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Operators Target Homeland Security Opportunities

By | June 2, 2003

      Princeton, N.J.-based SES Americom is among the global satellite operators that are looking to get a share of the homeland security market.

      David Helfgott, president and CEO of Americom Government Services unit, said he sees strong potential for both homeland security and defense applications. Americom Government Services, a wholly owned subsidiary of SES Americom, serves the U.S. government’s civil and intelligence communications requirements but hopes that homeland security and defense requirements will drive near-term growth.

      “Many of [the homeland security and defense] programs have been delayed,” Helfgott said in an interview with SATELLITE NEWS. “An internal review is taking place to avoid redundant programs by different federal agencies. We are preparing our direct sales force and our partners to be ready for activity upon completion of the review.”

      Homeland security offers “unique opportunities” for satellites, Helfgott said. One of them is assisting with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that use commercial satellites to communicate information, he said. “Homeland security agencies may use UAVs for border patrol and other missions,” Helfgott said. Other potential homeland security applications include video teleconferencing, broadcasting, and high-bandwidth data transmission. A coordinated command and control effort also could use commercial satellites, he added.

      The Department of Defense currently is the largest and most active user of commercial satellite services. “We are working very hard with partners to address these DoD programs,” Helfgott said. “Unpredicted events, such as wars, require a lot of bandwidth in a particular region,” he added. That is a short-term, unplanned demand that coincides with the long-term, network-centric warfare trend that uses satellite communications to augment military satellite communications resources, he added.

      On the civil agency side, the Department of Commerce and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration are two of the biggest users of SES satellite capacity, Helfgott said.

      In addition, satellite operators compete fiercely for the media distribution business and are the most reliable means of helping media companies disseminate their content.

      “It is very difficult to take down a satellite communications network,” Helfgott said. “Most media outlets have multiple points of ingress and egress.”

      Every since Sept. 11, 2001, infrastructure issues have been of paramount importance.

      “The lesson of 9/11 is that satellites offer a reliable overlay and backup network,” Helfgott said. “I think the combination of terrestrial and space-based communications provide a very robust combination for our customers.”

      –Paul Dykewicz

      (Monica Morgan, SES Americom, 609-987-4143)

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