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Year in Review... iDirect

idirect_sm1210_l Over the past 12 months, satellite’s role in the modern communications landscape has continued to expand and mature. Satellite is now, truly, a widely-deployed communications technology that supports an ever-growing range of applications across several industries. However, many regions continue to struggle with satellite capacity shortages and the resulting high prices of bandwidth.

With DVB-S2 now embedded in the market and no major new transmission technologies on the horizon, 2010 was a year for iDirect to turn attention towards features and capabilities that allow operators to become more successful by optimizing, differentiating and expanding their services to new regions and markets. iDirect continued to develop the capabilities of existing technologies; enhancing and improving them to enable customers to deliver more bandwidth at lower cost, ensure higher availability and reliability, offer a broader mix of services, and take their business to the next level of growth and expansion.

Over the past year, strong adoption of the Evolution platform was experienced, with 75 percent of iDirect’s customer base now operating on the DVB-S2 based product line, collectively launching more than 250 Evolution networks to date. As we continue to expand and enhance Evolution’s capabilities, the goal is to push the boundaries of network performance in order for service providers and network operators to capture the satellite industry’s biggest market opportunities.

idirect_sm1210_g1 This year also saw the release of the fourth major software upgrade to Evolution, iDX 2.1. With 2.1, iDirect has, once again, expanded the power of DVB-S2, delivering several new capabilities to the platform that help service providers introduce innovative, differentiated services to their customers: Faster data processing speeds that enhance DVB-S2/ACM efficiency gains, network scalability improvements, expanded functionality for the platform’s built in feature set and the industry’s most powerful inbound coding option available, 2D 16-State. iDirect is the first satellite technology provider to integrate 2D 16-State into its satellite communications platform. Following 2.1, iDirect also released a minor software upgrade to Evolution, iDX 2.2, which incorporated DVB-S2 TRANSEC support for Government and International Defense customers.

At the start of the year, iDirect introduced a key addition to our product line when the Company acquired the award-winning SatManage network management software suite. For most service providers, network management has become a primary consideration for selecting a satellite communications platform as they focus on building global networks, capable of delivering seamless and guaranteed connectivity in any business, geographical or communications environment. As networks grow in size, it becomes harder to manage and monitor them effectively while responding to the needs of new and increasingly demanding customers.

SatManage is a sophisticated suite of web-based software tools for automation, monitoring and integration of hybrid networks and NOC based applications. Leading service providers such as BT, MTN and Intelsat General have implemented SatManage to improve overall service quality and network operations, scale their networks and gain the intelligence and visibility necessary to optimize their business.

Midway through 2010, iDirect made SatManage even more accessible and easier to implement by bundling the software’s primary tools into five distinct feature packages. Bundles such as the Mobility or Customer Management packages integrate specialized capabilities to meet specific end user requirements and transform a NOC into a powerful, automated intelligence center.

iDirect witnessed several key vertical trends in 2010 as a result of Company efforts to make satellite communications even more efficient, reliable, easier to use and easier to manage in any location, environment or for any application. One of these market trends was the emergence of VSAT in the energy and utilities industry to enhance the communications network that powers today’s smart grid.

With today’s utilities investing in smart grid strategies to make yesterday’s electrical grid infrastructure more intelligent, reliable and efficient for tomorrow, they require an integrated communications system that supports emerging applications and provides instant access to any location to control every aspect of their operations.

Thanks to recent advancements, satellite connectivity now presents a cost-effective solution for utility companies to manage growing operations and integrate with core communications to establish connectivity in remote geographies. Satellite provides a single, flexible solution for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and broadband capabilities and a resilient, secure network to protect assets and improve the reliability of their operations.

iDirect commissioned analyst firm Pike Research to develop a report on satellite’s role in the smart grid to educate the energy and utilities market on the unique opportunities VSAT offers their business, and developed a five-minute animated video that demonstrated how and where satellite can impact operations.

The Pike paper profiles one utility, Southern California Edison (SCE), that has taken a leading role in bringing satellite into the smart grid. SCE currently uses satellite links to provide reliable connectivity for 30 percent of its remote substations locations. The company is rolling out technology upgrades to its satellite network to enable Voice over IP, Internet and video surveillance applications in addition to core SCADA at these substations.

As service providers focus on building global networks to meet end-user demands for seamless and guaranteed connectivity in any business, geographical or communications environment, they must address key mobility challenges. This is especially true of the maritime market, where vessels must pass through multiple networks as they travel across the globe. According to the 2nd edition of the Maritime VSAT report, published by leading industry analyst firm COMSYS, maritime VSAT services grew as much as 30 percent between 2005 and 2009. iDirect is committed to ongoing technology innovation and end-user education as the steady of VSAT in the maritime market continues.

This year a key innovation for this market was the “OpenAMIP” protocol, which improves integration between stabilized marine VSAT antennas and iDirect’s line of remote satellite routers. Through OpenAMIP, the Company intends to remove some of the complexity of implementing maritime VSAT solutions and promote a shared standard within the industry for technology providers to work together on making networks more reliable, manageable and affordable for end users.

Heightening awareness of satellite communications in the industry by helping to launch the new Maritime SATCOM Forum, organized by GVF, was another iDirect activity. Comprised of maritime satellite service providers and technology manufacturers, the forum aims to strengthen advocacy efforts, expand delivery of training at the end-customer level and provide a single voice to help shipping companies understand the value of satellite services.

The COMSYS report affirms iDirect’s growing success and key accomplishments in this market, naming our platform the “de facto standard” that supports 12 of the industry’s top 15 network operators and service providers, with iDirect routers comprising 47 percent of those installed on vessels today. Using VSAT for cost-effective satellite backhaul. iDirect has also seen heightened demand for VSAT in the cellular backhaul market.

For mobile operators, the rural market is one of the few market segments where they can expand their reach and attain new customers. While significant business opportunities exist, operators have been challenged to build and finance mobile networks in remote locations. Terrestrial backhaul options are either unable to reach these areas or become too costly when spanning great distances.

The arrival of IP-enabled mobile infrastructure equipment combined with recent innovations in VSAT technology has finally made rural service affordable for mobile operators, enabling them to support core operations more cost-effectively and expand their offerings.

This year saw many operators upgrading to all-IP network infrastructure, with iDirect’s IP-based platform enabling operators to share network capacity across multiple locations, allocating bandwidth on demand to maximize efficiency while reducing costs.

2011 promises to be another exciting year for satellite operators, with iDirect working towards the rollout of several ground-breaking innovations that will once again change the SATCOMs landscape. Expect several new capabilities to be introduced that dramatically improve efficiency and flexibility on the inbound channel, comparable to the efficiency gains that DVB-S2 enabled for the outbound channel.

idirect_sm1210_bio As new service providers enter the industry, existing providers adopt VSAT for the first time or growing network operators look to expand operations, iDirect will continue to enhance and innovate our platform to deliver the most efficient, reliable and adaptable satellite communications that helps them improve operations, lower costs and capture new market opportunities.