April 2, 2024

In Conversation with Sridhar Kuppanna, ST Engineering iDirect Senior Vice President of Engineering

Sridhar Kuppanna ST Engineering iDirect
Sridhar Kuppanna
Sridhar Kuppanna, Senior Vice President of Engineering, ST Engineering iDirect

With over 25 years of experience in the telecom industry managing global R&D teams, driving innovation and bringing new products to market, Sridhar Kuppanna brings vast experience with him to his new role of Senior VP of Engineering at ST Engineering iDirect. Sridhar will be taking the lead on bringing our next generation ground system Intuition, to fruition.

Now that he has had a little time to settle in, we thought it was time to sit down with Sridhar and find out more about him, his thoughts on the state of the satellite industry, and his ambitions for the company.

Hi Sridhar. It’s great to meet you. Can you tell us more about your background and journey over the years?

Of course. I spent the last 25 years in the telecom industry, and it has been an incredible journey. I’ve been part of several technology innovations that changed the way we communicate. Back when I started my journey, we had those big clunky phones on our desks and homes. It was extremely expensive to make long distance calls. We had to change phone numbers when we switched carriers and had to switch phones when we travelled to other countries. We could barely make voice calls with spotty coverage on the wireless network.

Over the years, I had the opportunity to work on key technologies and products that enabled major transformations in the telco industry. VoIP and virtualization have been two major areas of transformation during my journey.

Early in my career, I worked on VoIP technology and products that enabled digital transformation of telecom networks, delivering the communication solutions that we know today that enable us to make practically free audio/video calls and send text messages from the palm of our hand to anywhere in the world. We can switch providers and travel to other countries without having to change our phone numbers and use Teams or Zoom for collaboration – and so much more. It has been a great privilege to be a part of this journey, contributing to this transformation and of course enjoying the benefits of these innovations!

Over the second half of my career, I have worked on virtualization, cloud, analytics, AI/ML technologies and solutions that enable the transformation to telco cloud. This transformation is all about operational efficiencies, faster innovation and delivery of new services, a fast response to adversity and most importantly, sustainability.

Most of my experience has been in building, highly resilient, highly scalable and robust carrier grade secure real-time communication products and solutions for service providers and enterprises around the world.

SatTV Talks to Sridhar Kuppanna of ST Engineering iDirect:

What drew you to the satellite industry?

The satellite industry is at an inflection point and entering an interesting phase of innovation. With several new players entering the market and new software defined satellites being launched across multiple orbits, I believe we are transitioning into an exciting phase in this industry that will dramatically change our communication infrastructure as we know it today.

Software defined satellites, multi-orbit solutions and the move to 5G NTN will open up lots of new use cases and opportunities for expansion. I can see lot of parallels between my experience in the telecom industry and what I am seeing in the SATCOM industry today. There’s the push towards virtualization, standardization and the convergence of SATCOM infrastructure standards and 5G evolution to name a few areas. There’s also a push towards enabling the mobility of connectivity on land sea and air so that we can communicate literally anywhere.

I’m looking forwarding to working with our customers and partners to deliver solutions that will provide seamless connectivity to everyone!

What do you think is the biggest challenge that you’re going to face? What do you think will have the biggest impact on people consuming services using these technologies?

Given the history of the SATCOM industry, where proprietary solutions are very common with no interworking capabilities, transformation from vendor locked proprietary solutions to vendor agnostic solutions based on standardization will be a challenge. However, in order to accelerate innovation and deliver differentiated services and seamless connectivity, it is imperative that the SATCOM industry commits to standardization and moves towards virtualization and cloud (common frameworks) and leverages technologies from multiple vendors to deliver best of breed solutions.

I believe adoption of standardization and converging multi-orbit SATCOM with 5G networks will have the biggest impact and will change life as we know it today.

So, there are challenges, but also huge opportunities for us to develop new applications, new services and a new user experience and provide seamless connectivity to all!

Let’s talk about one of the biggest technology trends around at the moment – AI. How do you see AI fitting into the satellite industry?

AI is not a new technology. It’s been around for quite some time and has been adopted by many industries already.

I see an opportunity to leverage AI in several areas: to improve our solutions, deliver new services and enhance customer experience. Mobility, bandwidth management, congestion control, service orchestration and QoS are just some of the areas where we can leverage AI. Our products have lot of data and knowledge of the end-to-end networks. Harnessing this data to extract value and enhancing our solutions leveraging AI to drive automation, efficiencies and better customer experience will be critical to our success.

How do you see your role within ST Engineering iDirect?

The most important role I have is to drive technology innovation to ensure we meet the demands of our customers. We need to enable our customers to provide the capabilities required to offer new services and to expand their markets and customer base. I am committed to partnering with our customers to earn their trust and deliver robust, secure, scalable solutions to meet their market needs.

How do you see the future at ST Engineering iDirect?

ST Engineering iDirect has a rich history and legacy. Over the years we have been driving innovation in the industry and delivering best-in-class products to enable our customers to be successful. It is time for us to lean on our expertise, experience and collective knowledge and re-invent ourselves to meet the new market demands and transform our culture to be nimble while continuing to deliver innovative solutions and help our customers deliver new services and grow.

Don, our CEO, is passionate about bringing the company together with a clear focus to grow the team and create a strategy to bring the products together. I’m looking forward to bringing the engineering teams together and using my experience to deliver that vision.

We’re just unveiled our next generation ground system, Intuition, at Satellite 2024 and we have so much to share with our customers. I am incredibly excited about the future.

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Check out Sridhar’s recent interview at Mobile World Congress 2024: