September 14, 2021

Satellite 2021: It’s a Wrap!

satellite 2021 highlights

We’ve all been eagerly anticipating the return to live events and so the fact that the Satellite 2021 conference and exhibition last week went ahead was a victory over the lockdowns of the last 18 months. Sadly, the ban on European and other arrivals into the US took its toll on the show floor, but the event didn’t disappoint.

The National Harbor in Maryland was the setting for this year’s show and we were delighted to see so many of the team in attendance to support the flurry of customer and partner meetings. Just to feel the unique buzz and energy of a live show, meeting people face-to-face for the first time in so long was enough. It was a busy 3 days for the ST Engineering iDirect team and here are some of the highlights!

We Took Our Place Center Stage

Interoperability and openness was a subject that formed a key part of the Opening General Session entitled The Future of Global Satellite Connectivity. For the first time in the show’s history, this was a significant move away from the usual format of the ‘Big Four’ satellite operators, to encompass the ecosystem rather than just one part of it. This is something we sincerely applaud and that our New Ground mantra stands for.

Satellite 2021The session really did reflect what is happening in the industry, setting out the challenges and the opportunities. Our CEO, Kevin Steen sat on the panel with Brian Barritt of Facebook, Steve Collar from SES and Jonathan Hofeller from SpaceX. The resounding message to come out of the session was that the industry needed to see more collaboration and the movement to open standards and virtualization. All themes that are echoed in New Ground.

Steve Collar acknowledged from the get-go that: “We need to work together in a more collaborative way — making networks virtualized and work more in the cloud, for example. We will work with the likes of ST Engineering iDirect on this.”

Kevin talked about the need for a new culture of openness and to invest in the cloud and virtualization. He stressed that we are striving to bring a terrestrial-like experience to the end user but we can only do this through working effectively as an ecosystem, to integrate flat panel antennas, to solve the problems we are faced by trying to introduce low-cost connectivity and to make our ground network interoperable with a telco network. We need to make the telcos want to work with us. It’s not going to be easy to achieve this, as Kevin explained to the audience: “For example, we must figure out the digital interface to make sure that you don’t block cloud enablement and delivering services and orchestration to the endpoint. Yes, it’ll be an investment, yes it’ll change architecture, but you need to be part of it and adopt those standards so that you’re not proprietary and you can participate in a much larger ecosystem.”

And it’s clear that Facebook views satellite as an important ingredient in the connectivity mix. Barritt commented that the move from 2G to 4G was happening far too slowly and that satellite will be essential to offer coverage to rural areas. He also underlined the need for openness and Facebook’s willingness to work with the satellite community.

Sean Yarborough, our VP of platforms, Product Management, joined the panel tackling the Hidden Complexities of Ground Systems where the resounding message was that, despite the need for ground infrastructure to deal with more complex demands than ever before, the customers need simplicity and excellent performance. Eutelsat’s Jon Sala commented that Dialog and MRC have major benefits of flexibility and scale for their B2B customers. Sean explained how virtualization and advances in NMS enable us to offer scalability while still delivering a seamless experience for all types of users.

Kevin also put in an additional appearance on the High-Speed Satellite vs. Fiber – Making the Business Case for Customers panel and Karl Fuchs, iDirect Government‘s SVP of Technology, spoke about Designing Ground Systems for Modern Militaries on the Move. Discussion revolved around advanced mitigation strategies, such as signal excision, for both intentional or unintentional interference as well as the need for terminals that can support multi-constellations and multi-waveforms.

MSUA Award - Satellite 2021

We were Recognized by MSUA for our innovation in mobility!

Sean Yarborough accepted the Top Mobile User Experience Innovation Award at the 29th annual MSUA Satellite Mobile Innovation Awards for our advanced satcom mobility solutions. Read more in our press release. This recognition further cements our leading position in the mobility market and its continued dedication to the delivery of innovative solutions that enable its customers to offer seamless connectivity as new constellations, applications and markets emerge. Kevin Steen said of the award: “We are thrilled to receive this award from MSUA. Our single clear aim is to support our customers who are at the forefront of their sectors, with strong partnerships and innovation. Our deep heritage and understanding of both mobility markets and technology foster a culture of constant innovation and exploration into the latest technologies on the ground and in space to deliver an end user experience that is comparable with terrestrial networks.”

We Got WISE with SSPI

Space & Satellite Professionals International ( also held events during the Satellite show. The organization is on a mission to make the space and satellite industry one of the world’s best at attracting and engaging the talent that powers innovation. As the outgoing Chairman, Thomas Van den Driessche attended the Chairperson’s Reception along with newly-elected board member, Julie Bettinger. The SSPI-WISE group (Women in Space Engagement) also held its first function. Formed last December, the group aims to engage women in the space and satellite industry through STEM outreach, structured mentor programs and partnerships with other women’s groups and to elevate the profile of women in the industry. The event was a great success. It was an opportunity for members to network and share experiences. Plans are already underway for future functions. If this has piqued your interest, find out how to join here.

SSPI WISE - Satellite 2021

Our Partner’s IoT Demo Grabbed Attention!

Beginning in the few days leading up to the Satellite Show, our partner, hiSky embarked on a 1200miles road trip from Atlanta to Washington, D.C. in a carequipped with the Dynamic Ku-band terminal. The road trip took the team across all types of terrain from mountains to lakes and cities to small towns and throughout the journey, they were active on social media, as were we, keeping the audience updated on their location and the kind of information that was available to them through the solution. This included telemetry data on speed location, elevation and time. You can imagine how useful this kind of data would be for fleet tracking and management. The solution maintained constant connectivity throughout, no matter where the vehicle was travelling – a great example of how satellite connects no matter where an asset is located.

Once in D.C., the team performed live demos for our partners at the show. Visitors to the show could book a slot to experience for themselves the capabilities and reliability of the solution. The social media campaign around the road trip and demos really created a buzz at the show! Curious to see for yourselves read our blog that gives full details!

We also supported our partners, Kymeta and SES who both carried out active demonstrations at the show.

Our Meeting Room was Always Full!

Thanks to all our customers that came out to meet with us, it was the highlight of our event it was fantastic to spend quality time together.

We’re Looking Forward to next Year Already!

So, as the sun goes down on another Satellite show, we’re already looking forward to next year’s event when, hopefully, the entire global industry will be able to attend and we can return to normality. This year felt like a real breakout year for the ground segment – one where its importance was truly recognized. Now it’s up to us and our fellow organizations to keep that momentum up and to do what we need to do to move our industry forward into a new and exciting chapter!