By Mary Cotton, iDirect Chief Executive Officer
For the past several years in this annual article, I have focused on the emergence of High Throughput Satellites (HTS). I have written about the opportunity for satellite communications to break out from niche technology status to play a larger role in the end-to-end network as global demand for bandwidth explodes.
Well, that opportunity is decidedly here. HTS capacity is filling the skies and opening markets on the ground. As with any type of opportunity, though, meeting demand means raising your game. So in 2016, iDirect made significant progress powering our customers’ innovations and enabling our ground infrastructure platform to capitalize on our industry’s immense opportunities.
Milestones in Delivering Mobility Service
iDirect’s mobility partners made headline news this year as several highly anticipated HTS services built on iDirect became commercially available. Inmarsat GX went live with tremendous success, and Inmarsat immediately realized customer wins across maritime, government, and aviation markets.
In 2016, the first Intelsat EPICNG satellites went into service, making HTS capacity available for commercial shipping vessels and tankers operating in the North Atlantic, as well as for cruise ships and other leisure vessels in the Caribbean. And 2016 saw the successful launch and adoption of Telenor’s THOR 7 satellite, which provides HTS coverage over European shipping lanes.
iDirect supported several more partners in launching and expanding their mobility networks this year. Marlink signed up for capacity with both Inmarsat and Intelsat, making its move into HTS-based services. iDirect partnered with SES to launch their Maritime+ service, which represents its first Ka-band maritime offering. Speedcast expanded their global maritime network on the iDirect platform. And Globecomm launched a high-capacity satellite service for fixed and mobile assets on a global basis.
We are excited to see continued innovation in the mobility market, especially in the antenna industry, where flat panel solutions are opening new opportunities. This year iDirect supported VSAT antenna manufacturer Kymeta in launching a ground-breaking “no dome” antenna for the superyacht market. Kymeta mTenna represents an entirely new class of VSAT technology that can be hand-carried onboard and self-installed on commercial shipping vessels, fishing fleets, and even leisure vessels, creating additional market opportunities.
Advances in Defense and Enterprise
iDirect Government had a very strong year, powered by the launch of its next-generation 9-Series portfolio of remotes, defense line cards, and Evolution 3.4.1 software. With the Evolution platform, the entire 9-Series line of remotes is capable of nearly double the in-route Msps of its predecessor with almost 10 times the packets per second capability. Evolution 3.4.1 delivers enhanced features in security, performance, and efficiency to the 9-Series product line to support airborne, maritime, and land-based communications.
In the enterprise markets, iDirect made significant progress in bridging the gap between satellite and terrestrial networks with the rapid adoption of Layer 2 over Satellite (L2oS). L2oS uses switching to pass Ethernet packets end-to-end over the network, enabling a satellite network to behave like a mainstream access network. L2oS also enables new satellite service delivery models based on carrier-grade Ethernet, and it facilitates converged services.
Telecom providers like Verizon and BT have demonstrated how iDirect’s technology is helping them create true end-to-end networks that deliver superb performance for their own businesses as well as for their customers. For instance, BT is leveraging satellite to extend coverage to remote locations, provide business continuity, and deliver cellular backhaul. Verizon has always made satellite an integral part of its MPLS network and works closely with iDirect to make the technology a transparent part of its service.
This year, we also saw a resurgence of interest and renewed energy from the enterprise market in Africa and continued interest in cell backhaul, rural connectivity, banking, and education across the Latin America and Asian markets — all positive growth signs for our industry.
The Next Wave of Technology Innovation
Industry migration toward the DVB-S2X satellite transmission standard was one of the most significant trends in 2016. DVB-S2X represents a major opportunity for network operators to gain greater performance and efficiency to meet escalating user demands and realize lower business costs.
At iDirect we understand the transformational nature that S2X provides to our partners and the industry. We entered into a partnership with SatixFy over two years ago to co-develop state-of-the art technology. We worked together to deliver a new ASIC chipset that was customized to exploit the full capabilities of the DVB-S2X standard and optimized for the iDirect Waveform. This next generation of technology will allow us to leverage the benefits of today’s HTS satellites, and the capabilities of the next generation HTS that unlock the additional features of the S2X standard.
We are currently performing over-the-air tests of our new S2X chipset and results are demonstrating 500 Mbps aggregate throughput. This technology will allow us to offer exponentially higher performance with aspirations to exceed 1 Gbps of throughput as we keep pace with future satellite developments.
iDirect’s DVB-S2X technology is the foundation for our new iQ family of remotes targeted for broadband, enterprise, and mobility applications and packaged in desktop, rack-mount, and embedded compute form factors. The iQ Series establishes a new model for satellite remote performance providing a future-proof strategy to deliver successive gains in performance and efficiency as network operators strive to keep pace with the launch of increasingly higher frequency satellites. Remotes can be continually reprogrammed over the air to increase network capabilities and throughput levels, driving a massive expansion of applications and setting new service level standards.
The first iQ remote available to market will be a desktop version that supports up to 200 Mbps of aggregate throughput and features dual GigE VLAN aware networking ports.
With the introduction of DVB-S2X, iDirect is also releasing the Intelligent Gateway, which leverages blade-based compute and virtualization techniques to support very high throughput and processing required for DVB-S2X operations in a high-density virtualized appliance. The Intelligent Gateway appliance supports the same throughput as dozens of protocol processors enable our client’s gateway infrastructure to scale for growth.
The iQ Series remote portfolio and Intelligent Gateway will operate over iDirect’s recently released Universal Line Card, which supports both DVB-S2 and DVB-S2X networks and operates in iDirect’s existing Universal Hub chassis.
Intelligent Path Forward
As we pursue an ambitious technology strategy, we are building on a solid foundation. Our fundamental philosophy has always been to provide an open, flexible, feature-rich platform. This enables our partners to capture the broadest market opportunities in high growth markets. In 2016, the iDirect team expanded our efforts to bring opportunity within greater reach, and at a lower cost, so that our partners can expand their value and scale their businesses to new heights.