by Marc LeGare and Edward Topasna
CEO + Program Manager, Proactive Communications
The first decade of the 21st Century has offered satellite telecommunications providers plenty of lessons, challenges, and opportunities from the military customer. As the CEO of Proactive Communications, Inc. (PCI), I will address some of the broader implications for satellite telecommunications providers, lessons that we have learned over the past four years of increasing business. True Command, Control, and Communications (C3), from the military world to corporate environs, is a process whose time has come.
Lesson 1: The War On Terror
The two broadest lessons emerging from the long-term deployments of U.S. military and their support forces revolve around the close integration between military satcom and commercial satellite capacity and the use of satellite communications to jumpstart reconstruction efforts. It should come as no surprise not all of the military satcom requirements are met via their dedicated fleet of satellites. In fact, DISA reported in 2008 that the current mix of military to commercial satellite segment use was 20 to 80 percent and is projected to evolve in three to four years to five to 95 percent.
This should be good news to the commercial satcom (comsatcom) industry and an ongoing integration challenge for military communications planners. This integration effort will significantly influence network security, service delivery, and O&M (operations and management).
Lesson Two: Jumpstart Success + Satcom
The second learning opportunity, and one that PCI has experienced over the past four years, is the use of satellite telecommunications to jumpstart reconstruction efforts.
In any U.S. military campaign, we can expect enemy communications infrastructures to be targeted. Once U.S. forces liberate and occupy, reconstruction starts. For any number of practical and strategic reasons, creating a robust communications infrastructure is an important step in creating stability.
In Iraq, this was accomplished in support of the elections effort and was a significant, ongoing program for PCI. The Iraqi C2 Network (IC2N) was the Iraqi Governments largest satellite telecommunications network and spanned 258 nodes every province and every major city. The original program did not specifically address transitioning the network to Government of Iraq (GoI) funding, but this did occur and was a strategic success for the USG.
All elections were supported with secure and non-secure voice and data. In fact, the network eventually became the largest secure Voice over IP (VoIP) network over satellite in the world. The ultimate goal for the GoI is to reduce their total cost of ownership by migrating to wireless, microwave, and fiber connectivity to maintain the integrity of their investment. Satellite telecommunications proved to be an invaluable tool in the Iraqi reconstructions effort.
The 20-80/5-95 paradigm presents some challenges to the industry. As the field soldier, airman, sailor, and marine become increasingly networked, real-time imagery and converged communications will increase the demand for more bandwidth. The challenge for milsatcom and comsatcom providers is how to increase throughput without the high investment costs of more satellites. We are seeing this process occur with DVB-S standards, network accelerators, and embedded compression devices. However, having this free capacity means an almost constant capital investment on the part of service providers. This will be a challenge to the industry in balancing investment strategies and constant technical change.
A second challenge is one we have seen in the military and is now appearing in the commercial arena migrating from space segment provider to service provider. The customer, whether military or commercial, looks increasingly for companies that can deliver a communications network in an integrated fashion. Just as the military has seen radio, telephone, and VTC delivered over microwave and satellite, the same is now expected from the
In the near future, advanced telecommunications providers will have the ability to provide a variety of communications services, including VoIP, radio, VTC, and surveillance. This will create a greater quality of service thereby placing more engineering requirements and necessitating the placement of more personnel in the field on the provider.
As a former war fighter and commander, I can very easily visualize PCI as a multifunctional theater communications brigade. For myself, this is a role reversal as well as an adaptation challenge.
Finally, these challenges offer real opportunities to satellite telecommunications companies who are nimble and aggressive. The first opportunity is the ability to deploy and support converged communications for customers. Converged communications can mean almost anything from the well-understood Cisco model of data, VoIP, and video, to the DISA concept of service delivery to the fringe.
The company that can design, deploy, and operate these converged networks will be the go to provider for communications requirements that also need satellite space segment for delivery. Customers may include the U.S. military, foreign governments, first responders, disaster assistance organizations, global corporations, or small/medium businesses that require links to global customer bases.
The diagram above depicts PCIs converged communications capabilities as demonstrated at the recent Department of Defense Interoperability Communications Exercise (DICE), an annual event sponsored by the Joint Forces Command and conducted by the Joint Interoperability Test Command. During DICE, PCI demonstrated that our SPaRTAN Communications on the Halt vehicle was able to interface and communicate with Army North (ARNORTH) and FEMA. PCI was able to conduct VTCs, VoIP calls, and email exchange with various Army units as well as federal and state emergency agencies.
ComSatCom Opportunities Ahead
We see the broader implications of command, control, and communications delivered over satellite to the military customer surfacing in other customer groups. Constrained capacity, growing demand, broader uses, converging networks, and technical complexity are providing insightful lessons, complex challenges, and real opportunities for satellite telecommunications companies.
About the authors
Mr. LeGare became CEO of Proactive Communications, Inc. in 2006, after serving as the companys Chief Operating Officer and Operations Manager since 2003. Under Mr. LeGares leadership as CEO, Proactive Communications has become the first U.S. company to work directly with the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior. Prior to joining PCI, Mr. LeGare was Senior Consultant and Operations Manager for Force XXI Battle Command Brigade of TRW/Northrop-Grumman. From 1981 to 1999, Mr. LeGare served various command and staff positions for the U.S. Army worldwide, including Battalion Commander from 1999 to 2001. LeGare earned a B.S. from the United States Military Academy, West Point, a Master of Science from the Air Force Institute of Technology, and a Master of Military Arts and Sciences from the School of Advanced Military Studies.
Mr. Topasna was brought into the company as a Program Manager in 2007. After serving for more than 20 years in the U.S. Army as a Signal Warrant Officer, he continued to work with the III Corps, G6 as Network Planner prior to joining PCI. Mr. Topasna served various Signal Battalions, Brigades, and Corps G6 staff positions for the U.S. Army worldwide as a Network Controller, Network Technician, and Network Planner. Mr. Topasna accompanied the 13th Corps Support Command to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom II (OIF II).
About Proactive Communications
Proactive Communications, Inc. (PCI) is a 40 employee IT and Satellite Telecommunications Company with a world-wide footprint. It specializes in creating communications solutions in complex environments. Its telecommunications experience in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003-2005, an invitation to get involved in Katrina Relief effort was offered. From that experience, PCI has branched out to communications solutions for first responders such as the Florida National Guard.