Communications providers prepare for spike in demand

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PARIS — Satellite communications providers are forming partnerships, making acquisitions and developing new business models in anticipation of low Earth orbit satellite constellations and surging demand for data links.

“We are speeding towards the day where we see billions of people, 30 billion devices and 50 billion machines connected,” said Kevin Steen, chief executive of iDirect Technologies, a ground network infrastructure provider. “For us to take advantage of this, we must be able to participate in a broader telecommunications ecosystem.”

To iDirect, that means investing in a multi-orbit, multi-access platform service that providers can use to relay data through any existing or future telecommunications network, Steen said Sept. 11 at the World Satellite Business Week conference here.

Speedcast is expanding organically and through acquisitions to stake a significant position in its key markets: maritime, energy, government, enterprise and emerging markets.

“We are getting to a scale, with close to 1,800 people in 40 countries, that gives us capabilities to support our customers,” said Pierre-Jean Beylier, chief executive of the global provider of remote communications services.

Last year, Speedcast acquired Harris CapRock and UltiSat, a firm focused on government communications services. In August, Speedcast announced plans to buy Globecomm.

With the purchases of UltiSat and Globecomm, Speedcast increased its U.S. government business to about $150 million in annual revenues. That scale brings credibility and capability, Beylier said, and “opens up new opportunities for us in that market.”

Through these acquisitions, Speedcast seeks to combine capabilities and win business it could not win before. In Brazil, for example, where Harris CapRock focused on the oil and gas sector, Speedcast has moved into other vertical markets, Beylier said.

Hughes Network Services, an Echostar subsidiary, is seeking to be a global communications provider, expanding its reach through partnerships rather than acquisitions. On Sept. 10, Hughes announced plans to create a joint venture with Emirati fleet operator Yahsat to serve the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Through a hosted payload on Telsat 19, Hughes is enhancing its coverage of the United States and moving into new areas of South America.

Hughes invested in and is developing the ground segment for low Earth orbit constellation developer OneWeb.

“It’s an exciting project and it will give us the ability to handle applications with low latency requirements,” said Pradham Kaul, Hughes Network Systems president and chief executive. “With high-throughput satellites in the geostationary constellation and low Earth orbit capability with OneWeb, we believe we have an exciting future in meeting the needs of our customers.”

OneWeb and other planned low Earth orbit constellations will require complex, geographically distributed ground networks. To address that market, Telespazio is developing a ground-as-a-service business model based on shared systems and digital technology solutions that will reduce the need for dedicated infrastructure, said Luigi Pasquali, Telespazio chief executive.

“This is another driver, which will support overall reduction in cost and better use of our capacities,” Pasquali said.