By Kevin Steen, President and Chief Executive Officer, iDirect
The SATCOM industry’s technology innovation cycle is accelerating at a rapid pace toward lower costs and to offer higher levels of customer satisfaction.
This year alone, breakthrough satellite designs are flooding the skies with ultra-fast bandwidth. Flat-panel antennas that are smaller, faster, and less expensive are spurring critical new applications and opening greater market opportunities — virtualized network infrastructure is enabling operators to support high-volume users over large-scale networks.
iDirect understands that ground infrastructure sits at the heart of these innovations and is the foundation of a satellite network. It also determines, to a large degree, the cost of deploying and growing a business and the ability to serve distinct markets and capture revenue.
The company is driving continued platform innovation to unleash the power of the satellite to a world that demands unlimited connectivity. The result was that 2017 was a milestone year in propelling High Throughput Satellite (HTS) and DVB-S2X toward those efforts.
One critical achievement was to enable satellite operators to bring high throughput capacity to market in the most profitable way possible — through offering a range of wholesale and managed services, depending on the region to be served and the needed applications. In 2017, iDirect became the de facto standard platform for the top three, major satellite operators.
The next pillar in the company’s strategy is to provide customers with a path to DVB-S2X. The higher throughputs and cost savings from HTS are critical for the markets that are experiencing insatiable user demand as well as serving price-sensitive markets. In 2017, iDirect customers launched DVBS2X networks and unveiled ambitious plans to grow their business with iDirect’s next-generation platform technology.
With a look to the future — to the day when VSAT will be a true “plug-and-play” extension of the telecom network fabric — strides had to be taken this year to advance toward that goal. iDirect’s plan demonstrates our support for future technology breakthroughs such as roaming, intelligent satellite payloads and satellite-5G network architecture.
Moving into 2018 and beyond, iDirect is leading the satellite industry toward a transformative architecture that will empower satellite service providers to realize fully dynamic, service-oriented satellite networks.
iDirect holds a unique leadership role in the satellite industry — the company has formed long-standing relationships with key service providers and works collaboratively to solve current and future business challenges.
Furthermore, iDirect has forged technology capabilities in satellite’s most challenging market: mobility. This involves putting expertise and partnerships to work to solve the incredibly complex mobility challenges of HTS.
This year iDirect made significant progress to enable the firm’s satellite operator partners to launch their highly anticipated high-throughput services based on the iDirect Velocity® platform. This platform was designed to address the unique infrastructure needs of HTS networks and optimized to enable the delivery of tiered Mbps services.
iDirect Velocity innovation is driven by the new generation of spot-beam satellites that change the way VSAT networks are effectively deployed.
The complexity of the resulting network is driven by a massive increase in available bandwidth, sheer volume of number of beams, and the global nature of networks and sizeable number of remotes, among other factors.
Satellite operators need a system that can integrate wide-and spot-beam capacity to create a global bandwidth pool and offer different services based on customer requirements.
- Inmarsat Global Xpress became commercially available and gained market traction with early wins and successes — it’s now live on more than 100 planes, with 1,000 planes in backlog and deployed on more than 3,000 maritime vessels.
- IntelsatOne Flex is fully deployed, and Intelsat won their first marquee customer in mobility to be the leading maritime provider to KVH.
- SES selected iDirect Velocity to offer managed services across broad beam and HTS satellites.
The iDirect platform is a major ground infrastructure breakthrough and is redefining how satellite networks operate. Service providers need to get the high-in-demand capacity to their customers — that means being able to harness satellite capacity across any satellite operator, any band, any beam, and any orbit, and then integrating that capacity with mobile spectrum and terrestrial connectivity.
That’s why, beyond HTS, iDirect is leading an industry movement toward full interoperability. The company will provide the intelligence that enables all access technologies to work in unison across multi-orbital satellites, terrestrial and mobile networks. Assisting service providers to ensures customer connectivity no matter where, no matter when, no matter what they do, or what type of service they require, is the ultimate goal, after customer connectivity.
A significant achievement this year was the industry migration toward the DVB-S2X satellite transmission standard. HTS, combined with DVB-S2X, opens low-end markets with vastly improved cost structures and meets the high-throughput needs of high-end markets.
iDirect launched our DVB-S2X product suite that features the new iQ Desktop remote, Intelligent Gateway and DVB-S2X software for large-scale, fixed networks. This leading technology allows customers to leverage the benefits of HTS capacity to significantly increase network efficiency and performance and to scale their network, all based on a significantly lower cost model.
Traction is being gained with early adopter customers who are experiencing significant performance and efficiency gains combined with HTS capacity.
For example, Bentley Walker, the largest supplier and operator of VSAT Networks outside of North America, recently launched a live DVB-S2X satellite service in the Middle East that leverages iDirect’s iQ Desktop remote.
Bentley Walker’s CEO, Anthony Walker, said, “The iQ Desktop is a game changer for our business. It unlocks a new era of satellite connectivity and opens attractive new opportunities. We believe that iDirect has the best DVB-S2X product in the market and gives us a true leadership edge.”
Another partner is Datagroup, the leading VSAT provider in Ukraine, who now offers HTS services to their substantial customer base throughout that nation. Their CEO, Mikhail Shelemba, remarked, “Datagroup is the leading VSAT provider within Ukraine with over 83 percent market share. Our partnership with iDirect and the selection of their leading-edge DVB-S2X platform, along with the new iQ Series remote, is a critical step in growing our leadership and delivering the high-quality services our customers rely on.”
New Applications and Growing Markets
A technology trend that gained significant traction this year was flat-panel antennas. iDirect conducted live proof of concepts (POC) with partner Kymeta using that firm’s new flat-panel antenna technology combined with iDirect’s X7 remote for high-speed connectivity onboard superyachts/ luxury vessels, trains and other vehicles.
iDirect’s relationship with Kymeta is critical to unlocking new markets, such as the connected vehicle — an exciting opportunity for satellite growth and to further drive the adoption of satellite as a mainstream access technology.
What is the key to full mainstream adoption for satellite networks? They need to be defined by modern telecom standards. To this end, iDirect is developing proven network architectures that provide open programmable interfaces for end-to-end network orchestration and business system integration.
With 5G on the horizon, iDirect understands that satellite needs to seamlessly integrate with cellular and terrestrial infrastructure. The satellite industry has the opportunity to solve many issues that cellular or terrestrial networks cannot.
In June of 2017, iDirect joined the Sat5G consortium to integrate satellite into future 5G networks. The Satellite and Terrestrial Network for 5G (SaT5G) project will research, develop and validate key technologies required to enable the plug-and-play integration of satellite communications into 5G networks. In addition, the European Space Agency (ESA) launched a Satellite for 5G Taskforce and iDirect joined as a signatory.
Strengthening Our Leadership
On a personal note, I joined VT iDirect in 2010 because I saw the unique potential for satellite to help connect the world.
Today, my role has grown to leading the talented iDirect organization as President and Chief Executive Officer. My sole focus is to ensure our clients have the best technology and services in the market to grow their businesses and capitalize on the dramatic changes that are happening in the industry.
iDirect is the leading provider of enterprise VSAT technology with a 36 percent market share, according to Comsys, and the company is the global market share leader in maritime, aero, and military TDMA ground infrastructure. Innovation for the service providers and satellite operators that rely on the iDirect platform worldwide is crucial for the continued success of the company.
iDirect will always deliver the best solutions at the appropriate cost structure to scale exponentially and we will continue to possess the agility to enable customers to meet current and future connectivity demands.
Author Kevin Steen is President and Chief Executive Officer of iDirect. To learn more about the company and products, please visit www.iDirect.net.