ARCHIVED - A satellite terminal for your backpack
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NORSAT International Inc.
July 24, 2007— Ottawa, Ontario
Norsat International Inc., one of Canada's premier satellite companies, has just created a new paradigm for portable satellite terminals. By designing an ultra-light satellite receiver-transmitter terminal small enough to fit into a couple of backpacks, they have opened up entirely new markets for two-way satellite communication technology.
"It is called GLOBETrekker and is designed for 'grab-and-go' missions where users can deploy to a site and set up at almost any location on short notice," says Pervez Siddiqui, VP of Marketing for Norsat.
Once the exclusive territory of military operations, this significantly smaller, easy to use and more robust version of their leading mobile satellite terminals, enables virtually any organization to quickly and easily communicate two-way and in broadband, from any remote location on the planet.
Perhaps easy to use, but creating this technology wasn't simple. When Norsat envisioned a much broader market potential for portable satellite communication terminals, they had a risky decision to make. Their present channel, military operations, while soft, was solid. Would developing what some said couldn't be done or that had no market be worth the risks?
"I knew we had a legitimate technology proposal and a real market opportunity," recalls Dr. Aimee Chan, then VP of Operations, now CEO. "My challenge was to convince the Norsat Board to support the project and boost development funding, which in 2003 was very low. I had to make a strong pitch to rebuild the R & D department and produce a new product."
Dr. Chan approached Daryl Wong, an Industrial Technology Advisor with the National Research Council Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) to see how the program could help.
"We quickly put an NRC-IRAP team together to look at their proposal, team and resources," remarked Wong. "We determined their market potential was strong. The media especially was pushing the market. They needed a robust product with high mobility and simplicity. There was growing competition in the broadcast arena. We advised them to put the proposal to the board."
"NRC-IRAP was critical to getting our funding approved," says Chan. "With technology development you have to move fast. Within three months, NRC-IRAP had completed an analysis and helped us build a strong business plan, which increased our proposal's credibility and solidified our ability to get funding approved."
"One of our strategic goals was to be first-to-market," explains Dr. Chan. "Ideally, you want to build the team as quickly as possible. But, finding satellite technology experience is difficult. Through NRC-IRAP's Youth Internship program, we were able to bring in three graduate engineers which really expanded our mechanical engineering resources."
"What NRC-IRAP did was allow us to take the development risk," says Siddiqui. "There were so many challenges, without their support we may not have taken that risk."
In 3Q 2005, Norsat's marketing department stick-handled an important GLOBETrekker product launch performed by Canada's then Deputy Minister of Defense, Ward Elcock, at a major tradeshow in London, England. Since then the orders have been coming in steadily.
"Our resellers love the product," says Chan. "It is custom made on order and there are a lot of options. We are currently working on final marketing touches, such as special cases and mounts."
A lot of interest is building from industrial sectors such as logging, mining and oil, especially in remote areas. The GLOBETrekker technology also has potential for use by the Canadian government connecting remote communities via satellite.
From a nomination put forward by NRC-IRAP, Norsat received a second place award from the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters (CME), which is given to Canadian companies that have made a significant contribution toward international cooperation.
Canada has long been a satellite technology leader and in a field that pushes technology to its limits, Canada's Norsat continues to set standards. With all the interest in the GLOBEtrekker technology, Norsat should remain in high satellite orbit for some time.
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