The Pentagon, headquarters for the Department of Defense. Photo: Wikimedia
In exploring whether to move forward with a managed services model for satellite communications acquisition, certain circles of government leadership have expressed some reservation, which essentially reflects uncertainly or even fear of the unknown — if I do not own it, I cannot “control” the availability, performance and security of satcom.
These misconceptions encourage Department of Defense (DOD) agencies to cling to long-held, familiar traditions in which they purchase commercial satcom through Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding, leasing bandwidth to cover potential operating regions. Rather than acquiring an industry-provided capability as a service with established and predictable service level agreements and committed information rates worldwide, the leases are typically of spectrum or MHz. There is a perception that this leasing arrangement results in more secure satcom and less risk. But, in reality, it is a highly inefficient approach that does not deliver the needed level of capability, accessibility, mobility, or security.
In responding to those who express reservations about managed services — while favoring dated spectrum leasing processes, it is important to note that the managed services model is nothing “new.” The government has acquired numerous other telecommunication and information technology capabilities “as a service” for decades. Not only is the buying methodology precedented, it is extraordinarily effective for those highly mobile users demanding high operational and mission readiness as a top priority. In light of budgetary and resource pressures and the push to lower the total cost of ownership of information technology throughout the government, a managed satcom as a service model specifically to fulfill federal satellite communication requirements has been recognized as the path forward. Satcom as a service is an end-to-end fully integrated capability that brings mobile, high-throughput connectivity the way users seek it — easily, affordably, securely and operationally available anytime, anywhere.
The benefits of the satcom as a service model is evident as users seek always-on solutions that are much more viable, efficient and robust than what they would experience otherwise.
Users have access to resilient and secure satcom wherever they go — over land, at sea or in the air — at a moment’s notice. With no infrastructure charges, additional contracting actions or Research and Development (R&D) investment on their part, users travel from one location to another and simply “plug in” to gain access to the global secure connectivity they need, when and where they need it. These users benefit from a uniform worldwide seamless spot beam architecture for maximum mobility. Missions advance through solid committed information rates with quality of service assured.
Seamless User Experience
Legacy fixed satcom requires significant design, engineering, and time to integrate terminals, modems, satellites, and commercial teleports into a user experience. In contrast, managed services bring a mobile wideband experience. This is not unlike travelling around the world with a cell phone, without stopping to worry about turning on roaming or global access plans, where the cell phone towers are, who installed them, and who wired everything together.
There is also less work for operators, who do not need to file satellite and gateway access requests; more mission success for combatant commanders, who benefit from the ease of operation of their hardware; and less operator interaction for field service reps, resulting in less opportunity for operator-introduced failures. All of this translates to minimized troubleshooting and administration work, all while increasing affordability.
Leading Industry Innovation at no Cost
When federal agencies build and oversee their own satellite networks, they make significant investments and long-term contractual commitments for the hubs, modems, and other infrastructure that they purchase. When new versions come out, they require major contract revisions, which often involve unplanned costs for infrastructure, software, and hardware.
With managed services, innovation is ‘baked in’ up front. Industry constantly makes its own R&D investments, with the latest technology advancements available on the go. This covers replenishment or introduction of satellites, ground stations, and secure enclaves, along with constant feature upgrades. This could also include type-approved terminals in both commercial and military form factors which leverage the best technology that the commercial industry has to offer. Once trusted operators implement and test these new technological improvements, users simply connect and realize the enhanced operational benefits without unfunded capital expense on their part.
In addressing information assurance, industry continually invests so that systems are not only adequately defended, but aggressively well protected — in many cases well beyond commercial best practice. Commercial providers support a wide range of sectors in addition to the government, and each brings unique security challenges and requirements to satisfy. As trusted owner-operators, ensuring the protection of internal and customer data is a top priority and is done for our own network efficacy as well as our economic viability.
We are convinced that managed services will emerge as far less mysterious once DOD leaders truly examine, side-by-side, what the services have to offer compared to legacy leasing methods. As the due diligence is conducted, they will discover that readily available, critical, and secure communications is well within reach, as delivered by industry’s most innovative companies. That is when trepidation about the “unknown” will give way to confident calls to move forward in a direct path to the future — one which will support the mission with flexible, mobile and safeguarded satcom as a service, for the long haul.