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The View From iDirect
Year In Review
by David Bettinger, Chief Technical Officer, iDirect

The past twelve months belong to an important phase of development in the satellite industry. Market reports from Comsys and the Satellite Industry Association once again revealed healthy growth numbers—across a widening range of vertical markets and throughout the world. It’s clear that satellite systems are playing an integral role in providing global, always-on, effortless connectivity.

Increasingly, satellite communications means unfettered IP networking. The idea of an IP network is no longer a fixed system tied to the limits of terrestrial technology. Instead, networks must stretch across entire continents and oceans, supporting a growing list of voice, data and video applications. Connectivity must be guaranteed anywhere and at all times—in the office, in the field and on the move.

In 2007, there were several notable trends shaping the satellite industry’s future. Enterprises are increasingly integrating satellite communications into their networks to support multiple needs. While enterprises have been initially slow to adopt satellite communications exclusively to ensure their operations against network failure, they are investing in satellite to play a much larger network role, a role that encompasses VoIP, videoconferencing, digital signage and other IP applications.

Governments and militaries worldwide continue to invest in satellite communications to support global multimedia networks, battlefield logistics, disaster recovery and other mission-critical initiatives. Military organizations have also increased their investments in Comms on the Move (COTM). This technology advance enables troops to maintain momentum in battle, extending visibility of commanders and increasing the volume of data that can be transmitted to and from mobile units.

Another major trend that gained traction in 2007 reveals an even larger future role for satellite communications. Terrestrial carriers worldwide are integrating satellite into their core MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) systems. This trend will accelerate as terrestrial carriers continue to build out ambitious next-generation networks. Satellite communications is uniquely qualified to meet the technology requirements of next-generation networks in delivering immediate, ubiquitous reach.

Meeting New User Demands
The trends noted in the previous paragraphs represent intensifying end user needs. Such places new demands on the satellite industry. Systems manufacturers must advance their technologies to provide greater functionality. They must also minimize operating costs and improve bandwidth efficiency.

In 2007, iDirect introduced several landmark innovations to strengthen its Intelligent PlatformTM. Here’s a quick recap of those accomplishments.

  • DVB-S2 with Adaptive Coding and Modulation: This year iDirect announced the development of its next-generation platform, eVolution, which features the integration of DVB-S2 with an important new feature of the standard called Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM). ACM comprises a real-time feedback system that continually adjusts the operating parameters of the outbound carrier. It monitors the return channel to assess the local conditions at each remote and then leverages that information to determine the optimum link parameters based on link performance.

    With ACM, a hub can adapt the specific modulation and coding scheme of each terminal, adapting to changing link conditions, to continually maximize bandwidth efficiency. Until now, network operators were forced to design their networks based on worst-case scenarios—in most cases, just around the single antenna location or size to provide appropriate margins in case weather conditions worsen. Engineers no longer need to design a network based on worst-case conditions and this saves valuable bandwidth.

  • Advancing Quality of Service: Service providers face the difficult challenge of optimizing the allocation of bandwidth across multiple customers and IP applications. In 2007, iDirect tackled the challenge of bandwidth allocation through a new software feature called Group Quality of Service (QoS). This advance enables service providers to subdivide their bandwidth according to deeper levels of user criteria.

    Through Group QoS, service providers can define sub-groups based on specific business processes, office locations, IP applications and data formats. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) can be defined on outbound and inbound bandwidth, tailored to the dynamic QoS criteria that must govern real-time applications such as VoIP, real-time data sharing and videoconferencing. With Group QoS, bandwidth can be shared more easily across multiple customers, while supporting each individual customer’s application-level requirements.

  • Series 12000 universal 4-slot hub: iDirect unveiled a compact 4-slot hub chassis, which supports multiple inbound and outbound networks on as many as four satellites. A fifth slot can be used for configuration or redundancy. The new hub delivers functionality comparable to iDirect’s larger hub solutions—supporting the entire array of network topologies including star, mesh and SCPC (Single Channel Per Carrier). The 4-slot hub is compatible with iDirect’s existing iNFINITI series line cards as well as our forthcoming eVolution series line cards. With the 4-slot hub, network operators can more economically expand to new regions and markets without deploying a large scale hub. As networks grow, the hub can be daisy-chained with an expansion chassis.

  • Delivering global broadband to the maritime industry: This year marked the launch of a new global broadband maritime service powered by iDirect and offered by Intelsat. The service features two technical innovations from iDirect. The first is automatic beam switching, which enables a remote router to automatically switch from one satellite beam to another as sea vessels cross multiple footprints. The second is iDirect’s global network management tool that enables service providers and organizations to deploy global mobile networks through the integration of iDirect hubs and remote hardware with multiple satellite coverage footprints.
Increased Government Focus
For iDirect, accelerated government demand has lead to the formation this year of iDirect Government Technologies (iGT), a wholly owned subsidiary. In 2007, the iDirect platform was also strengthened with new features to support government and military needs. Most notably, iDirect introduced Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum, a critical innovation that will accelerate much broader adoption of COTM. Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum enables bandwidth to be spread at a much lower rate than before, enabling ultra small antennas to reduce signal interference with adjacent satellites. This results in more cost-efficient use of extremely small reflector antennas or phased array antennas on aircraft, maritime, and land based vehicles.

Global Growth
The past 12 months witnessed increased global expansion for iDirect. In the EMEA region, iDirect achieved a 40 percent market share leadership in hub sales, according to Frost & Sullivan. iDirect also established a regional office in Dubai. The new office, located in Dubai’s Silicon Oasis Technology Park, features a customer support and training center to serve a rapidly expanding customer base.

Marking a milestone in the Asia Pacific region, iDirect partners installed their first hubs in China. Two oil and gas industry leaders—Petrochina’s BGP Oil/Gas Exploration Group and CrossSat Telecom Technology Co.—adopted the iDirect platform based on its ability to connect to multiple satellites and support multiple satellite bands. iDirect also announced major contracts this year with IndosatM2 and Pak Datacom, highlighting a year of solid growth in the region.

Our 2008 Outlook
What do we anticipate for 2008? Much more of the same… the satellite industry is well positioned for continued rapid growth, and soon-to-be-added satellite capacity will enable service providers to meet intensifying demands. More specifically, 2008 will be an important year wherein operators and service providers will replace aging technology with next-generation systems.

In 2007, iDirect made several strategic moves to prepare for this growth. We gained an experienced high-tech leader and growth strategist in our new CEO, Mary Cotton. Mary joins a strengthened management team committed to continuing iDirect’s technical leadership, expanding core offerings and deepening customer support.

Next year, several satellite communications trends will gain notable ground. Mobile communications will continue to be rapidly adopted by military organizations, and we anticipate a renewed interested in mobile communications by the commercial travel industry, as well. The IPTV rage will continue to escalate. Terrestrial carriers will integrate satellite communications into their core services. And enterprises will increase their use of satellite communications with the promise of greater ROI.

At iDirect, our technology innovation is focused on ensuring satellite communications are more powerful, versatile and affordable. In the next 12 months, we look forward to collaborating with our partners, helping them to meet current and emerging customer requirements and run their business more efficiently and profitably. We thank our partners for their support in 2007 and look forward to a promising year of collaboration ahead.

Mr. Bettinger joined iDirect Technologies as Director of Hardware Engineering in 1996 and became responsible for all hardware and software development when named Vice President of Engineering in 2002. Bettinger has won industry acclaim as the lead system architect for iDirect's flagship NetModem and iNFINITI series products. In his current role as Chief Technology Officer, Bettinger is responsible for the oversight of strategic technology decisions and drives the direction of product development. Active in industry organizations, Bettinger is a member of the Telecommunications Industry Association, IEEE and the IPv6 Forum. Prior to iDirect, Bettinger was a senior member of the technical staff at Hughes Network Systems in the Satellite Networks Division. Bettinger is a graduate of Virginia Tech with a Master of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.