MSUA Member Interview | Kevin West, Chief Commercial Officer at Comsat, Inc.
Catherine: You returned to the newly formed COMSAT after beginning your satellite career there in 2007. How does the new COMSAT compare with the original?
Kevin: I would start by saying that both organizations were and continue to be fantastic during their times in history. The market has changed thus the need to change with the times. I believe the COMSAT today is even more responsive to the market, offers a greater breadth of satellite solutions and continues to have the knowledge necessary to be successful.
Catherine: What is the business focus of today’s COMSAT and how do you see the mobility market developing in the 1 – 3 years ahead?
Kevin: When I joined, the first thing I did was take a hard look at the vertical markets that we wanted to focus on. We were always very strong in the aviation market from our legacy customers and our Satcom Direct focus so we began with a very good starting point. From there, we developed a Special Programs Group that focuses specifically on the Special Op’s and INTEL markets and offering SATCOM in these communities.
We also put more effort into focusing on our commercial customers and service providers and made this an area of focus. We hired a Teleport Director that focused on growing our teleport business at our Santa Paula and Southbury Teleports getting more proactive in the marketplace. Lastly we built up our maritime offering and launched COMSAT DataWave ™ which focuses our COMSAT’s maritime product offering and all the value adds within our offering. Going forward, we need to continue to invest in being at the forefront of developing innovative and creative solutions to our customers, in every vertical market we target.
We are more than satellite communications; we provide overall solutions to our land, maritime and aeronautical customers, giving them top-notch service and support, providing them with the same type of connectivity ‘experience’ they are used to when they are at home or in the office and making it a no-brainer for them to stay with or select COMSAT as THE obvious provider of choice.
Catherine: What challenges do you face as a service provider and what steps are you implementing to mitigate that challenge?
Kevin: The market is changing very rapidly with customer requiring more bandwidth and capabilities in smaller form factors. We have had to concentrate on more products and services to meet our customer’s needs and have expanded into other services such as Ka, Ku, and Inmarsat GX.
Catherine: How would you describe the needs of today’s end customers. What do they expect from satellite mobility services?
Kevin: Customers today are demanding higher throughput in smaller form factors while wanting to pay less. Ease of use is always something customers are requiring in addition to have scalable and flexible service plans. Aside from the increased throughput and ease-of-use requirements, I believe that the end-customers continue to value the excellent responsiveness and customer service COMSAT is known for.
Catherine: What connectivity or application innovations are you excited about and what role with they play in COMSAT’s business?
Kevin: COMSAT is a wholly owned subsidiary of Satcom Direct. Our parent company located in Melbourne FL owns and operates a 25,000 square foot data center which allows us to run our Cyber security efforts and our Teleports allow the downlink from the satellites. Thus, COMSAT is able to deliver multiple connectivity and application innovations to our standard service offering. Originally developed for the commercial business aviation market, but now being looked at and incorporated into daily Govt. operations as well are value added applications and solutions such as SDPro, Flight Tracker, the SDR (Satcom Direct Router) and WiFi Hub, Skybond, Global VT and Cyber vulnerability assessment services.
Catherine: COMSAT has been active in Puerto Rico. Tell me about your role there and describe the challenges you faced providing support to the region.
Kevin: When Hurricane Maria hit, COMSAT and our parent company SD coordinated humanitarian missions to help support the people of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. We were able to fly our own aircraft into PR and the USVI. The main airport on the island was closed but they were letting flights in for humanitarian purposes. COMSAT was able supply the local Puerto Ricans with SATCOM equipment to include Satellite phones, Inmarsat BGAN, Inmarsat GX, radio equipment along with food and water.
The damage to the island was catastrophic with no power, communications, water and food. COMSAT was able to help restore vital communications to the Puerto Rico EOC so that relief efforts could be coordinated. There is really too much to tell here but we are thankful that everyone made it back safely and we were able to help those in need.
Catherine: What are the lessons learned from Puerto Rico and how can be done to improve the effectiveness of disaster response?
Kevin: The biggest lesson learned is to be prepared for such catastrophic events. Even though there was plenty of warning of the impending hurricane, the island was just not prepared for such devastation. Power is key. Even though there was plenty of communications gear there was just not enough power to run the systems.
Transportation and getting around after the storm was impossible as most roads were impassable due to downed trees and limbs. COMSAT and SD were transported by helicopter which made restoring communications and our humanitarian efforts a success. Preparedness is the biggest lesson learned from my perspective.
Catherine: You took over the role of MSUA membership Chair last year and successfully helped recruit 8 new members (OneWeb, Thales, iDirect Government, Thales, Phasor, MVS, CLS America, and Clarke Belt 2.0). What are the benefits of participating in MSUA and why should new members join?
Kevin: Top benefits from my perspective are the:
Satellite mobility innovation and market development focus
Annual satellite innovation awards program
Participation in mobility panels at conferences around the world
I’m also excited about more collaboration with entities such as Space Intel Report and Satellite Finance as they offer fantastic coverage of the mobility market.
Catherine: So…aside from your professional focus on mobility, what’s your favorite form of personal mobility?
Kevin: Boating! I have owned many different types of boats throughout my life and the freedom of being out on the water via sail, power or paddle is unparalleled.
Catherine: Many thanks Kevin for sharing your insights and kicking off our first Mobility New interview of the new year. I’m looking forward to further collaborating with you and COMSAT team!