U.K.’s Skynet Fleet Operator Breaks into U.S. Military Market

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  Space News Business

U.K.’s Skynet Fleet Operator Breaks into U.S. Military Market

By TURNER BRINTON
Space News Staff Writer
posted: 02 June 2008
01:10 pm ET





WASHINGTON –
Paradigm Secure Communications of the United Kingdom will become the first commercial provider of significant X-band satellite capacity to the U.S. military, which historically has relied on its own satellites for those frequencies.

 

X-band frequencies are reserved by the International Telecommunication Union for government use. The U.S. military currently uses X-band capacity provided by its Defense Satellite Communications System and the new Wideband Global Satcom system. Paradigm, a subsidiary of EADS’s Astrium Services division, will provide the United States with X-band coverage over the Middle East via its Skynet satellite fleet.

 

Paradigm, established to buy and operate the Skynet communications satellites on behalf of the British military, also offers capacity to other countries and counts the Netherlands among its clients. This is the company’s first deal to provide services for the U.S. government, according to Robert Twining, director of business development for EADS North America. Paradigm representatives could not be immediately reached for comment.

 

The deal was arranged through the U.S. Defense Information Systems Agency’s contracting vehicle for acquiring commercial satellite capacity, called Defense Satellite Transmission Services-Global, or DSTS-G. DRS Technologies of Parsippany, N.J., one of three DSTS-G contractors, was chosen to broker the deal, awarding a one-year, $6.5 million contract to Intelsat General Corp. of Bethesda, Md. The deal includes options that could make it worth $48 million over three years, according to a May 29 Intelsat General press release.

 

DRS is slated to be acquired by Italy’s Finmeccanica conglomerate.

 

Intelsat General, a subsidiary of satellite fleet operator Intelsat of Bermuda and Washington, made the arrangements with Paradigm for X-band capacity. Intelsat General will manage the network and provide ground hardware and infrastructure, including teleports and fiber networks.

 

Intelsat General spokeswoman Lynette Simmons declined to provide the value of the company’s contract with Paradigm.

 

The X-band frequency is ideal for military use because it stands up to the elements, such as rainstorms, better than the Ku- and C-band transmissions and also performs well in harsh environments such as jungles and sandstorms, satellite experts say. Because X-band satellites are relatively few in number, signal interference is not a big problem, which is important for applications such as communications-on-the-move.

 

Paradigm’s satellites are particularly good for this application because they have more power than is typical of commercial communications satellites, according to Britt Lewis, Intelsat General’s vice president of marketing and business development.

 

The U.S. military currently obtains around 80 percent of its satellite communications capacity from commercial providers, most of which is in the Ku-, C- and K-band. Satellite industry officials say the U.S. military is turning to commercial X-band because most of the commercial Ku-band capacity – the most abundant commercial frequency – has been bought up in the Middle East, Africa and Southwest Asia
.

 

The U.S. military’s need for capacity in these regions remains strong, driven by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and the growth of bandwidth-hungry applications like unmanned aerial vehicles transmitting full-motion video.

 

Satellite operator Xtar LLC of Rockville, Md., the only other commercial provider of X-band capacity for the Middle East, also competed for this contract. Xtar made bids with both of DRS Technologies’ DSTS-G competitors, Arrowhead Global Solutions of Fairfax, Va., and Artel of Reston, Va., said Bill Schmidt, Xtar vice president of government relations. Schmidt said the United States is likely to buy more commercial X-band capacity in the near future.

 

“We anticipate other X-band purchases by the Defense Department and hope to be a part of them,” Schmidt said.

Comments: tbrinton@space.com