Recently, I received a call from a colleague in the Pentagon. He was preparing a report on the value of commercial X-band to DoD and reached out to me for some background. Naturally, I was more than happy to provide him with the material he sought.
X-band has the same physical properties whether provided by a commercial or a MILSATCOM satellite. Its unique characteristics offer users mission-critical capabilities simply unmatched by other frequencies. (XTAR President and COO Philip Harlow in a recent blog post outlined the unique physical characteristics of X-band compared to the Ku- and Ka-bands.) Once it is determined that a mission is best served by the X-band frequency, the Government customer has another important choice to make: Commercial X-band or MILSATCOM?
Here are some questions we are frequently asked: Why would a user choose to pay for commercial X-band when he can “get it for free” by using WGS or DSCS? What is the case for a Government user to stay with a commercial X-band provider such as XTAR for the long haul? Isn’t commercial X-band just a place holder until users can get their hands on MILSATCOM X-band?
Our response is very clear: the value proposition of commercial X-band is strong both for the short term and, very often, for the long term. Here are some reasons why a user might consider commercial X-band either in place of, or in concert with, MILSATCOM options:
- Non-preemptible space segment: Every MILSATCOM user – short of Mr. Obama – is at risk of being pre-empted or prioritized off mission-critical space segment by a higher priority user. Warfighters whose missions cannot tolerate the prospect of being pre-empted or of not getting space segment when they need it, often turn to commercial X-band. XTAR users are guaranteed service for the term of their lease.
- Operational independence: Responsible users of commercial X-band earn the right to manage their space segment as necessary to meet their mission requirements. They can maintain anonymity by not being forced to disclose operational information such as terminal location. In this respect, they receive a greater freedom from oversight, constraints, and bureaucracy than they might when using MILSATCOM.
- Interoperability with MILSATCOM systems: All terminals that work on WGS and DSCS can be operated on XTAR, and vice versa. Now that most X-band terminals are capable on both polarities (with some range in transition time), interoperability between XTAR capacity and WGS/DSCS is simpler than ever before. Consequently, an investment in X-band equipment will not be wasted when a switch over to MILSATCOM becomes possible.
- Faster certification of new technology: With a certification process that is measured in weeks (vs. years for WGS), XTAR offers users wanting to take advantage of new X-band systems the opportunity to enjoy those benefits without delay. Airborne and other mobile terminals are excellent examples of this. At the same time, XTAR does a substantial amount to support DoD’s process of evaluating and approving new technology to operate on WGS; we are fully engaged with those terminal manufacturers who want to bring new terminals or new features to existing terminals, into the military’s family of certified equipment. These manufacturers test, evaluate and prove their systems through the development phases using XTAR’s satellites.
- Highly responsive customer support: Like other COMSATCOM operators that place top priority on supporting mission requirements, XTAR is capable of confirming availability of service, performing necessary link budgets and bringing the customer onto the satellite in less than 24 hours. Not to mention, XTAR’s very capable staff offers a unique level of objective engineering and design support to maximize efficiency and value.
These are compelling arguments why commercial X-band is an invaluable resource for potential MILSATCOM users, both for long-term and short-term relationships. As a commercial X-band provider, XTAR is well suited to support government users’ critical need for guaranteed service including commercially-developed capabilities of flexibility, autonomy and security that are intended exclusively for the Government. XTAR is proud of the work we do in support of Government and military users. We believe we offer a value proposition which is compelling for a number of critical communications requirements and we constantly strive to provide every possible advantage to our Government customers.