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Satellite Companies' Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic

May 5, 2020--This month the Satellite Markets and Research asked executives of satellite companies from all over the world on what impact has the global COVID-19 pandemic has had on their business and what measures have they taken to respond to the crisis and how they see their companies emerging from all these.  The companies represent a cross-section of the various segments of the industry including manufacturers and service providers.  Here are their responses:

Manuel Lobeira, CEO ACORDE Technologies Santander, Spain

Fortunately, so far, from the operational point of view, the only impact suffered by ACORDE is some longer transportation times for some part of the component supplies that we need. Obviously there is a personal impact due to the great global concern and the limited interactions, travels, etc., which affect meetings and some other activities of our customers.

Our company implemented immediately all the recommendations of the Health administrations and went even further: teleworking has been implemented for those who can, and the rest of the staff is being provided with single use personal protective equipment (PPE), redistributing the factory production facilities to guarantee the social distancing, cleaning infrastructures, contactless biometric access control. On top of that, ACORDE has contributed to the community by financially supporting the acquisition of ventilators and medical PPE for the regional health services.

All the good work done in the past permitted us to deal with this crisis in a more comfortable way, thus we will keep on doing the good things of the past (fast and flexible response to customer request, quality as the basis of every development, innovation and robustness as key factors) while introducing some new elements from the lessons learnt (i.e. some degree of teleworking to further improve the existing family reconciliation, more virtual meetings reducing trips and improving the user experience).

John Restivo, CEO Advantech Wireless Montreal, Canada

Despite the evolving COVID-19 pandemic and related economic conditions, Advantech Wireless Technologies Inc. and Alga Microwave Inc. continue to be fully operational around the globe.

Both companies confirm that they remain open for business despite recent announcements of temporary regional government shutdowns. Advantech and Alga supply products to leading Canadian and American global communications companies, as well as governments and their agencies and the militaries of many NATO countries. As such, we are regarded as an “essential business” or our products as “high priority”, meaning products that are essential to critical infrastructure viability in defense, media and telecommunications industries.

In addition, our sales and engineering teams remain available to support customers as needed.

In order to supply these critical products, we have taken a number of proactive and precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of our workers, customers and communities, including work from home, bans on travel, and self-isolation when required. We have also implemented additional measures in our facilities to protect workers, drawing on the experiences gained from our operations in China, South Korea and Vietnam. As we continue to monitor and assess the global impact of COVID-19 on our business, we will regularly adapt and evolve these measures as circumstances require.

Our highest priorities are keeping our employees safe, ensuring our ability to serve you during this difficult time.

Krystal Dredge, Marketing Director AvL Technologies Asheville, North Carolina, USA

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on AvL Technologies. The early impact of the crisis was a dramatically smaller SATELLITE show with many cancelled meetings and the abrupt halt of the show a day early. As soon as local governments began responding to the pandemic with stay home orders and emergency medical facility expansions, AvL received many orders for antennas that were needed immediately, and the company was able to fulfill those orders. A few expected orders have been delayed, but this has enabled the company to reprioritize other important orders and move up fulfillment and ship dates. AvL’s biggest challenge has been maintaining a rigorous production schedule with the manufacturing team split into shifts to enable mandatory distances in production areas.

AvL’s first challenge was to determine how to remain operational during the crisis as AvL is a Defense Industrial Base supplier. Many of our office-based employees are working from home, which required our IT team to help these employees transition to working remotely. Our manufacturing employees are now working in shifts so that only half of any team is working during a shift. Our manufacturing teams are maintaining 6 foot distances, wearing masks and gloves, and continually cleaning shared equipment. The AvL procurement team also reached out to key suppliers to ensure we would be able to get needed parts through the duration of the crisis.

AvL has learned that the company can operate efficiently during a crisis, and we expecting physical distancing recommendations to continue for the foreseeable future. An additional positive impact we expect from the crisis is that we expect to have a healthier workforce moving forward – we’ve learned the importance of frequent hand-washing and how to not spread germs, and it will make our workspaces significantly healthier from now on. From a business impact perspective, we do expect that the crisis will have an impact on our business due to delayed orders, but we expect it to be short-term. And the many important meetings that did not take place at the SATELLITE show will be rescheduled during the coming months as AvL will be taking our new products launched at SATELLITE on the road for many live demo opportunities.

Mauricio Segovia, CEO AXESS Networks Barcelona, Spain

The pandemic has clearly changed the way we are doing things.  Next to securing our global AXESS families, the center of our decision-making has been our clients that depend and rely on the communications services we provide them.

Most of our customer base is in verticals with limited impact from COVID-19. However, some of our clients have been hit hard by this pandemic; the oil price crash didn’t help our oil and gas customers, whereas in other sectors AXESS has upgraded networks on short-notice to overcome congested networks.

All teams are currently reaching out to our clients to let them know how we can support them in their distinctive situations.   On a global scale, AXESS offered all staff members to work from home where possible.  All travels have been suspended and we shifted all meetings into the virtual world.

These adjustments have been carefully made by our management team on the basis of all information available in the distinctive countries of our offices. Our main goal is to operate at 100% under low risk scenarios. Our teleports are kept alive by our passionate key ground-station teams that have minimum exposure to our larger admin, sales and support teams.

We identified that 90% of our employees are currently working in virtual offices,  without affecting our capacity to maintain the expected service levels.

We all sincerely hope that this situation will be overcome as soon as possible and that science and research will find a cure or vaccination that will save lives soon.

Personally, I believe that this crisis might change society’s attitude into being more attentive, more grateful and more fragile at the same time.  It might lead to enhanced business relations and to acknowledgements of support that anyone granted especially during these unprecedented times.

Besides that, AXESS has a strong customer base from various industries in widely spread geographic areas, that allows us to better withstand the impacts in some sectors.

We believe that after this crisis many companies, including ourselves, might consider keeping some of the measures for various good reasons. Thus, we expect the demand for data transmission to grow further.

At Intergrasys we have decided to work remotely with all the areas within the company functioning in its full capacity without interrupting any customer commitment or needs.

Currently the Spanish Government is managing part of every communication provider within the country such as Telefonica, Orange and

Alvaro Sanchez, CEO

Integrasys S.A.

Madrid, Spain

Vodafone as Communications is one of the basic services everybody must have in this pandemic, setting their policies and controlling the prices, as the demand is greater than ever.

We implemented all the suggested measures as soon as we came back from Satellite show that took place in March 2020, therefore, up to date and to my knowledge no employee of Integrasys has been tested positive to Covid-19. Integrasys is a great company thanks to our people and we believe that the most critical task is to take care for our team in this exceptional occasion and continue to be productive for our customers success.

As most of the companies are working remotely it is clear that the automation is crucial and so far, we have seen an important uptake into our automation solutions for News Gathering and Carrier Monitoring. During these difficult times and as an exceptional gesture we have been offering to our clients automated systems free of charge to use during Covid-19 pandemic. Additionally, as our engineers are not able to travel, we are offering to all our customers with already purchased systems or solutions that are to be purchased, a free of charge remote installation services.

As this threats drives for innovation, we have accomplished another initiative to avoid difficult and slow logistics processes, as we have virtualized all our systems for our customers so now they can run in a customer computer on a VM Ware, so it is very easily loadable and expandable remotely.

Due to the importance of health and the difficult times we live today; we will see many projects in the coming years related to automated disease prevention and automation in health system with less doctors involved. This kind of automation require IT and communication companies working together, so we expect an important uptake in this kind of projects.

In the coming months we will see a social change, with more fear, and worries from outsiders, therefore we will see our local offices more and more relevant. We now serve USA from Washington DC office, and Asia from Jakarta office; however, we have been thinking for very long time to set up a new Middle East office and perhaps now is the right time.

Steve Richeson, VP-Sales and Marketing Mission Microwave Santa Fe Springs, Calif., USA

Mission Microwave has continued operations as a critical supplier of communications equipment to government and critical service provider customers. Along with the entire industry the company has experienced some supply chain disruptions and efficiency effects resulting from efforts to comply with Center for Disease Control (CDC) protocols and maintain a safe work environment.

Mission Microwave continues to manufacture product and is working closely with customers to understand their evolving concerns so that we can jointly work towards supporting their requirements. Our customers are seeing  changes which create opportunities to work together to accommodate their evolving priorities. We have had to react to support some customers who had missions directly related to the COVID-19 response. For example our team was able to put in some long hours to make a critical delivery for a customer supporting a FEMA initiative.

Mission Microwave’s customers had a great deal of positive momentum going into the COVID-19 crisis. We entered this crisis on the tail of a surprisingly successful two days at the Satellite2020 show in Washington.  While the uncertainty of the next few quarters is palpable, we do expect to come through the crisis with the same or perhaps an even stronger market position as our customers continue to deliver superior satellite terminals in support of critical networks.

Alexander Müller-Gastell, CEO ND SATCOM Friedrichshafen, Germany

As of the end of April, our company has experienced little to no impact. Foremost, we are grateful that our entire ND SATCOM workforce has

remained healthy. Naturally, certain aspects of business projects have had to be postponed as well as a few trade shows. Nonetheless, we have demonstrated our business agility to this crisis by proactively addressing opportunities where our products are ideally suited. For example, ND SATCOM’s proven product portfolio–from Communication-on-the-Move to Portable Ad-hoc LTE networks-provides the level of security and reliability required to manage crisis communication and decision-making. As well, with education driven online on a massive scale, ND SATCOM can provide distance learning solutions via satellite technology. Overall, we have been very fortunate.

In these uncertain times, we are ensuring a high level of responsiveness and workflow continuity to meet the needs of our customers. We are doing this by protecting our employees and their families as well as possible and by providing them a safe environment as per guidelines set by government and health agencies. Our staff is fully equipped to work remotely and have all the necessary tools, such as web meeting applications, to enable continuous operations. We also organized a COVID-Crisis Team at the beginning of March; they meet weekly to discuss and assess the current situation.

We are in the fortunate position of having been able to continue our business during this unprecedented global crisis, and our outlook is positive for the future. For example, our teams are currently working hard toward a highly anticipated product launch for the military sector. We will continue to prioritize the health of our employees and their safe working conditions. Through our flexible workplace adaptations in this period, we have learned we are on the right digitalization path and will invest more in new technologies in the near future to maintain seamless interactions with all our stakeholders regardless of location or circumstance.

Ralf Mayr, CEO RF Design  Lorsch, Germany

Like most companies, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our business.  There has been disruption in our supply chain and this has resulted in longer delivery times for materials that we need and fulfillment of customer orders have been delayed.  We have been working closely with our suppliers and customers to work out revised delivery schedules and also to restore the normal delivery times in a reasonable period of time.  As more countries start opening up their economies, we see improvements in the supply chain and are optimistic that we will return to close to the pre-pandemic level in the next few months.

We put the health and safety of our employees first and we have instituted strict new health and safety protocols at work.  As a manufacturing facility, we have increased sanitation and hygiene in all work areas. Workers have separate work areas with a minimum 3 meters distance from each other. We are happy to note that none of our workers have tested positive for the virus. For administrative, engineering design and development, and sales and technical support staff, they work remotely from home and hold meetings via videoconferencing and so far this arrangement has worked very well. With all the protocols we have put in place, we are firmly committed in meeting the requirements of our clients and are ready to take new orders for our products.

We are using this time to develop new products and come us with innovative upgrades to our current products.  All of our employees are involved in this process which leads to better product knowledge and appreciation of our company’s product service portfolio on the part of our employees. With everyone involved in brainstorming sessions, we get better information and ideas to improve our products and develop new ones. One key lesson we learned from this crisis is the need to purchase and stock up on essential materials to prevent further disruptions in our supply chain and delivery schedules. As a result of this, I think we will emerge better from this crisis as a company and be well prepared for any future crisis.

Vagan Shakhgildian, CEO UHP Networks Montreal, Canada

UHP Networks is proud to supply equipment and services on a continuous basis to the Canadian, US and international emergency services,

including mobile hospitals, police forces and also to the media and telecommunications sector.

As a designated essential business, UHP Networks has maintained its operations at full capacity throughout the pandemic. Our R&D, Technical Support and Sales personnel are equipped with a full suite of tools which enables them to successfully continue their work from home. Our product design with its software-defined modular architecture allows us to manage our supply chain in an efficient and effective manner. All our factories remain fully operative and our inventory stocks are kept at an optimum level; hence our delivery lead-times remain unaffected by the pandemic.

We had to cancel all business travel and switch to doing installation and commissioning of VSAT Hubs and networks via remote access. Training services are being delivered via webinars and video conferencing. Despite the challenges, all services are being maintained at an adequately high level.  The R&D activities have not been impaired. We are preparing to release Software 3.6 with many exciting new features such as, for example, 200 Msps/650 Mbps DVB-S2X modulator and Beam Switching. Details of the new release will be covered in a webinar to be held in the next two weeks.

We will use the lessons learnt to further improve our processes and systems. In particular, we will release new tools for remote installations, will enhance our cloud-based Helpdesk and will make a wider use of webinars and other similar tools for product marketing.

Thomas Fröhlich, CEO  WORK Microwave Holzkirchen, Germany

The COVID-19 situation is a challenging time for everyone regardless of what industry you are in. I feel fortunate to have a fantastic team at WORK Microwave who have rallied together in this testing time to adapt working processes and behaviors to ensure business continuity.

I am proud to say that the entire WORK Microwave organisation has been fully operational during this period, and we have luckily been exempt from any shortfall in our supply chain due to the virus so far. Some deliveries have been delayed, but we managed each time to still receive the parts in due time. Hence, all of our solutions and customer deployments have been delivered, as scheduled and on time thanks to the additional efforts of the entire team. All personnel have remained available to our customers and partners by email or phone, during regular business hours, same as usual. When it comes to limiting the spread of COVID-19, we have strictly adhered to all government and WHO recommendations. Our production teams have been working in split shifts, to limit the risk of personal contact. The working areas have been reorganised to allow people to keep an appropriate distance to each other.  Sales and engineering staff have been partly working remotely from home.  These critical measures were put into place to keep our employees healthy and production running, without any interruptions.

Thanks to the improving situation in Germany, we are now starting to bring back the people previously working from home to their company work desk by implementing some additional protective measures in their offices.

Firstly, as probably many other companies, we have learnt through this crisis how to better handle such pandemic situations - which might come back one day in this interconnected global world.

Secondly, we have to face potential business impact in the mid-term. This crisis adds up to a period of uncertainty in the worldwide Satcom market.

The Geostationary business has been in a strong recession for already 1-2 years at least now, with no end in sight, while everybody was waiting for the non-GEO constellations to arrive - and those are starting to struggle now as we see from recent Chapter 11 declarations of OneWeb and LEOSat. Now with the pandemic, also some of the traditional players who were not in a very healthy state beforehand enter into a critical state like Speedcast very recently or Intelsat requiring additional money. As most of these players are our customers, we need to be concerned and forward thinking.  For WORK Microwave, it means the strategy we already implemented in the last years needs to be accelerated even more, which is to develop alternative pillars of activity based on our core competences-RF engineering, production and digital signal processing.

As we start to come to more normality we will stay mindful to be able to take necessary measures if the situation in the company or in Germany will change.  Due due to the current constantly changing global we are on permanent alert to be able to react quickly to keep our lead.

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