Home >> December 2011 Edition >> Year In Review 2011: Part VIII
Year In Review 2011: Part VIII
Thuraya • ViaSat • VISLINK • Vizada • Vizada Networks • WORK Microwave


EbrahimHead by Ebrahim K. Ebrahim, Vice President Corporate & Marketing Communications

Increased market roll out of its high-speed data solution, Thuraya IP, steady growth of its handheld terminal sales, and higher penetration of vertical markets combined to make 2011 a momentous year for Thuraya. The growth of its data business, continuing market leadership in voice and a dedicated focus on satisfying the needs of vertical consumers have been core areas for Thuraya in recent years which have been further accelerated by new Chief Executive Officer, Samer Halawi, who joined the Company in early 2011.

Thuraya’s commitment to the vertical market sectors was demonstrated by several key hires of personnel with in-depth industry experience aimed at widening the Company’s knowledge base and better serving customers. The introduction of new programs for partner management, pricing packages, and enhanced customer care, further underlined Thuraya’s determination to ensure a world-class consumer experience combining quality, reliability and affordability. In addition, Thuraya’s position as a market leader in satellite handhelds within its coverage area remained firm, with the Company maintaining 65 percent market share.

Thuraya continues to lead the mobile satellite services market by introducing fit-for-purpose solutions that are a step ahead in terms of size, design and performance. In 2011, this translated into a spike in market uptake for Thuraya IP, the world’s smallest and fastest satellite broadband solution. The number of IP subscribers grew by 60 percent across a broad range of industries. Major growth drivers for Thuraya IP were the broadcast media, government, NGOs and large energy enterprises market segments. Most importantly, Thuraya’s unlimited data packages and the asymmetric streaming features of the IP terminal lead to added cost savings of approximately 40 percent when compared with competing solutions. The introduction of flexible pricing packages and Share plans enabling high-speed data users to experience modern and cost-effective service also made an impact. Thuraya’s Shareplan enables users to share airtime allowance within a single subscription. The grouping together of users results in the flexible and optimal utilisation of airtime allowance at better prices, making Thuraya IP an even more attractive solution.

thurayaFig1 A pioneer of advanced satellite network technology and its integration with satellite phones, Thuraya continued to attract consumers with its Thuraya XT mobile handheld, the only satellite handheld to offer full walk and talk capabilities, which gained popularity for its ease-of-use and range of intuitive features such as the fastest data service, GPS waypoint navigation and a glare-resistant display.

With a new version planned for release in early 2012, the Thuraya XT Dual, which will allow consumers to easily select between satellite and GSM mode, depending upon their location, Thuraya is set to build on its success as market leader in satellite handhelds since its inception and continue its dominant position in the voice sector within its coverage area.

Since the launch of Thuraya 3, which is fully dedicated to the Asia Pacific region, Thuraya has focused its efforts on developing this ever-growing market. 2011 saw Thuraya enhance its presence in Asia by recruiting a specialized team to manage operations from Singapore. As a result, the Company witnessed steady growth in the region with subscribers increasing and a greater market awareness signaling an increased demand.

Along with all of Thuraya’s commercial successes, the Company continues to invest in a strong CSR strategy, supporting groups and individuals in various community social, charitable and sporting activities. Through its strong relationship with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), Thuraya assisted during the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami that rocked the country early this year. Additionally, Thuraya provided handheld phones to the Ugandan government to assist them in setting up a disaster warning system across the country. Most prominently, Thuraya partnered with Al Aan TV to shed light on the famine in Somalia by donating a Thuraya IP solution for the live streaming of stories in the hope of raising awareness and funds for the disaster-stricken nation. Thuraya has also contributed following the floods in Thailand that devastated the country most recently.

thurayalogo For Thuraya, 2011 marks considerable achievements across the board; with products, services and partnerships. The Company has benefitted from increased international recognition as an industry leader and, with exciting new products scheduled for release in 2012, it looks set to cement its position at the forefront of the MSS industry.

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roweHead by Bruce Rowe, Director, Public Relations

During the past year, a new era for satellite broadband has become a reality. Eutelsat began commercial service on the first high-capacity Ka-band system in May and ViaSat-1, the world’s highest capacity satellite, successfully launched in October.

Note here that we prefer the term high-capacity satellite to high throughput satellite (HTS). The reasoning might remind you of the old logic sequences from high school. It goes like this — All high-capacity satellites are HTS satellites — However, not all HTS satellites are built for high capacity throughput — So, every HTS satellite is not a high-capacity satellite.

By now, the economic motivators and rationale behind high-capacity Ka-band should be well understood. For more than three years, the discussion on this topic has appeared numerous times at trade shows, conferences, and in the satellite media. If you’ve got a satellite with 10 times the capacity of any satellite before, which costs only slightly more than those old satellites, you win by producing more, lower cost bits. Plus, the growing customer demand for bandwidth is equally well documented.

One big task remains for our industry — to break down the old perceptions of what satellite can do. Most people — and many within our own industry — think they know what satellite broadband is. However, they are still stuck in the past in their knowledge about the potential performance and cost of satellite broadband.

ViaSatFig1 The first spark that ignited the concept of the high-capacity satellite system architecture was a question: How could the online experience of satellite broadband users be improved? That question is the underlying tenet of the problem that is solved by ViaSat-1 and the additional, even more capable, satellites to come. The problem is not unique to satellite. Any broadband network system suffers when more subscribers are added, creating congestion that slows performance for everyone, because bandwidth is a finite resource. The issue is not that the network lacks more speed, but rather that there is not enough bandwidth volume to keep the majority of subscribers happy. The goal of the high-capacity system design is to create a complete ecosystem where all the elements work toward enabling satellite to perform so well it jumps into competition with DSL, cable, and other wireless broadband alternatives.

In the coming year, ViaSat’s job is to break down the old perceptions and replace them with the experience of what satellite broadband can be. Conference sessions and news articles can only go so far in this campaign. The true change in perception will only happen when subscribers, the media, and the industry as a whole experience these new services for themselves.

Being a satellite company, we’re naturally bullish on satellite and we want to prove the promise of the technology. We want to compete more effectively in the broadband market. We believe our new services can compete for customers when they are at the fringes of those respective networks or where network congestion is degrading performance.

One common perception is that Ka-band will require users to pay a lot more since they get a lot more. On the contrary, all the bandwidth economics discussed previously point in the opposite direction. While advanced Ka- networks can provide very high-speed, premium pack­ages, the new WildBlue basic service plan will match current pricing, which begins at about $50 per month. ViaSat’s aim is to provide a highly-useful Internet connec­tion to the majority of users. In addition, today’s ViaSat Ka-band customers will benefit from the nearly one million SurfBeam subscriber terminal installations to-date. The economies of scale gained from the production of hundreds of thousands of terminals translate to cost reductions that enable pricing comparable to other high-volume consumer electronics.

Another common question is about latency. It’s important to note that 90 percent of the applications responsible for the increasing pace of bandwidth demand and Internet traffic are not latency sensitive. A primary example is video, which is number one among those demand drivers. Of course, almost any technology is not a fit for all customers. Some applications, such as fast-twitch gaming, can’t be accommodated on satellite due to the physics of a 250 millisecond trip needed for data to transmit from the ground to the satellite.

viasatlogo Without even looking ahead to future developments (though there’s plenty on the drawing board), our primary focus for 2012 is on rolling out the best brand of satellite broadband ever seen in North America, beginning this January. We know that’s the best way to win the minds of broadband subscribers and to replace the old perceptions of satellite with our reality of what satellite broadband can be.

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by Mark Anderson, Marketing Operations Manager

Product innovation and technology development have always been at the heart of what VISLINK companies are all about, and another major innovator and respected brand joined the VISLINK group in June with the acquisition of GIGAWAVE.

GIGAWAVE is a leading designer, manufacturer and supplier of wireless camera, microwave and antenna products for the broadcast market. GIGAWAVE’s particular strength is in “on-board” applications for motorsport events around the world and, as such, has significantly complemented and broadened VISLINK’s capabilities in terms of engineering, product portfolio and geographic reach, therefore further strengthen VISLINK’s position in the broadcast market. Over the balance of the year, GIGAWAVE was integrated into VISLINK’s U.K. operations to realize the benefits expected from improved global distribution of all VISLINK brands. The acquisition has already proven to highly beneficial. VISLINK has always been at the forefront of the development of products that can best use the available bandwidth. LINK Research, another VISLINK brand, and GIGAWAVE are already market leaders for everything from live sports and race car on-boards to news and events, but throughout 2011 both companies made it clear they were not about to rest on their respective laurels.

VislinkFig1 The challenge was to introduce H.264 camera systems, which we did at NAB 2011, where we introduced the LINK XP1310, a high performance H.264 compliant high definition wireless camera transmitter. When combined with the new Lynx Diversity Receiver, the LINK XP1310 offers a cost effective, web browser controlled, rapidly deployable wireless camera solution for both traditional and new media broadcasters.

Engineers at LINK Research have for many years researched and explored the challenges of running multiple wireless camera systems with limited availability of frequency spectrum. The result of their intensive research is that the company is now the first wireless camera manufacturer to offer an RF module that incorporates digital pre-distortion. “LINK Research Digital Pre-Distortion” (LDPD) was unveiled in 2011 and improves wireless camera operation by providing unrivalled adjacent channel performance and ultra-clean RF transmitter spectrum. The technology also paves the way to higher transmit power levels while remaining compliant with regulatory standards, resulting in a longer range wireless link. GIGAWAVE also had a powerful offering up its sleeve, which it announced at IBC 2011. GIGAWAVE’s new H.264 wireless camera transmitter is based on its renowned D-Cam Clip-On transmitter and features ultra low delay H.264 encoding.

In the midst of these advances in wireless technology, VISLINK hasn’t forsaken its antenna pedigree. Far from it. Two developments during 2011 have proved to be highly beneficial to SATCOM users. In June we launched a new satellite antenna, the ADVENT FLA-120 Flyaway, specifically designed for users who need to transmit at low and medium data rates for live broadcast applications, IP data, as well as store and forward file transfers. This is the first antenna from VISLINK specifically aimed at this sector of the SATCOM market. The Intelsat-compliant system can easily be set up in 15 minutes or less. We also introduced the ADVENT LYNX IRD5200, which is a major addition to the LYNX series aimed at high-quality or contribution links and is the highest-performing, feature-rich SD/HD contribution IRD available for lightweight SNG flyaway or terrestrial ENG receive applications.

Trade shows once again proved their value in 2011. NAB saw a raft of new product introductions, from VISLINK, but the fruits were born at IBC where we secured new business orders worth more than $750,000.

VISLINK also took part in a high profile U.K. Trade and Industry mission to Brazil. As one of the world’s fastest growing and most important broadcast markets, Latin America, and Brazil in particular, are highly desirable destinations. A number of senior managers from VISLINK, including Managing Director Stephen Rudd, were key parts of the mission to the Brazilian Society of Television Engineering (SET) Conference in Sao Paolo that included one-to-one meetings, a U.K.-Brazil networking event and a series of comprehensive in-market briefings. This highly concentrated and successful effort to embrace this accelerating market was certainly one of the highlights of the year for VISLINK and the benefits of having attended are still accumulating. We have also received Russian Federation certification for our LINK L1500 and XP1310 camera systems and ADVENT Newswift CF, HD and LT, Mantis and FlyDrive SATCOM antennas.

vislogo From start to finish, 2011 was an exciting and eventful year for VISLINK and all of its brands. Our product and technology developments continue unabated and new products and projects will be announced in 2012 that will build on the current year’s successes. With U.S. Presidential Elections, the London 2012 Summer Olympics, and the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, plus too many other high profile events around the world to mention here, 2012 is looking to be yet another superlative calendar year for VISLINK.

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eceuppensHead by Erik Ceuppens, CEO

When looking back at 2011 there are two words which aptly sum up our strategic objectives: Maritime and broadband. The maritime SATCOM market is set to grow 50 percent between now and 2018 to a total value of more than $1.6 billion; as communications requirements at sea evolve in line with those on shore and shipping companies increasingly demand access to high-speed data, it is highly likely that a large part of this market will be the provision of global broadband SATCOM services.

In line with this general strategy, 2011 saw us roll out a succession of integrated and managed broadband solutions for the major maritime market segments: Merchant shipping, cruise & ferry, leisure & fishing as well as oil & gas.

In July, we introduced our highly anticipated ‘global maritime broadband bundles’ offer in order to simplify the IT managers challenge of choosing between the multiple airtime and hardware contracts available on the market today. This range of bundles offer cost-effective seamless and integrated unlimited broadband packaged solutions to vessels operating globally (including in Polar region) by combining the power of Ku-VSAT and coverage of L-band. A choice of antenna and number of different service options are available: At entry level, shipping companies have access to unlimited airtime-only VSAT at 256kbps starting at $1,500 per month, and at the high-end they can opt for unlimited 1024kbps VSAT plus MSS airtime and hardware back-up for a monthly fee of $2,750. The service also offers highly flexible contractual terms, starting from 12 month commitments. Thirty-six month contracts include vessel lay-up and bandwidth upgrade options while allowing for the best migration path to next generation Ku- or Ka-band service.

During 2011, we have upgraded our maritime VSAT platform to integrate DVB-S2 and ACM capabilities, as well as further developed our terrestrial interconnections and IP backbone. These important evolutions allow us to deliver more cost-effective communications with improved quality service, as well as new service features to our clients.

vizFig1 Vizada has further extended its commercial offering to address the indirect distribution channel through our proprietary Ku-band VSAT service Pharostar™. It provides standard IP data speeds of 1024 kbps for multiple applications such as Internet, email and VoIP, as well as the possibility to use voice and data services simultaneously with near global coverage. This was a significant addition to our portfolio as it enabled us to build up the ‘hybrid’ bundle offer for our maritime customers composed of our legacy mobile satellite systems and now on VSAT.

In May, we launched Vizada XChange, an innovative all-in-one platform supporting data, voice and VoIP communications which can work over VSAT, MSS as well as any other connectivity (Inmarsat FleetBroadband, Iridium OpenPort, Pharostar VSAT, Wifi, Wimax, 3G). Vizada XChange is a wall- or rack-mounted unit that is installed on the vessel and also comes with a simple and user-friendly web interface. The latter is accessible from shore as well as on the ship and makes it easy to customize and manage settings according to the shipping company’s needs. Ship IT managers can use Vizada XChange to remotely manage the fleets communications with no intervention from crew on board. Through the platform, they can choose the type of connectivity required at any one time (VSAT or MSS for example), configure access for crew and management staff, as well as re-bill and split costs. It can also provide crew with dedicated content, such as an onboard Intranet or access to social networks and chat.

We have managed to create some very important business deals over the year. To name an example, Scorpio Ship Management in Monaco, serviced by partner Marlink, now enables management staff and crew on board their 19 Aframax, Handymax and Panamax vessels to switch between Inmarsat FleetBroadband and Ku-band VSAT terminals according to their needs. They have also signed on for the Vizada XChange solution as a means of cost-efficiently managing their fleet communications. The portal also allows them to seamlessly switch from, say, Inmarsat FleetBroadband to VSAT according to the type of communication usage required or the vessel’s coverage zone. Essentially it gives them complete control of all the SATCOM systems on board. We’re looking forward to seeing how we can further help Scorpio and other shipping companies optimize their maritime communications in the future.

vizadalogo In short, it’s been a busy year! 2011 saw us a number of evolutions in our portfolio in line with our strategy to provide the simplest, highest-performance SATCOM services to the maritime community round the world.

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Vizada Networks

vittorHead by Stefano Vittor, President

2011 was a good year, with sales performance strong throughout. We have received a number of key contracts in the defence market including Air C2, where we have been tasked with extending the ground-to-air radio facilities for NATO forces in Afghanistan. On the humanitarian front we have just received news that we have been appointed as the primary supplier of SCPC, DVB-S2/ACM, iDirect and MSS communication services to one of the world’s major humanitarian organizations, for the next three years with another two years as an option. We have a good historical relationship with this organization and are very pleased to be back on board supplying them with end-to-end fully managed services.

The launch of our new iDirect hub in Dar es Salaam was one of this year’s highlights for Vizada Networks. We’ve had an office established in Tanzania since 2007 but the new hub enables us to expand our service offering for Tanzania and the east coast of Africa in order to meet the changing needs of our ISP, corporate and humanitarian customers there.

We also applied considerable effort during 2011 to make our service offering much more transparent, which resulted in the introduction of a whole new portfolio based on the name Viznet. There are three core Viznet product lines; Viznet Dynamic is our standardised service, based on inexpensive terminals and a shared service platform. Viznet Broadband is a sophisticated dedicated network solution while Viznet Custom is designed to meet customer requirements for large private networks and offers end to end communication services based on the latest, most suitable technology for the job.

Within the Viznet portfolio, 2011 was also the year we launched the second generation of our proprietary dedicated JanUX network platform. JanUX Mark II brings one of the most advanced DVB-S2 solutions to the market and as the basis for Viznet Broadband, it replaces the industry standard first generation JanUX solution. Feedback so far is that the system is a vast improvement over the previous generation. We’re also delighted to have received a patent for a particularly innovative piece of technology within JanUX towards the end of the year.

An important focus for the satellite industry this year has been the introduction of Ka-band services. Several initiatives are already on the air and more will be launched in the next couple of years. Similarly in the maritime satellite market, two systems are competing; the Intelsat offering is a ‘global’ Ku-band initiative providing seamless connectivity for ships crossing from beam to beam. Inmarsat’s Global Express is the new generation of satellites from Inmarsat that will provide global Ka-band coverage replacing traditional MSS services. We’ll be watching these services develop very closely.

viznetFig1 Satellite interference (RSI) is still a key challenge for all of us, and as ever, we have continued to play our part in reducing it throughout 2011. We do this by committing to high quality training with our GFSP to ensure that our engineers install and maintain antennas professionally, therefore reducing instances of interference. I’m particularly pleased to hear the progress that Newtec has made with carrier ID and will be watching how this progresses.

We were also pleased to receive ISO certification for our operations in Norway. The ISO 9001:2008 certification highlights our commitment to quality in all processes from sales to delivery and was awarded as a result of a high-level quality management system implemented to ensure customer satisfaction at all stages of the chain.

Looking forward, we are very optimistic about 2012. Our focus on high quality service provisioning as well as the introduction of our Global Field Support Programme a couple of years ago are paying back. Our Viznet services are picking up and we are experiencing an increasing number of invitations to take part in tenders.

Also, we’ve been reorganizing our defence outsourcing activity in 2011 and are expecting this to become an even more important part of our business during 2012. This area of business is a natural extension of our position as an A-Z supplier to NATO and its various agencies working in the Balkans and the Middle East.

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WORK Microwave

andreasHead by Andreas Hausotter, CEO

For 25 years, WORK Microwave has delivered the highest quality products in the areas of satellite technologies, navigation simulators, defence electronics, and sensors and measurement. With an already flexible and versatile product line-up, we continue to focus on developing leading-edge products driven by our customers’ requests and priorities. We pride ourselves on providing products with headroom and flexibility, not only to support applications of today, but also applications not yet even imagined.

The year 2011 was a competitive and rewarding one for WORK Microwave. Despite the challenges of tough economic times, 2011 was a year of significant growth for us, specifically in the first and second quarters The lion’s share of this growth was generated by sales of our growing digital product lines within our Satcom Technologies division, which saw its largest increase in sales to date. The increased popularity of our DVB-S/S2 equipment in 2011 demonstrates the strengthening market position for our Digital Video Broadcast services-related products. For example, IABG, a leading European technology and science service provider, and SkyVision, a leading provider of IP services to emerging markets, both became new users of WORK Microwave’s IP modem technology this year.

On the analog side, significant sales of our long-established frequency converters to global satellite operators and system integrators including, SES Astra, Eutelsat, Vertex, Hiltron and Thales Alenia Space also contributed to our overall growth in 2011. Our relationships with these companies began a decade ago and serve as an excellent example of how customer partnerships remain a hallmark of our philosophy.

WORK Microwave’s main objective has always been to design customized, efficient products that provide our users with flexible, future-proof solutions. During 2011, we dedicated greater resources to the quality control of our products, while decreasing time to market for standard products and custom solutions. We announced that our popular DVB-S2 IP-Modem SK-IP for high-speed network layer 2 and 3 operation was enhanced to provide a new level of performance. Our IP-Modem SK-IP now boasts two important key features — traffic shaping technology has been integrated to ensure that available bandwidth is optimized and, second, cross layer optimization techniques have been incorporated to ensure that information from all layers of the network (i.e. – rate, power, coding) can be shared to obtain the best possible performance.

workFig1 Our popular DVB-S/S2 Multistream Modulator has been upgraded with several new features. First, multistream technology has been added, allowing users to aggregate as many as six independent transport streams into one satellite carrier in a fully transparent manner, maintaining the integrity of the original content. Second, a new USB port, which can be accessed via the back panel, enables users to make a copy of the parameter settings and clone selected configurations to another device or save them for reference later. Lastly, in addition to the ASI interface, Transport Over IP (TSoverIP) allows users to take advantage of existing network infrastructure to transport video and data, a functionality that’s becoming increasingly in demand as IP backbones become more robust and stable. Both the IP-Modem and Modulator now also boast a new interface that includes a new front panel, improved web interface, a powerful XML-style configuration, auto-configuration via USB, and IPv6 support for both M&C and traffic interface.

We’ve also embarked upon the development of several near- and long-term technologies designed to serve the satellite and navigation communities. Earlier this year we began supporting the future of Europe’s Satellite Navigation System, Galileo. At the Galileo test environment GATE in Berchtesgaden, Germany, relay stations positioned on eight mountain peaks are already broadcasting signals compatible with those that Galileo satellites will begin transmitting from Earth’s orbit in 2014. WORK Microwave is proud to contribute to this project by delivering signal generators that allow the EGNOS signals to be simulated and tested in real-time in the GATE area in Berchtesgaden.

Further underlining our commitment to the industry, we also remain an active member of the Digital Video Broadcasting Project (DVB), playing an influential role in a number of major workgroups including, TM-S and TM-GBS.

worklogo With all of our new product enhancements, as well as our partnerships and sales in 2011, WORK Microwave is strongly positioned for 2012 and optimistic about the forthcoming quarter. Looking forward, we will continue to foster relationships with our current partners while focusing on new areas of growth and delivering the highest quality, most cost-effective solutions to our growing customer base.