set up service.
It's a great alternative for News Gathering. In the past, reporters had to rely on bulky VSAT flyaway terminals or expensive and narrow-band Inmarsat BGAN.
Drones are another ideal application for Ovzon. They also require a combination of very high bandwidth and terminal light enough to fly in a small drone.
SMW: You are currently leasing capacity on Intelsat satellites, and I understand you are several months away from launching your first satellite, Ozone-3. Can you find enough satellites capable of operating on the frequency bands you require?
MR: Today, we lease several regional and steerable beams from Telesat, Hispasat, and Eutelsat. Using this combination of satellites, we can provide near- global coverage.
Shortly, we will soon be launching our own small GEO satellite, the Ovzon-3. We're building the satellites not to increase coverage but to increase capacity. With them, we will deliver higher speeds than the leased beams and, using our On Board Processor, deliver novel functionality that includes gateway-free terminal to terminal communication.
SMW: I understand your Ovzon-3 satellite is a small GEO satellite built by Maxar and embodying your beamforming chip and a unique roll-out solar array (ROSA). Can you tell us more about the satellite? What is the anticipated launch date Ovzon 3? How many additional satellites will you launch to complete the constellation, and when?
MR: The satellite is a 1,500 Kg spacecraft built on the Maxar SL-500 platform with an expected available bandwidth capacity of 2 GHz.
Unlike most satellites that operate as a "bent pipe," it has an onboard processor. In addition, it features steerable beams and a light-weight roll-out solar array. It is also capable of much higher throughput than our leased steerable beams, up to 100 Mbps on our T5 laptop terminal.
Ultimately, we will launch additional satellites and expand the deployment of the service. Ovzon-3 is currently under construction and is scheduled for launch in Q4 of 2021 on an Arianespace mission.
SMW: You mentioned that you are currently leasing satellite capacity from Intelsat. When Ovzon-3 and your other satellites are operational, will you continue to lease capacity from other operators?
MR: We will continue to use leased capacity because we need it to provide coverage in areas beyond the reach of the Ovzon-3's steerable beams.
The combination of our leased and wholly-owned satellite infrastructure will support three levels of service.
Wide area Ku-Beams regional beams
Leased steerable beams that offer higher speeds
Steerable beams on our satellites that offer even higher speeds
Users of our leased steerable beams will experience speeds of 60 Mbps Rx and 20 Mbps Tx, and on our satellites will have access to even higher speeds of around 100 Mbps Rx and direct terminal to terminal communication. Clients using steerable beams can also roam onto regional beams should they travel outside steerable beam coverage.
With the launch of Ovzon-3, we will more than double the number of beams. Today, we have four, two on IS39, one on IS37, and one on I3E.
SMW: According to your website, one of your services’ key features is a uniquely small “T5” terminal capable of 60 Mbps Rx X 20 Mbps Tx on your leased capacity. You also mention an “On the Move” terminal? Can you tell more us about these devices and the future electronically steered terminal in development?
MR: The Ovzon T5 terminal that we developed and introduced in 2014 is a phased array terminal designed for “comms on the pause.” At around 11 inches square, it’s easy to carry and set it up. With it, we have achieved transmit data rates as high as 45 Mbps. For “on the move” applications, we use existing 3rd party produced terminals. We also recently released a new terminal, the Ovzon T6.
With 50 Mbps transmit and receive capabilities in a laptop-sized format, the new Ovzon T6 is the world's smallest and lightest terminal. It features an intuitive graphical interface that gives the user complete control through the built-in display, electrical polarization that removes the need for third axis
mechanical polarization, and a rugged, lightweight design.
Weighing in at only six pounds. It's easy to hand carry and as user-friendly to use as an L-band terminal.
SMW: Have you secured an orbital slot for the Ovzon-3 and additional satellites?
MR: Yes, we started securing orbital slots for our satellites already in 2006. So, we have slots procured for our initial group of satellites.
SMW: I understand you have a distribution agreement with Airbus and other companies. Who are your other distributors? Will you sell only through integrators, or do you ultimately plan to be fully vertically integrated and go direct?
MR: We operate our business as a fully integrated satellite operator and an integrator of leased bandwidth.
We 're an advanced service provider with the added benefit of having our own satellites. Although we do sell direct to end-users, we also distribute through Airbus, Intelsat General, Network Innovations, Gomedia in Italy, and several South American distributors.
SMW: How do you generate revenue? What is the business model? According to your latest financial overview, you resell capacity. Do you also sell bandwidth bundled with terminals?
MR: We sell a fully bundled service that includes bandwidth and the terminals with customers paying monthly.
SMW: You recently raised approximately $56 M. How much additional do you need to raise to complete the Ovzon constellation?
MR: We have raised all the funds needed to launch the initial Ovzon-3 satellite and estimate a $400 M total cost to complete a four-satellite constellation.
An Interview with Magnus Renee, Ovzon CEO
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Satellite News Gathering Application
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About Magnus Renee
Magnus Renee is CEO of Ovzon AB.
Prior to joining Obzone he served as CEO of Arcam AB, a developer and marketer of equipment and techniques for the production of complex parts from metal powder.
Magnus also serves on the Board of SLM Solutions and Inkbit.
He holds an MSc in electrical Engineering from the Chalmers Institute of Technology.
For More Information...
There are many mobility related satellite industry events, most of which have gone virtual or been postponed due to COVID 19. At the moment, the only "live" shows/conferences in the immediate future are PTC in Hawaii and Sat 2021.
****RESCHEDULED: Asia Pacific Maritime: Singapore: Live Show 16-18 March 2022: Virtual Conference September 2020
Biggest maritime show in Asia.
*****SeaTrade Cruise Global, Miami: RESCHEDULED: 12-15 April 2021: The Cruise Industry is a huge user of VSAT services. making this show an important venue. It should not be missed - an important event for satellite service suppliers.
****Global Connected Aircraft: RESCHEDULED
June 2-3, 2021 Denver: A popular conference address in commercial aircraft connectivity.
****SMM: Hamburg, Germany' RESCHEDULED February 2-5 2021: A must attend for those interested in VSAT use in the cargo segments.
******World Satellite Business Week: Paris, France: NOW VIRTUAL 9-11 November. Unquestionably, the best satellite conference of the year. WSBW bring together all of the top executives in the industry in an intimate, networking atmosphere at the Westin.
*** PTC 2021: Honolulu, Hawaii: January 17-20, 2021
Notable gathering of Pacific and Asian companies with limited satellite segment.
**** Satellite 2021: Washington D.C.: RESCHEDULED: July 26-29, 2021 The year's most important Trade Show/Conference Event. Great for an industry overview. Many good break away sessions on specific topics.
Upcoming and Recommended Satellite Mobility Events
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