Richard Hadsall is the founder and CTO of MTN Satellite Communications (MTN) in Miramar, Florida, and is also the CEO and CTO of the MTN Government Services (MTNGS) subsidiary in Leesburg, Virginia. From 1969 to 1972, Richard worked at Eclipse Systems, Fairfield N.J., specializing in fluidic computer and control systems. From 1972 to 1974, he was a sales engineer for Wilshire Electronics, in Passaic, New Jersey, specializing in electronic components for the military and aerospace industry. He became the vice president and general manager of Wire Concepts in Fairfield, New Jersey, from 1974 to 1976, and he then founded Crescomm Inc., which was sold to Pirelli in June of 1987, and went on to found RJ Earth Satellite Communications, providing communications equipment and services to local and regional governments. In 1981, Richard founded MTN Satellite Communications, and operated as the senior vice president and CTO and became the companys CEO and CTO in 2009.
Richard, please tell us about how you came to found MTN in 1986.
Prior to April 1986, I had founded Crescomm Transmission Services, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) satellite common carrier providing transportable satellite communications to the TV broadcast industry on a global basis using the Intelsat satellites to deliver breaking news events from around the world.
In April of 1986, at the request of then Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger, I received a call from his military attaché, Cmdr. Mel Sundin, at the Pentagon asking me if I could provide a satellite antenna that would allow a broadband uplink from a moving vessel at sea.
At the time, it seemed like a logical question, and something I thought shouldnt be too much of an issue, so I said no problem. After I hung up the phone, I had no idea how to accomplish the requested task, although I knew there had to be an easy or economical way to provide the same satellite services that we had been providing to the Reagan administration from the ground transportable antennas at various summits held around the world.
My first task was to find some type of stabilization, so I contacted my associates at Comsat Labs in Maryland, who customized antenna fixtures for me. They referred me to R.J. Matthews, a former Comsat employee, who had retired and was building TVRO antenna systems for private boats and some cruise ships. He was the founder and president of Sea Tel, Inc., then located in Martinez, California.
When I contacted R.J. and explained what I wanted to do and asked if he was interested in my quest, surprisingly R.J. said he was, and he didnt think I was crazy for asking. With my FCC licenses for the antenna and transmitters, and R.J.s TVRO pedestals as stabilizers, we presented our solution at the Pentagon.
In the third quarter of 1986, we agreed to deliver a Beta system. As partners for this joint venture, R.J. and I agreed to name the company Maritime Telecommunications Network, Inc.
We worked on the project for four months and, in September 1986, delivered the first stabilized Ku-band satellite antenna to the U.S. Navy. The antenna was installed on the USS Iwo Jima (LPH-2) when it deployed to the Middle East during the first Persian Gulf crisis. The antenna system was classified under the U.S. Navy for two years and was released to me for commercial endeavors in May of 1988. At that time, I started to take the antenna out on many commercial vessels, research ships, and cruise ships to provide live video uplinking back to the United States, for various national and international broadcasters.
What was the state-of-the-art technology then regarding how companies were communicating?
Most companies and organizations back in the 1980s were using large-scale, transportable, satellite antennas (five meters or larger mounted on trailers) from remote locations around the world. The maritime applications were accomplished by using Inmarsat standard A terminals, where they have one or two telephone lines on a 56 Kb satellite channel, at a user cost of $15.50 per minute. There were no stabilized VSAT antennas available at the time. The military had some converted gun mounts on vessels which held large-scale satellite antennas for X-band but these were very expensive (over $3 million each at the time).
What have been the major technology advances in the industry since then and how have they affected the industry?
The technology has advanced quite a bit, much of the advancement was developed and paid for by MTNs sole source contracts with the U.S. Navy, that constantly asked for better mobility, more power, more bandwidth, and more applications to support not only the tactical requirements but also the morale and welfare needs of the crew. Our advanced technology allowed for higher quality, more efficient antennas with better stabilization, and cost-effective prices for the integrated services.
Could you give us a brief description of your current C- and Ku-band networks? How is your technology different?
The MTN network consists of both C- and Ku-band coverage. The C-band coverage provides a seamless service utilizing overlapping global beams; we augment these with various regional beams that cover specific areas of interest of our sailing clients. Our Ku-band beams are all wide area regional beams set up in overlapping configurations allowing for seamless sailing through the most popular areas of interest for the cruising and commercial industries. We provide automatic beam switching service within our network that takes the pointing operation away from the shipboard operator. We also provide a complete managed service network allowing our clients to contract guaranteed committed information rates (CIRs), but allow them to burst above their contracted rates as bandwidth becomes idle.
We understand you are making an important investment in upgrading your European teleport. Can you give us details?
The MTN/Erzia teleport is a strategic fit for our day-to-day business. It allows MTN to collocate all of our business units requirements into one location saving the need for additional hub equipment, and terrestrial connectivity to multiple locations. It also allows for the collocation of government business needs for onsite X-band support. Having all of our services available in one location (like our Holmdel site) allows MTN to be a one-stop shop for all of our clients satellite teleport needs.
What do you see as the big technology breakthroughs in the next 5-10 years?
Over the next 5-10 years, I expect to see more development of new satellite frequencies, which will allow users to communicate with higher bandwidths and smaller antennas. This could come out as wide area Ka-band or higher power Ku-band satellites covering larger footprint areas. With the current development of spread spectrum and CDMA, it will allow users to continue to push the envelope when bandwidth requirements exceed todays capabilities. The higher frequencies will allow for smaller and lighter terminals used in the field for military and government operations. We can expect to see many new antenna designs being delivered using flat-array technology instead of the more commonly used parabolic or dish antenna.
What is the most exciting client MTN has taken on and tell us how the solution and applications worked?
Our two most exciting clients have always been NBC and ABC. NBC, for example, has asked us many times to provide elaborate satellite setups for delivering special events and unique applications. These range from The Raising of the Titanic for the Today Show on NBC and for the Discovery Channel to coverage of the launching and maiden voyages of mega cruise ships.
Additional applications and a one-of-a-kind project included the unique design and construction of the now infamous NBC Bloom Mobile, named for the late NBC Today Show anchor David Bloom. The Bloom Mobile consisted of a 200-watt stabilized 1.5-meter Ku-band antenna mounted on the back of a custom-built Ford F450 4WD diesel truck, which allowed full motion broadcasts while the vehicle traveled at speeds of up to 70 mph across the desert.
ABC has given MTN exciting challenges as well. They called and requested that MTN provide a live uplink from a nuclear submarine somewhere out in the Atlantic Ocean and 50 feet below the surface. Not only did we broadcast the live video from inside the submarine for ABCs anchor Robin Roberts of Good Morning America, we also delivered back to the submarine live Verizon cellular telephone connections, which ABC used for their IFB connections and producer coordination lines from under the ocean.
Another fun challenge from the Good Morning America team was building a redundant (two unilateral antenna systems) 100-watt, 1.2-meter, Ku-band uplink from a moving Amtrak train traveling from Massachusetts, west to Ohio and south through West Virginia, Maryland, and on to Washington D.C. for the week-long Good Morning Americas Whistle Stop tour during the presidential election in September 2008.
As most people in the industry know, I started in the satellite business in 1979 based upon challenges. I live for new technology challenges every day; its what keeps me active and still enjoying my job. It gives me a reason to look forward to come to work. My motto that I transferred into the company over the years has always been No problem and never say No.
I want the challenge there is always a way to make something work. The fun part is just getting there. Once you arrive, there is so much satisfaction just being able to say, I did it or that I found a way to get it done.
Guys, now, wasnt that easy?
About MTN Satellite Communications
MTN Satellite Communications (MTN) is the global service provider of communications, connectivity and content services to remote locations around the world. MTNs maritime VSAT solutions and global satellite communications network offer the reliability that only Always On Always Available systems can provide. More than 600 vessels and land-based terminals worldwide, including commercial ships, offshore drilling and production sites, cruise ships, government and military vessels, private yachts, and ferries depend on MTNs voice and data networks to allow them to be in the middle of nowhere and at the center of everything. Premium services include remote access for Internet, fixed and mobile phones, fax, television, onboard newspapers, banking services, direct payroll deposit for crew, and other enterprise solutions. MTN is based in Miramar, Florida, and has offices worldwide. For more information, visit www.mtnsat.com.
This is the first in a two-part Executive Spotlight series from MTN Satellite Communications. Next time, we will feature CEO Jonathan Weintraub.