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A Conversation With Tachyon Chief Marketing Officer Rick Adams

By | September 7, 2000

      Tachyon Inc., of San Diego, a satellite-based supplier of two-way access to the Internet via satellite, has named Rick Adams as its chief marketing officer. He will be responsible for all of the company’s marketing activities from product development and management to establishing the Tachyon brand worldwide. Adams was chief marketing officer for Rhythms Netconnections, a provider of DSL Internet access over telephone lines. He has some 35 years experience in marketing and sales management. Adams recently took some time with MOBILE SATELLITE NEWS Editor Gregory Twachtman to discuss the competitive landscape between satellites and terrestrial broadband. Here is what he had to say:

      MOBILE SATELLITE NEWS: What role do you think satellites will play, given the expansion in both the terrestrial wired and wireless markets?

      Rick Adams: I think satellite clearly is a nice compliment to the DSL and other types of terrestrial offerings. I don’t see a lot of overlap in the short term. Clearly the DSL offering, while a good one, is still fraught with the distance from the central office, it is fraught with a lot of areas of the country where it is simply not available at all and other limitations regarding availability in the short term. When I say short term, that is the length of time it takes to get DSL in some places. It is still a situation where demand for DSL is far outstripping the entire industry’s ability to supply at least as quickly as customers want it. That can also be an advantage for the satellite industry, and certainly Tachyon, where we can get a dish up in less than 10 business days.

      MSN: What is the window of opportunity for satellites to take advantage of terrestrial’s slow roll out?

      Adams: I think it will go on for a long while. As the terrestrial technologies get more ubiquitous and improved, clearly the window will begin to close. But I think we are quite a ways off from it being a major problem for us.

      MSN: Are you talking 10 years or 15 years or sometime shorter than that?

      Adams: I hate to predict time frames but let’s just say that in an industry where long-range planning is sundown tomorrow, I am not to concerned about that as a threat.

      MSN: Do you lump competition from terrestrial wireless in the same category with wired broadband access?

      Adams: To a degree, yes. Its got its own inherent frailties. I think there is room for all of us to grow tremendously in the short term.

      MSN: What satellite companies are you competing with?

      Adams: Well, at the moment we are pretty fortunate. There are not that many direct competitors in this particular space. There are some applications that don’t quite measure up to the type of service that Tachyon provides with its two-way capabilities. We see Gilat [GILTF] and Hughes [GMH] coming forth later this year or early next year with two-way offerings but I still don’t believe with everything I know that they will be at the quality of service level that we have and it will be, at least in the case of Gilat, a more consumer-oriented service without the standards we have for business-grade or carrier-class service.

      We are in the business market space, and I include in that not just commercial businesses but any kind of business-type institution such as government or non-profit organizations. We are not excluding the home market long range, but certainly in the short range, and by short range I mean in the next 12 months to 24 months, we are clearly very focused on the business space. As costs come down over time, one has to look at the small office/home office market as a possibility, but that is not in our game plan at the moment.

      I think it is important to do a few things really well and that is our plan to stay in the business space short term.

      MSN: Are you encountering perception problems as to the effectiveness of satellite communications, given such industry black-eyes like the Iridium bankruptcy?

      Adams: That is a great question and interestingly enough we are not, at least not any overt ones. You never can tell if someone that might otherwise be considering satellites never comes forward to begin with because of some perception that they have. But among our perspective and existing customers, we really are not hearing that which I think is proper because I think the type of business that we are in has evolved tremendously and Tachyon uses existing Ku-band geostationary satellites that are pretty darn reliable.

      Your question is a valid one and its one that we think about a lot and we keep our antenna up in case that question does arise. We just aren’t hearing it.

      MSN: How will you deal with that question should it arise?

      Adams: We have a number of ways to deal with it, not the least of which is the track record we have so far in our particular business. We also can take people through how things work with our satellites at almost any level that they would be interested in getting into. We have some technical people that are considerably more knowledgeable than I on exactly what makes them work. We are prepared to counter the question if it comes up with any level of detail we need to.

      MSN: What obstacles are facing you right now in terms of expanding your business?

      Adams: There are a couple of areas. I think everyone in the industry is facing the same problem of finding enough what I call “world class people.” I am a great believer that your only sustainable competitive advantage is your own people. Finding enough good ones to manage and deal with the growth is clearly an on-going problem. I have faced that everywhere in my career. Finding absolutely world class people in the numbers you need them in takes a while. That will impact us as it does virtually everybody. I think in today’s full employment economy [finding world class employees] has simply gotten tougher.

      We actually don’t have many physical constraints. It is relatively easy to turn on additional geographical areas compared to having to build your own network as we did in the DSL business. That part is relatively easy for us. We just don’t want to overdrive our headlights. We want to do what we do well where we do it and continues to expand in a manner that is allows us to give outstanding customer service in the process.

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