WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army awarded Comtech Telecommunications a $48.6 million contract to develop a satellite modem that can connect to multiple networks, the company announced Oct. 3. 

Comtech, based in Melville, New York, is a provider of satellite and terrestrial communications equipment and services.

The company will design what the Army calls an EDIM modem, short for Enterprise Digital Intermediate Frequency Multi-Carrier.

Satellite communications modems are devices used to transmit and receive signals to and from a satellite. The EDIM modems are required to support multiple satellite providers, a key feature sought by the U.S. military so it can access services that operate in different orbits and frequencies. 

The new equipment will replace existing EBEM modems (Enhanced Bandwidth Efficient Modem) at U.S. military installations that Viasat has supplied since 2014.

The EDIM modems enable “digitized, hybrid satellite network architectures,” said Ken Peterman, president and CEO of Comtech. Military network users will be able to roam across different carriers so they can have a more resilient communications infrastructure, he said.

The satellite terminals equipped with EDIM modems also can be integrated with terrestrial communications systems, said Peterman.

The modem will be designed to support satcom systems across the Army and the other military services, he said. “Government and commercial customers are increasingly demanding flexible ground architecture that supports a variety of orbits, constellations, and waveforms.”

Quantities, schedule TBD

The Army organization that oversees this project is the Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems (PEO EIS).

It has yet to be determined how many units Comtech will produce and when the new equipment will be introduced, said Peterman.

“The fielding quantities, delivery schedules, and contract vehicles for EDIM modems will be determined by the Army and other services,” he said. “There are tens of thousands of EBEM modems fielded today that we expect to see replaced.”

“EDIM is contemplated as a largely drop-in replacement for existing modems installed in fixed sites, including U.S. Army regional hub nodes and Defense Information Systems Agency facilities,” Peterman said. 

Each organization that currently uses EBEM models will decide on the timing of the upgrade to the new modem at fixed sites over the coming years, he said.

The Army also has plans to replace aging EBEM modems used in tactical systems for forward-deployed satcom infrastructure, said Peterman.  ‘We anticipate they will lean heavily on similar capabilities to those being developed under the EDIM contract.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...