By Kevin Steen, President and Chief Executive Officer
On the satellite front, we continue to be dazzled by the revolution in the sky – new satellite designs and constellations across GEO, MEO and LEO orbits that are projected to drive down the overall cost of satellite capacity to spur new growth. Satellite ground infrastructure leaders are in turn focusing on service roaming, sourcing bandwidth from multi-orbit constellations, software-defined terminal architectures, flat-panel antennas and new designs for both hub infrastructure and network operations that reduce the cost to scale and manage networks.
On the broader telecom front, mobile operators are re-architecting wireless networks to support exploding demand for connectivity around the world. Along with terrestrial and satellite network leaders, they are co-developing new standards for network speed, reach and operating efficiency.
A key tenet of the 5G standard is the convergence of access technologies into a unified force. If the satellite industry leverages this opportunity, we can accelerate the integration of satellite and mainstream networks to connect the world in bold new ways. iDirect’s 2018 is a story in how we are taking measured steps in this combined direction so that our customers can grow their businesses to new levels.
Expanding DVB-S2X Networks
In 2018, iDirect saw many of our customers in price-sensitive enterprise markets launch new DVB-S2X networks to gain greater efficiency and meet growing bandwidth demands.
- Bentley Walker, a major operator of VSAT Networks, launched an iDirect-based DVB-S2X service in Afghanistan, following highly successful deployments in Iraq and Libya.
- Chilean satellite service provider, Andesat, leveraged our iQ remotes and Intelligent Gateway to introduce powerful new DVB-S2X networking capabilities. Their initial target is the commercial fishing market, which has long needed the right blend of features and affordability.
- MEASAT Satellite Systems deployed the first iDirect DVB-S2X network in Malaysia to bring its customers scalable and affordable satellite broadband services and tap into new markets.
- Internet Solutions, a leading Pan-African service provider, launched the first iDirect DVB-S2X network in Africa to expand into new markets, such as finance and energy, delivering greater satellite throughput efficiencies to its customers.
Expanding the iQ Portfolio
iDirect is leading the development of software-defined remote architectures. We believe that terminals should be engineered to support multiple waveforms and access technologies; integrate into 4G/5G wireless networks; be upgradeable over the air without service disruption; and leverage innovation at the edge device.
Our iQ remote portfolio is a step in this direction, delivering greater performance and efficiency to leverage the benefits of today’s High Throughput Satellites and the capabilities of next-generation U-HTS.
iDirect has addressed the low-end price sensitive markets with the iQ Desktop remote. This year, we addressed the low-end to mid-level mobility and cellular backhaul markets with the launch of the iQ 200 rackmount and board-level remotes. Early adopter testing has been extremely positive.
For the cellular backhaul market, we are combining the iQ 200 with our SatHaul-XE solution to provide a cost-effective, high performance solution for 2G/3G/4G with an enhanced end-user experience.
Strong Growth in Government and Military
This year saw continued expansion of defense spending and demand from government and military markets around the world. With the launch of our defense software release, Evolution 4.2, which enabled the full capabilities of the 9-Series satellite routers and Defense Line Cards, many of our customers refreshed their networks for the enhanced capabilities that came with our 9-series portfolio. We also launched the 9050 OM for US customers, our first fully-ruggedized terminal designed to withstand harsh environments and survive a High Altitude Low Opening (HALO) parachute jump.
In May, we announced the availability of the Tactical Removable Airborne Satellite Communications (TRASC), an FAA-approved design for the C-130 to deliver cutting-edge SATCOM technology to the warfighter. TRASC was designed in partnership with UltiSat, SelectTech GeoSpatial and R4 Integration as an ideal solution for the C-130 aircraft.
Greater Ecosystem Collaboration to Open New Applications and Markets
As an industry, we need to collaborate across a much wider array of players from satellite operators, ground infrastructure developers, and terminal integrators to mobile operators, aero integrators and auto manufacturers.
In 2018, iDirect expanded its partnership with Kymeta in an agreement to become an official reseller of the KyWay Terminal to our global base of mobility-focused partners. The KyWay Terminal integrates with the iDirect X7 modem, uniting performance with a sleek, cost-effective form factor. The partnership will drive growth across key mobility markets, specifically for land mobility, such as first response vehicles, trains and buses. This year, iDirect and Kymeta showcased our solutions at Verizon’s exhibition of the world’s latest emergency response innovation. We rolled out an All-Terrain Vehicle that enabled first responders to communicate with their existing communications devices back to the command center to send crucial data.
We also expanded our strategic relationship with Inmarsat, who this year awarded iDirect with the ground infrastructure contract for the fifth Global Xpress (GX-5) satellite. The contract is a critical advancement in mobility, enabling commercial airlines, maritime operators and mobility service providers to gain a performance advantage while meeting escalating customer demands.
Driving the Integration of Satellite and Mainstream Connectivity
In 2018, iDirect joined forces with two consortiums to drive research, development and validation of key principles for satellite integration with future terrestrial architectures. This first of these is the EU-sponsored SaT5G Consortium. The second is ESA’s SATis5, through which iDirect is leading research and development to support multi-orbit (Geo and non-Geo) satellite integration into 5G.
iDirect is teaming with consortium members on solutions to how telco providers can accelerate 5G deployment over satellite across all geographies and support multiple use cases such as massive IoT and enhanced broadband (eMBB) as efficient edge delivery of multimedia content. 2018 marked the year where we showcased two first-of-its kind live demonstration at 5G industry events.
Accelerating in 2019
As we turn to 2019, iDirect is focused more than ever on driving innovation across the satellite industry. We’ll see the expansion of the iQ remote portfolio with the introduction of the iQ 800 and iQ 500, and further return channel enhancements in terms of efficiencies and throughput. The iQ 800 is an aero solution designed for high-throughput capabilities, featuring wideband support and seamless satellite beam switching. The iQ 800 will also be the industry’s first multi-provider roaming solution. The iQ 500 will serve high-end mobility and telecommunications markets with high-throughput capabilities and wideband support.
We will continue our strategy to improve performance and efficiency in our waveforms with the development of alternate return channels for aero and maritime networks. We’ll integrate further with wireless and terrestrial networks through our 5G collaboration efforts. And we’ll move more aggressively toward delivering our remotes as software solutions that can be embedded in new form factors.
For 2018 and into 2019, our goal is to drive down cost and drive up performance for our customers – while equipping them with the technology to participate and drive new revenue within the end-to-end network.