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YIR: SkyTerra (formerly Mobile Satellite Ventures—MSV)
by Alex Good, Chairman, CEO + President — Jim Corry, V.P., Government Solutions by Jennifer Manner, V.P., Regulatory Affairs — Chris Gates, V.P., Strategy

2008: SkyTerra performed well throughout 2008, enjoying solid revenue from both equipment sales and satellite services. At the same time, the company also made significant progress on the development of its next-generation satellite-terrestrial network.

Jim Corry, the vice president of government solutions for SkyTerra, related how an increasingly high priority for the public safety community has been finding a way to ensure public safety, and government agencies have an interoperable communications system in place. In October 2008, SkyTerra met that need with the completion of its Satellite Mutual Aid Radio Talkgroup (SMART™) program.

SMART, a nationwide network of nine-regionally managed talkgroups, enables reliable, interoperable communications among federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement and public safety organizations across the country.

Pioneered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the FBI and operating on SkyTerra’s satellite communications network, SMART offers one-to-one and one-to-many, push-to-talk, “dispatch style” communications. In the U.S., public safety officials from all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, are enrolled in one of nine regional, or three nationwide, talkgroups.

Nationwide talkgroups include two talkgroups managed and monitored by the Department of Justice (DoJ), and three National Security and Preparedness Talkgroups (NS/EP) which are managed and monitored by the Department of Homeland Security’s National Communications System (NCS) to ensure reliable communication among continuity of operations and continuity of government centers.

In addition, SMARTs for cross border interoperability with Canada and Mexico are currently in development and, by mid-2009, SkyTerra, in conjunction with both the Canadian and U.S. public safety and border security organizations in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, will establish a network of multiple cross-border talkgroups enabling international communications interoperability. The plan initially calls for overlapping regionally managed talkgroups on both the U.S.-Mexican and U.S.-Canadaian borders.

The Company was able to expand Satellite Mutual Aid Radio Talkgroups to encompass all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Using SMART public safety officials and government institutions interoperable communications can be conducted, allowing users to remain in continuous contact, regardless of whether terrestrial communications systems are damaged or congested.
  • For emergency response, law enforcement or public health, SMART meets the need for nationwide interoperability among multiple federal, state and local public safety teams, providing these professionals with the communications tools they need to ensure the safety of the public,” says Jim Corry, vice president of government solutions for SkyTerra
  • As we make our way into 2009, we intend to expand our program of nationwide SMART talkgroups to include international cross-border interoperability. National security is extremely important and border control plays a key role in keeping Americans safe. Reliable interoperable satellite communications — that are portable and work in remote areas — would be a valuable asset for multi-jurisdictional, cross border operational interoperability

  • Jennifer Manner, vice president of regulatory affairs for SkyTerra adds that creating a nationwide, interoperable public safety network in order to improve communications among federal, state and local public safety officials during times of emergency, continues to be challenging. As the year comes to a close, once again, the re-auctioning of the 700 MHz D Block in order to create a public safety network is an important issue for the Federal Communications Commission and the public safety community.

    The current proposal by the Commission to re-auction the D Block recognizes the important role satellite communications plays in improving the public safety network. However, companies such as SkyTerra believe that an expansion of the satellite requirements would better protect the public in times of emergency.

    ;In its comments to the FCC, SkyTerra recommends that the Commission modify its “one satellite handset” rule to require that at least one model of each major device type (e.g., one laptop card, one PDA, and one phone), and half of all models made available to public safety officials, incorporate satellite communications capability. This requirement should be phased in over two years.

    The Commission and public safety community recognize that satellite services can improve the public safety network by extending coverage and increasing reliability and survivability. However, for these benefits to be realized, satellite capability must be built into public safety officials’ primary devices — the devices they keep charged and at hand and already know how to use. SkyTerra believes it is essential that public safety officials have reliable satellite communications at their fingertips when an emergency strikes that facilitate interoperability among the public safety community while extending coverage to rural areas during the build-out of the nationwide terrestrial network.
    SkyTerra's new products and agreements/partnerships efforts were the subject of Company CEO and president Alex Good's comments. In mid-September, Qualcomm, SkyTerra, and ICO Global Communications announced a 15-year agreement in which Qualcomm will integrate satellite and cellular communication technology in select multi-mode mobile baseband chips. As a result, for the first time ever, satellite connectivity will be enabled in mass-market wireless handsets and devices. This will enable these devices to have ubiquitous mobile communications coverage from anywhere in North America, including areas where traditional cellular service is currently unavailable or unreliable.

    Agreements like this are just the first of many partnerships between satellite companies and wireless manufacturers and operators and illustrate how the two industries are taking advantage of opportunities to offer consumers increased geographical coverage and new applications on traditional cellular-sized handsets and other small mobile devices.
    This agreement paves the way for the integration of satellite communications into mass market wireless handsets and devices. For the first time, satellite communications can achieve economies of scale traditionally enjoyed in the cellular marketplace today. The integrated satellite-terrestrial market presents an exciting opportunity with more than 100 MHz of spectrum potentially addressable on a global basis. We anticipate additional operators will take advantage of satellite data optimized technology as the systems evolve.

    In July, Harbinger Capital Partners agreed to provide $500 million in debt financing to fund SkyTerra’s business plan through the third quarter of 2010. Specifically, it will provide funding through a number of significant milestones — through the construction and launch of the MSV-1 satellite, and up to the time MSV expects to launch MSV-2. The funding is a testament to the ‘recognized’ value of SkyTerra and of integrated satellite-terrestrial communications networks and their potential benefits.

    We have obtained committed financing for our period of greatest financial need. We now look forward to bringing to market the services we believe will set a ‘high water mark’ for the mobile satellite services industry, and extend the marketplace for satellite services far beyond their historical bounds. This revolutionary satellite system is expected to provide service for at least 15 years and will ring in the era of integrated satellite-terrestrial networks.

    2009: Chris Gates, vice president of strategy for SkyTerra, notes how the satellite industry is changing. Until now, satellite communications has primarily been used by workers in remote locations and required expensive and bulky equipment. However, with advances in technology, next generation integrated satellite-terrestrial networks are becoming a reality and more and more we will see satellite companies partnering with wireless carriers and manufacturers to bring satellite capabilities to mass-market wireless handsets and devices.

    SkyTerra remains on track to launch its MSV-1 satellite during its launch window beginning the 4th quarter of 2009 to early 2010, and to launch its MSV-2 satellite in the 2nd half of 2010. Replacing the company’s current satellites, MSV-1 and MSV-2 will be two of the largest and most powerful commercial satellites ever built.

    These satellites are key to the company’s development of its next-generation integrated satellite-terrestrial network. The network will allow users — for the first time ever — to seamlessly and transparently roam between cellular and satellite networks on a handheld device from virtually anywhere throughout North America. Consumers will be able to purchase handsets similar in price and size to those currently in the marketplace. In addition, SkyTerra’s next generation service will add very little cost to the wholesale cost of a handset and offer a flexible broadband platform supporting a host of advanced services.

    As we approach the launch of next-generation satellite networks by MSS companies like SkyTerra, we can look forward to both a satellite and wireless revolution. The mass-market scale of the next generation network will improve service capability and extend utility to existing MSS customers. It will also dramatically lower device and service pricing compared to traditional MSS and will continue to ensure coverage for mission critical and public safety interoperability, fleet management and consumer telematics.”

    About the company
    Since 1996, SkyTerra has been providing reliable wireless voice, two-way radio (PTT) and data services for a wide range of customers across North America, northern South America, Central America, the Caribbean and Hawaii via its two existing MSAT satellites. SkyTerra is embarking on the deployment of a wireless network whose unique combination of defining characteristics continental reach, multi-layer network architecture, all-IP technology approach and wholesale distribution model create the foundation for its highly attractive broadband wireless platform. SkyTerra currently uses approximately 30 MHz of L-band spectrum that is conducive for mobile and fixed broadband wireless services and authorized for use in every market in North America, cover a total population of nearly 330 million people. SkyTerra is building two new satellites for its next generation network which will be among the largest and most powerful commercial satellites ever built. When commercially launched, the network will transform communications in a variety of areas including public safety, homeland security, aviation, transportation and entertainment by providing interoperable, user-friendly and feature-rich voice and high-speed data services.