The comsys VSAT Report
Market Summary &
Since the last publication of The VSAT Report in 2012, iDirect has undergone a major
strategic transformation. The company has spent the past two years transitioning to a much
larger organization, while re-engineering its core ground infrastructure platform to meet
higher performance standards, driven by skyrocketing bandwidth demands and propelled by
the dramatic influx of High Throughput Satellites.
The transformation was underpinned by iDirect’s impressive achievement in 2011, when it
won the contract to design and supply the ground segment for Inmarsat’s ambitious Global
Xpress Ka-band satellite system. As the industry enters a phase of rapid expansion into the
higher frequency bands, all VSAT manufacturers have sought to build a strategy to
participate. iDirect’s partnership with Inmarsat and close relationships with Intelsat, TSBc
and Yahsat have helped it achieve this feat in spectacular fashion.
The company has flexed its engineering muscles and laid a new and solid foundation for a
new round of rapid-fire developments. Also, a number of key technological innovations and
important business partnerships have powered iDirect’s continued strong performance.
iDirect is now the world’s largest VSAT systems manufacturer by enterprise hardware sales
after making an estimated $245 million in revenues in 2012 and turning in another highly
profitable year. The company continued to lead IP hub sales in the satellite market, selling
more than half of all hubs between 2011 and 2012, and has seen its share of terminal
shipments in a fast growing market quadruple from five per cent in 2004 to almost 20 per
cent in 2012.
Enterprise TDMA Hardware Revenues
2012 System Vendor Shares
“iDirect is very different
from the company of a
few years ago, but it is
just as innovative and
now very well positioned
for the next stage of its
expansion where it is
placed to play a pivotal
role in the development
of the satellite industry
as a whole.”
~ Simon BULL
2013 was a pivotal year for iDirect as it introduced Velocity as a new product line to
complement Evolution. Velocity is designed for satellite operators deploying HTS
architectures. It enables service providers and operators to meet the requirement of high-
speed mobility specifically in multi-spot beam environments. The first iteration of Velocity
will be seen in the deployment of Inmarsat’s Global Xpress system in mid-2014 followed by
Telenor and Thor-7 in 2015.
Velocity represents a step-change, which moves the capabilities that iDirect can deliver to an
entirely different level, whilst also diversifying and expanding the markets it can address.
Evolution will continue to be the optimal system for the majority of its customer base.
Evolution is designed to meet a broad range of customer requirements from narrowband to
demanding high-bandwidth applications. Evolution supports mobility networks and operates
in all frequencies on all satellite architectures, including new High Throughput Satellites.
The two products will be unified through a new common Network Management System,
called Pulse, and will share a range of remote terminals that can be used on either system.
Pulse brings greater scale, resiliency and functionality to iDirect’s overall Platform and will
significantly enhance the performance of the Evolution product line. Pulse will see its first
iteration late in 2014, followed by a rapid development roadmap.
Building on 10 consecutive years of increased revenue, iDirect has firmly consolidated its
lead in the corporate segment of the market. And at the same time, it has built a larger
foundation for its future. iDirect is very different from the company of a few years ago, but
it is just as innovative and now very well positioned for the next stage of its expansion,
where it is placed to play a pivotal role in the development of the satellite industry as a
2. Market Statistics
Data Sources and Methodology
The information in this Executive Briefing was compiled from the latest 13th edition of the
COMSYS VSAT Report, unless expressly indicated otherwise. Apart from information and
product data already held in our library, direct contact was made with almost all of the
organisations in the report to gather up-to-date information. Visits have been made to a
large number of existing and potential suppliers and service providers in Europe,
Asia/Pacific, Latin America and North America. COMSYS maintains an extensive database
covering all VSAT networks and tracks a wide variety of information for all individual
networks. These databases form the basis of most of the statistical analysis in this report.
Robust Growth in Enterprise Services
By 2011 new foundations had
been laid for a strong 2012, which
the industry delivered and then
built on in 2013. Growth has
come with a major series of
changes which have brought a
trifurcation of the primary areas of
business into specialised and high
value corporate and mobility
networking; an increasingly
hybridised part of the total end
user connectivity solution; and
Internet access bridging the digital
divide and serving the consumer.
In 2012 the market grew by all
major measures – global VSAT
service revenues increased by
$200 million to $7.2 billion, and
hardware revenues rose to over
$1 billion on the back of a 12 per
cent growth in shipments which
firmly cemented the reversal of
three years of decline. The
number of enterprise VSAT sites in
service topped 1.5 million based
on a 5 year CAGR of 5.2 per cent,
and TDMA service revenues
posted a 5 year CAGR of 4.5 per
cent, growing to almost $3.9
billion in 2012.
04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12
iDirect Continues to Dominate Hub Sales
iDirect’s cost-effective and innovative hub solutions coupled with high levels of functionality
and ease of use have made it almost a de facto standard within many of the most valuable
vertical markets. Following its dramatic growth, the company has consistently achieved
around half of all hub sales over the past seven years. Our most recent figures show that
iDirect took 57 per cent of global enterprise hub sales between 2011 and 2012.
The unique capabilities of the
iDirect system have
cemented its strong position
in the market with its original
core customer base – the
small integrator, IT systems
houses and entrepreneurs –
all of whom see the
company’s platform as the
key to be able to grow a
valuable service business with
controlled and proportional
capital expenditure, yet with
few barriers or penalties to
scaling up if the business
grows. At the same time
iDirect has seen its wide
portfolio of major carrier and
telco customers – which now
include BT and BT Latin
America, France Télécom and
Orange Business Services,
PCCW, Telstra Global, SingTel,
Tatanet, Telefónica, TSBc,
Verizon and Vodafone – leverage its products within the core of their service portfolios.
Many of the most specialised VSAT service providers, such as Airbus Defence & Space, GBA,
Harris CapRock, ITC Global, MTN, OmniAccess, SkyStream, SpeedCast and RigNet, also make
extensive use of the system.
iDirect Shipped TDMA Hubs
2011/12: 492 of 863
iDirect Leads in Enterprise TDMA Hardware Revenue
iDirect reached an estimated $245 million
in revenue in 2012, turning in another
impressive year of growth and profitability.
Between 2004 and 2012, iDirect saw its
share of terminal shipments quadruple
from 5 percent to almost 20 percent and
bring in almost a third of all enterprise VSAT
hardware sales to become the largest
enterprise VSAT systems vendor in the
world by revenues.
iDirect is the first company since Hughes
which has essentially created a market on
its own and without any leg-up. To put the
company’s success into perspective, it has
been outselling the DVB-RCS vendors –
Advantech, STM, ND SatCom, Newtec,
Thales, Alcatel and NanoTronix – two to one
since 2002 through a combination of
flexibility of platform, richness of IP features, continuous development, market strategy and
professional and pervasive sales and marketing.
Vendor TDMA Terminal Shipment Market Shares
Vendor TDMA Hardware Revenue Shares
04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12
3. Key Developments
A number of key technological innovations and important business partnerships have
powered iDirect’s continued strong performance.
iDirect and High Throughput Satellites: In 2011 the company was awarded the contract to
design and supply the ground segment for Inmarsat’s ambitious Global Xpress Ka-band
satellite system, which is due to enter commercial service in mid-2014. With the latest
addition of Velocity to TSBc’s soon to be launched Thor-7 Ka-band maritime platform and a
close working relationship with Intelsat and its EpicNG
initiative, iDirect has further
consolidated its position in this key vertical. As the industry enters a phase of rapid
expansion into the higher frequency bands, all VSAT manufacturers have sought to build a
strategy to participate. iDirect’s partnership with Inmarsat and close relationships with
Intelsat, TSBc and Yahsat have helped the company achieve this feat in spectacular fashion.
One of the most critical initiatives iDirect is undertaking today is a total re-engineering and
expansion of its ground infrastructure platform. iDirect’s development strategy is centered
on a common hub and Network Management System, with separate product lines to meet
diverging requirements. iDirect plans to pursue an aggressive development plan across the
entire platform to meet growing performance demands and market requirements and to
drive satellite communications increasingly toward mainstream adoption.
Evolution and Velocity are both designed to address increasingly higher performance
standards demanded of VSAT networks. Specifically, Velocity is designed for satellite
operators deploying HTS architectures. It also enables both service providers and operators
to meet the requirement of high-speed mobility in multi-spot beam environments.
Evolution is designed to meet a broad range of customer requirements from demanding
high-bandwidth applications to narrowband systems. It supports mobility networks and
operates in all frequencies on all satellite architectures, including new High Throughput
iDirect has always been keen to maintain as much backwards compatibility as possible with
its new products. Coupled with a completely new Network Management System, the X7
forms the initial connection between Evolution and Velocity. The X7 has only recently begun
to show its potential with the release of the iDX 3.2 software and the introduction of the
terminal in customer networks, but we believe this only hints at what is likely to come over
the next one to two years.
With the release of iDX 3.2 and once the Velocity platform is proven for Global Xpress,
iDirect’s development programme almost becomes more intense. Some of the key features
on the product roadmap for Evolution and Velocity are 32APSK modulation, which is a
requirement for the high powered beams on many new Ka-band satellites; other bandwidth
efficiency improvements, such as a better version of LDPC; new routing protocols; new
spread-spectrum waveforms; and, potentially the introduction of DVB-S2 Extensions (the
most recent upgrade to the standard).
Network Unification: iDirect has developed an entirely new Network Management System,
iDirect Pulse™, for its platforms. Pulse provides a unifying element that brings together the
different personalities inherent in Velocity and Evolution and supports services across both
platforms with vastly increased performance in terms of service delivery and the scale of
networks that can be deployed. Pulse will be a product in its own right and have its own
4. Platform Enhancements
Bandwidth Efficiency: iDirect’s initial design of its VSAT platform focused on bandwidth
efficiency and it consequently developed an IP-based system with its own proprietary
outbound and inbound TDM/TDMA access scheme. The system uses an inbound access
scheme known as Deterministic Multi-Frequency TDMA, which, unlike most conventional
TDMA systems, does not make use of contention. To support enterprise IP services, the
platform enables the allocation of a certain amount of bandwidth continuously to each
remote station. This allocation dynamically changes several times a second depending on
the queue depth, the CIR configuration, the QoS and prioritisation settings and the rate
limiting at each remote.
Evolution supports various bandwidth efficiency features such as multi-frequency TDMA
inbound channels, which allow remote terminals to frequency hop between inbound
carriers, and a 2D 16-State FEC on the inbound channel with a greater variety of MODCODS.
Customers have the ability to switch a remote between TDMA and SCPC access schemes via
a configuration change from the NOC. Switching to SCPC mode is ideal for some of iDirect’s
high-value market segments, such as oil & gas rigs, cellular backhaul and maritime, which
require the flexibility to switch between operating modes based on changing bandwidth
With iDX 3.2, iDirect introduced Adaptive TDMA inbound channels – the ability for a single
network to support heterogeneous carriers with different symbol rates, modcods and spread
factors. This enable a network to dynamically adapt to different attenuation conditions and
remote terminals to be sized depending on the throughput requirements whilst maintaining
maximum speed and efficiency. An enhancement for the outbound carrier in the form of
selectable roll-off factors was also added which can bring gains of a much as 10 Mbps in IP
throughput dependent on carrier size. Within the same release, new modcods, lower
thresholds, improved frequency and phase tracking were included, bringing further
efficiency improvements. All of this illustrates iDirect’s continued focus on improving both
the efficiency and the ability of its operator customers to deliver solid SLAs for the
demanding customers that many serve on the Evolution platform.
Platform Flexibility: The company emphasises the ability of its inbound and outbound
channels to be lit up anywhere across five different transponders and five different satellites,
allowing an operator to grow its capacity when it needs it with whatever bandwidth is
available and in different frequencies if its business demands it.
Service providers who have purchased iDirect’s systems have informed us that they have
done so because it offers them a highly flexible and functional platform, yet does not require
them to make a huge investment in a hub system. It has been this flexibility, running from
the basic architecture to IP functionality, that has allowed the system to adapt so effectively
to almost all of the high-value niche vertical markets that operators serve.
VNO Model: The iDirect platform can also support what iDirect refers to as a “Virtual
Network.” In this scenario, a Virtual Network Operator (VNO) literally buys the capacity of a
line card in the hub chassis of a Host Network Operator (HNO). This allows a VNO to offer
highly competitive broadband IP service, without a significant upfront investment. Through
iDirect an operator is able to start a service and select from a range of hub products,
unmatched by any other vendor, to cost effectively support independent networks of
between 15 and several thousand sites. This additional VNO capability can be employed
either as an expansion option – many operators extend their service to different satellites
uplinked from a different continent this way – or as a standalone business model in its own
Hub Options: iDirect offers two main hub options: a 4 slot chassis which can support up to 4IF
connections and which replaced the previous private hub model adding better redundancy
and expansion capabilities (the Industrial 4IF is a ruggedised version of this product); and the
full 20 slot 5IF chassis that can operate with five different transponders on five different
satellites in different frequencies and has full automated redundancy in a 1:n configuration.
Mobility Focus: Mobile services of all types are iDirect’s heartland underpinned by a unique
set of high level features:
Global Network Management System (G-NMS).
Automatic Beam Switching (ABS).
Spread spectrum waveforms to support high-speed mobile applications and very small
“Superburst Acquisition” that improves network acquisition times by as much as five
Traffic prioritisation based on a number of parameters.
Class-based queuing which allows an operator to assign a percentage of its bandwidth
to each class of service.
Enhanced AES and TRANSEC encryption.
This has made iDirect’s platform the de facto standard in the maritime segment and
positioned the company as one of the strongest suppliers to the US military. Its position in
the maritime segment was further endorsed with its selection by Inmarsat to provide the
ground segment for the ambitious Global Xpress platform. The pivotal role that iDirect’s
technology plays in Global Xpress also places the company in an extremely strong position
for the land mobile and aeronautical markets where Inmarsat also has extremely ambitious
plans. iDirect’s strong showing in this area of the market clearly impressed Panasonic which
has emerged as a key customer in the commercial airline services sector from which it now
has commitments for more than 2,000 aircraft. This also explains why new spreading
factors, high speed COTM capabilities and very specific features, like skew angle adaptivity,
are all areas of focus for the company.
Terminal Options: iDirect’s range of VSAT terminals has grown in stature and capability with
the X1, a powerful, but low cost terminal available in a traditional indoor modem/outdoor
antenna configuration or in an all-outdoor package designed to withstand hostile
environments and operate with different power sources; and the high performance X7
which can operate and roam between the Evolution and Velocity platforms. The X7 finally
takes the brakes off iDirect’s system and brings huge IP throughput increases which are
progressively being unlocked with the release of new versions of each platform’s operating
system. Alongside the X3 and X5 workhorses, iDirect also offers a range of Velocity and
Evolution board-based modems able to be integrated into military, aeronautical and other
specialist terminal designs. The following table outlines the features of each option.
1. Future release.
Group QoS – Advanced Bandwidth Allocation: Group QoS (GQoS) is another innovation
unique to iDirect. The GQoS algorithm was designed to give an operator a high level of
granularity over bandwidth allocation. GQoS can provide different users, terminals and
applications with specific QoS levels in a hierarchical structure across the entire system.
iDirect believes that GQoS brings substantially greater levels of management functionality
and enables both more efficiency in the use of the available bandwidth and a significant
increase in a network operator’s ability to support complex applications, customer
deployments and service profiles.
IP Routing: Both the iNFINITI and Evolution platforms TCP/IP support capabilities that
essentially incorporate all of the features of a high end router. These include RIPv2 and
Static Routes, IGMPv2 IP multicast, DHCP/NAT, TCP acceleration in both directions, 3-way
handshake acceleration and local DNS caching. These are all features that a network
operator would have to add in the form of a separate unit to some other systems.
Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM): The need for GQoS was heightened with the
introduction of Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM) in the Evolution platform. ACM
offers the ability for the hub to step modcods up and down to suit changing weather
patterns and maintain availability, allowing the elimination of a costly link margin buffer of
capacity which has to be calculated based on worst case conditions. The benefits of ACM
are widely known and can bring up to 50 percent efficiencies while increasing availability.
iDirect has integrated its ACM feature with GQoS, allowing operators to set an Extended
Information Rate (EIR) that guarantees throughput under virtually any weather condition,
taking bandwidth from less disadvantaged links and redistributing it to higher rate services.
This allows an operator to provide a higher quality service to those customers prepared to
pay for it, but it can also be used to ensure that all sites within a network receive the same
level of service, however bad the prevailing conditions might be at just a few of the
locations. GQoS also generates reports which allow an operator to record how much
network resource a customer required to achieve a set EIR and bill accordingly.
Integration with Terrestrial Carriers: iDirect has also emphasised integration of its systems
with mainstream terrestrial network infrastructure as a result of its large carrier customer
base. The likes of Verizon, BT, PCCW Global and Orange all have core business strategies
focused on the deployment of large, extensive and pervasive MPLS network deployments.
Carriers that do make use of VSAT are increasingly looking towards systems to be able to
extend the reach of their networks and obviate the need to use unreliable terrestrial
partners in some areas. iDirect has developed support for features, such as BGP routing, in a
general move towards greater integration with MPLS, pushed by some of its larger carrier
and enterprise customers. Highly successful operators like Elara, ITC Global and Newcom
International leverage these capabilities within their service portfolios.
5. Future Direction
iDirect has a clear vision of the objectives for its
development efforts for Velocity and Pulse, as well as an
equally impressive development plan for Evolution, driven
by higher throughput and greater efficiency. Velocity and
Pulse represent a step-change which moves the
capabilities the company can deliver on to an entirely
different level whilst also diversifying and expanding the
markets that can be addressed.
At a more general level, the company has adopted more
rigorous development procedures, involving strict
timescales related to selection of feature candidates and
meeting completion dates tied to a rigid stage gate
process. Software releases are now associated with
specific applications – for example military markets or
transactional enterprise networks – allowing an operator
to decide whether a new release is relevant to its market
and therefore worth implementing. The attitudes and
values within the management and staff are enthusiastic
and vibrant, and this is a cause for greater optimism
about iDirect’s future. It’s nice to find that the company
can continue to surprise us and has managed to retain the
loyalty and appreciation of its customers even as it has
matured to become less of the maverick and more of a
pillar of the VSAT industry.
iDirect is very different from the company of a few years ago, but it is just as innovative and
now very well positioned for the next stage of its expansion where it is placed to play a
pivotal role in the development of the satellite industry as a whole.
6. About this Report
This Report was created for iDirect by comsys from extracts from The VSAT Report, 13th
Edition. No new material was generated for these extracts which are wholly-based on
comsys‘s independent, third-party analysis. The information, facts and opinions
expressed in this report belong to comsys and have not been written for or sponsored by
any company or party mentioned. More information on comsys, the 13th
Edition of The
VSAT Report and how to purchase it can be found at www.comsys.co.uk.
“iDirect continues to lead in
terms of a feature-rich set of
IP capabilities … and the
flexibility of its 5IF hub
continues to outpace every
other alternative. The
company has managed to
add functionality whilst
somehow preserving the
simplicity of implementation
and operation in a
combination that has made
its products so attractive to
~ Simon BULL