Egnos Win Aids Telespazio’s Goal To Becoming One-Stop Satellite Services Shop

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TOULOUSE, France — Winning a competitively bid, eight-year contract to provide maintenance and other services for Europe’s regional GPS satellite navigation augmentation system puts team members Telespazio and ESSP in a favorable position for future work on Europe’s Galileo navigation network, officials from the two companies said July 8.

Telespazio officials said the contract, and an unrelated but also competitively bid contract to provide satellite links to 3,500 sales points to a large European retail chain with partners Intelsat and Hughes Network Systems, are examples of how the company is positioning itself as a one-stop shop for satellite services of just about any kind.

In the Earth observation field, Telespazio is working with regional government authorities in southern France to use data from unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites to provide vineyard and forest management services. The project, called Earth Lab, is valued at 14 million euros ($18.5 million) over two years and is being managed as a public-private partnership, with the regional Aquitaine government contributing 11 million euros and Telespazio giving 3 million euros.

European Satellite Services Provider (ESSP), based here, is a consortium of seven European air-navigation services that has been responsible for maintaining the European Geostationary Navigation Overlay Service (EGNOS) under a contract with the executive commission of the 27-nation European Union. EGNOS is Europe’s equivalent to the U.S. Wide-Area Augmentation System and similar overlay infrastructure in Japan and Russia. It uses special terminals placed on telecommunications satellites in geostationary orbit, connected to a network of ground stations, to validate the accuracy of the positioning, navigation and timing signals coming from GPS, and to inform users of signal anomalies.

The commission also owns Europe’s GPS look-alike, called Galileo, whose satellite constellation will be placed into orbit in the coming months.

The commission had already awarded, in 2010, a contract valued at 194 million euros to Telespazio and its partner, a specially created unit of the German Aerospace Center, DLR, to manage operations of the Galileo network through 2014 as part of a consortium called SpaceOpal.

With EGNOS operational with an upgraded ground segment, the commission sought bids on a new eight-year contract valued at up to 450 million euros for the augmentation network, whose operations are, for now, independent of Galileo.

ESSP President Dirk Werquin, in a press briefing here July 8, said his company sought Telespazio as a partner for the new contract because it called for expertise that the ESSP consortium did not have.

For ESSP and Telespazio, the question was whether to submit bids on their own or with a partner. Telespazio’s larger competitor, Astrium Services, was bidding for the same work, and DLR also was interested.

The selection of ESSP was based in part on the inclusion of Telespazio, the commission said in announcing the contract. Telespazio is technically a subcontractor to ESSP, but the company will be booking 216 million euros in revenue from the work during the eight-year period.

Jean-Marc Gardin, deputy chief executive of Telespazio, said the EGNOS GPS-augmentation contract includes much more than providing technology-refresh and other maintenance work on the network. A key metric in the contract is extending the reach of EGNOS beyond its core first market of civil aviation to other transport modes including European railway networks.

“This is much more than a maintenance contract,” Gardin said in an interview. “It will be on a best-efforts basis, but we see huge potential for EGNOS and the commission wanted that to be part of the work.”

Telespazio is 67 percent owned by Finmeccanica of Italy and 33 percent by Thales Group of France. Gardin said that through Ansaldo STS SpA of Italy, owned in part by Finmeccanica, and through Thales Transportation of France, Telespazio should be able to secure a rail transport footing for EGNOS. In addition, he said, maritime use will be a key growth market.

Telespazio France officials say their win of a 16 million-euro, five-year contract with Le Groupement des Mousquetaires, a retail chain whose brands include Intermarche and Bricomarche, points to potential growth in this otherwise mature market niche. Telespazio’s winning bid includes Ku-band satellite capacity provided by fleet operator Intelsat of Luxembourg and Washington, and satellite terminal hardware provided by Hughes Network Systems of Germantown, Md., owned by EchoStar Corp. of Englewood, Colo.

Corrine Mailles, deputy chief executive of Telespazio France, said Telespazio outbid the incumbent service provider for the contract.

In what may be an indication of how wary some corporate networks remain of satellite capacity, the contract called for Telespazio to provide redundant capacity on another satellite, this one operated by Eutelsat of Paris. 

Mailles said the customer also stipulated that a test phase of six months be concluded before the contract entered its full operational phase. The test campaign has been completed, and deliveries of the Hughes terminals have begun, she said.