How Viasat is promoting “Satcom as a Service” in the government
Now president of the government segment of Viasat, Craig Miller’s responsibility is to continue the satellite communications company’s efforts to make its products and business models available to defense and other federal agencies.
As Miller recently told me, in the broader competitive landscape of the government market, Viasat has “an interesting balancing act to walk”.
New or aspiring market participants are on one side of the spectrum, while long-standing hardware companies with decades of experience in the field are on the other.
Where does Viasat, headquartered in Carlsberg, California, sit on this spectrum and how does this affect its strategy?
“It’s very important for us to find skills that we can compete with on our terms because we don’t have the market cap and we’re not as big as some of the other guys out there,” Miller said.
At the core of Viasat’s identity is a global network service provider that operates satellites to securely connect U.S. military, other government agencies, and allies to the network. The company also provides Internet connectivity for airline, residential, and other consumer markets.
“With that in mind, we’re better aligned with a lot of new entrants,” Miller said. “We’re not necessarily as big as they are, but we are agile like them and commercial like them.”
One of those commercial models that Viasat sees promising and more government interest is satellite communications as a service.
“The service provider takes care of everything for you and you only get the impact you need and you don’t have to worry about the administration,” Miller added.
The Satcom-as-a-Service construct sees network providers like Viasat responsible for the connectivity hardware like terminals and ground stations that support and expand the network, Miller said.
An agency would then pay for a certain amount of bandwidth to access and use the network, which Miller described as similar to how people buy Internet services for their homes. The network operator or provider is then responsible for upgrades and other iterations for the network.
“If you only buy them as products, you buy what you buy and the technology is frozen. But when you buy a service, we’re always updating our network, ”said Miller. “Our network is not static at all, we update it every day.
“So when you buy it as a service, you get these upgrades automatically and keep getting technological advances day in and day out. If you buy as a service, you get the latest information. “
A second area related to connectivity that is also high on Viasat’s agenda is the transition to 5G networks and how this concept can be more than just what is on site. Miller said Viasat is working with the Air Force on funded contracts to help this service industry better understand and adopt more 5G technologies.
But in the bigger picture of 5G and hybrid networks, Miller gave two definitions of what it can mean to different people, depending on who you ask.
“For some people, it’s the over-the-air spectrum and protocol, but 5G is also a very extensible network management architecture,” Miller said.
“5G offers some interesting ways to bring networks together and bring other networks together under a single network management architecture and help them work together as a company.”