Partner Perspective: Astrium Services

HenryEnd customers in the maritime market require that their satellite communications network must be flexible in order to integrate with other types of networks, support a diverse set of applications and sustain global connectivity to their vessels anywhere in the world.

We sat down with the Chief Technology Officer at Astrium Services, Henry Kongevold, to discuss their operations in the maritime market, and how iDirect has helped Astrium Services continue to offer, highly flexible, scalable solutions that meet the market’s increasing demands.

Could you give a brief overview of Astrium Services, and what makes you unique in your market?

Astrium Services is one of the major service providers in the maritime satcom industry with a focus on yachting/fishing,  transportation, offshore & specialized, and cruise & ferry.

What differentiates us in the market is our agnostic connectivity approach. This enables us to have an extensive range of value propositions from entry and premium standard VSAT, to complex hybrid networks covering multiple services. These services, including VSAT, MSS and 3G/4G,  are based on the platform or connectivity that best fits our customer’s objectives.  And of course our excellent customer service! 

What are the challenges in the markets you serve?

The most matured markets are also the most bandwidth hungry segments such as offshore & specialized and cruise & ferry. The offshore & specialized market use bandwidth to maintain operational efficiency. These operations are costly, so there is a strong drive to produce savings through the use of satcoms, especially VSAT. Cruise & ferry customers need the bandwidth to meet the increasing need for Internet access everywhere. Passengers expect to connect to a vessel’s network using their smartphones and laptops, so ferries and cruise ships need high levels of connectivity to meet this demand.

Transportation is the less mature segment, but we expect an increase in VSAT with the ongoing need for connectivity, and future satellite networks providing standardized and customized VSAT solutions at an affordable price.  

How do you address these challenges to support your customer’s technical and operational needs?

We cover all elements of a service including Field Service installations, repair and refurbishments, spare parts stock, network design and planning, and value added service developments. Since we integrate solutions from so many network operators, hardware suppliers and software developers, we can provide alternatives that are scalable, non-proprietary and future oriented.

We also continue to develop the most suitable satcom services to the broad variety of markets segments and customers we serve. For example, our XChange Value Added Services platform provides seamless integration between carriers and full control of a vessel or platform’s connectivity. It enables a customer to decide how connectivity should be paid for by passengers and crew – from using a pre-paid card to free public connectivity. XChange allows customers to decide this while also being a conduit for value adds such as the SkyFile Mail solutions. 

Can you elaborate on how you expanded in the maritime market by leveraging the iDirect platform? What technology did you use? What industries did you focus on?

Leveraging the iDirect platform has been a key component serving our dedicated markets even back to 2005. iDirect services are broadly in use for our government and commercial (land, maritime, aero) customers to increase reliability and bandwidth efficiency for core voice, email, Internet and remote business applications.

iDirect’s products enhance the efficiency and reliability of Astrium Services’ satellite connectivity. As the technology provided by iDirect is an “open” platform, it is frequency / band agnostic, enabling us to offer our customers the full choice across different frequency bands.

Upgrading to iDirect’s Evolution platform has been key in addressing our customer’s growing bandwidth requirements and more efficient solutions for core voice and data connectivity, particularly to support remote business solutions such as email, Internet, news, etc. We have addressed an increased range of customer application requirements and expanded our customer base without sacrificing service quality or affordability. 

What future advancements do you want to see from the iDirect platform?

Flexible satellite networks become even more important as High Throughput Satellites (HTS) go live and trends to run even more bandwidth-intensive capabilities on one network at an affordable cost begin to surface. Astrium Services is persistent to look for innovation, improved efficiency and flexibility, which will benefit our customers.

To help prepare our networks for the future, we are currently testing iDirect’s next software upgrade, iDX 3.2 and the X7 remote, in our labs. Specifically we are interested in the platform’s ATDMA feature that enhances return channel performance by dynamically adjusting to changing uplink conditions based on each remote’s demand and the system’s Quality of Service configuration. This allows us to continue to efficiently disseminate the bandwidth on the network regardless of rain fade and satellite link degradation.  We are excited by the test results and looking forward to reaping the benefits network wide.

About Henry Kongevold, CTO, Astrium Services Business Communications

Henry is a leading Satellite Services Expert and has been a leading contributor in development of MSS and VSAT based services since the late Eighties.

He started his satellite related career in the MSS area when he was engineering manager for all Telenor’s Inmarsat based services up till 2002, when he joined Inmarsat, working on the BGAN program.

Henry returned to the Vizada group late 2004 where he held positions as Teleport Director , VP Operation and CTO for Maritime VSAT services, where he initiated  major  changes in the technologies and platforms used for  VSAT based services.

Following the Astrium Services acquisition of Vizada Group in December 2011, in September 2012 Henry was appointed CTO of Astrium Services Business Communications, taking responsibility for technology development and strategy, and teleports operation in the newly established business division.

Henry is an Electronics Engineer and has participated in MBA programs with the Business School of Oslo and University of Stavanger.

Henry is married, with two children, two dogs and is living in a small village South West of Norway.

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