Intelsat Satellites: All Systems Go

Intelsat associate general counsel Gonzalo de Dios explains what the company is doing to make its satellites’ connectivity with the world even stronger

In preparation for the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-15) last November, Gonzalo de Dios and his team were working around the clock. The WRC-15 conference, which is part of the United Nations and hosted by the International Telecommunications Union, only takes place every four years.

“We worked for a month leading up to the conference, no days off, no weekends off, as part of an effort to harmonize the way satellite spectrum is used,” De Dios says. “We dealt with different administrations from around the world, helping them understand and recognize the value of what we provide, not just as a company, but as an industry.”

Gonzalo de Dios, Associate General Counsel, INTELSAT. Photo by Kevin Gillespie.
Gonzalo de Dios, Associate General Counsel, INTELSAT. Photo by Kevin Gillespie.

The company in reference is Intelsat, leading provider of satellite services all over the world. It delivers information and entertainment for the world’s leading media and network companies, multinational corporations, Internet-service providers, and government agencies. De Dios is Intelsat’s associate general counsel, responsible for all regulatory matters affecting the company’s satellite operations.

From a young age, De Dios had his eyes set on a job in the telecommunications industry. “One of the things that I sought as a younger professional was the international nature of the business,” he says. “And I have always found technology to be a great enabling tool for people. Whether the services provide opportunities for health, safety, entertainment, or economic empowerment, telecommunications is that essential element that has drawn me to this company.”

De Dios ensures that Intelsat has rights to operate and provide connectivity throughout the world. He deals with any issue that has to do with market access as well as business development and commercial tax issues.

“Mainly, I do a lot of work around the lifeblood of the industry in which we work,” De Dios explains.

De Dios served as Intelsat’s leader at the WRC-15 conference at the end of 2015, where regulators from all across the globe got together to discuss how to use radio-frequencies waves for everything from garage-door openers to TV stations, mobile wireless services, and satellites. The conference is an international effort to harmonize the use of spectrum around the world.

With so much talk about frequencies, satellites, and connectivity, it’s easy to assume Intelsat is new to the industry, but it’s actually been doing this for more than 50 years. The company started in the 1960s to provide connectivity between Europe and North America. Now, Intelsat has a hand in bringing just every experience to the world, from Live Aid concerts to the 2014 World Cup.

“All of that connectivity is part of everyday life,” De Dios says. “We are the company that allows most places on Earth to have access to the rest of the world, whether it’s connectivity in a specific region, like remote villages in Colombia or hard-to-reach places in Patagonia, the type of satellite connectivity that we provide is essential to the welfare and well-being of many communities around the world.”

Intelsat customers are continuously asking for more intelligent communication platforms and solutions. To answer this request, the company is preparing to launch the first of its next-generation satellites, Intelsat EpicNG.

The new Intelsat satellites will be interoperable with Intelsat’s existing global fleet of approximately 50 satellites. Together, the higher performance, better economics, and simpler access that Intelsat EpicNG will bring will open up new broadband and mobile applications for Intelsat customers all over the world. These new next-generation satellite assets aren’t cheap—they are approximately $400-450 million, but they will add great value for customers.

“A tremendously important segment of the marketplace is mobility,” De Dios says. “By using smartphones and tablets, consumers and businesses are demanding Internet access anywhere, anytime, wherever you go. You require the same high quality and reliable service wherever you are located—whether it is in the air, on land, or at sea. Intelsat EpicNG, combined with Intelsat’s existing fleet, will enable in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity on a plane, or enable ship operators to receive and transmit data to the home office, or facilitating banking services in a remote region.”

On the business side, Intelsat is helping companies keep their costs down by not only innovating in orbit, but also by driving innovations on ground terminals that will make the use of satellite spectrum more efficient and lower capex [capital-expenditure] and opex [operational-expenditure] costs for  customers. By doing so, it will make access to satellite technology much simpler for companies across the broadband, mobility, media, and government sectors.

“Those are the elements where we find ourselves pushing forward into the next years to come, and it’s a very exciting time because we’re seeing progress every single day,” De Dios says. “We’re seeing innovations in space and on the ground, enabling things that were not possible five or 10 years ago.”

Intelsat has a leading market position in the satellite broadband sector, but has no interest in slowing down so that competition can catch up to it. The company continues to rely on continued innovation—in orbit and on the ground—to stay ahead of the pack and provide the best value to customers.

Intelsat

Headquartered
Luxembourg District, Luxembourg

Founded
1965

Number of Employees
1,100

Global Reach
Intelsat’s network covers 99% of the world’s populated regions.

Annual Revenue
$2.472 billion (2014)

Company Summary
Intelsat S.A. (NYSE: I) is the world’s leading provider of satellite services, delivering high-performance connectivity solutions for media, fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure, and enterprise and government and military applications. It provides services to over 1,300 customers in nearly 200 countries and territories.

When it comes to its customers, Intelsat goes with a proactive approach. “We pride ourselves on really knowing our customers and their business and competitive landscape, and as a result, develop solutions before the customer realizes they need that solution five years from now,” De Dios says.

To get further ahead of the curve, Intelsat is partnering with antenna and ground technology providers to simplify access to satellite technology and optimize the performance of its next generation Intelsat EpicNG fleet. Intelsat has also partnered with a LEO (low earth orbit) provider, OneWeb, and in a few years will be part of a fully interoperable GEO/LEO constellation that will provide tremendous benefits for the broadband, mobility, and government sectors. It will strongly position Intelsat to capitalize on emerging applications stemming from the Internet of Things, such as connected cars and ships.

“We continue to push the bounds of innovation in order to provide our customers with the services that they need,” De Dios says. “The partnerships and innovations that we are undertaking today will be critical to making the world a more digitally inclusive place for all.”