For a decade, Globalstar has toiled to make affordable devices smaller, lighter, with greater functionality for those working in remote locations worldwide.
Great products need a great price to help drive uptake and become successful. Jay Monroe, CEO at Globalstar is someone that clearly appreciates this. His company has grown six- fold since 2004, by enabling cost- effective, connected products for remote users.
OCN: So what exactly does Globalstar offer companies working out of remote locations?
JM: Operating satellites at 14,000 kilometers, instead of 32,000 km high, means that Globalstar is characterized by absolute mobility. We have made our way by delivering inexpensive solutions for everyone ~ as opposed to very expensive options available to just a few. That’s been our bias since the early 2000s. If our customers can afford it, they’ll use more of it. So our business is to drive down the cost of the equipment, drive down the cost of airtime, and have people think of our remote comms enablement more like using a cell phone. We were also the first to create bundled plans. Users can now buy, for example, a thousand minutes a month ~ which is a fixed cost to Globalstar and one that is relatively low. “If our customers can afford it, they’ll use more of it.” Further, across the entire suite of Globalstar products, we wanted to increase the functionality. Configuring services from our ground infrastructure, we brought out a series of products for tracking and emergency scenarios. Our highest profile product is SPOT which enables the tracking of a person or an asset. It also has a global SOS button so that, should an emergency arise, our dispatch centre calls the closest local rescue organization to assist. In fact, SPOT has saved 3,500 people to date. We don’t care if you fell off of a rig or off a weekend fishing- trip boat; push that button and we’re coming to get you. And it only costs US$ 100.
OCN: That must be very comforting for those in extreme environments. What about for assets?
JM: We have another product in the US$ 100 class, called Trace. When a Trace- enabled asset is stationary it doesn’t transmit. As soon as it moves transmission starts. So, for those with remote assets ~ like stored generators for example ~ that suddenly start moving, you can anticipate that it’s either headed to a jobsite or being stolen. The thing is, in a terrestrial wireless scenario, these devices are ubiquitous because they’re inexpensive and relatively available and you can monitor such activity with an iPhone. But you can’t do that so well remotely, or economically, except via Globalstar. Accounting for the oceans, about 90% of the planet has no terrestrial wireless or other coverage at all, that’s a big market.
OCN: How do you transport that information?
JM: Okay so those tracking devices are entirely internet- activated and internet- information delivered. For small- bit information, such as M2M data or emergency information, the beep goes up in the North Sea, bounces off a satellite and then goes to our gateway in France. From there it’s transmitted across a proprietary network that connects all of our gateways, 25 of them more or less, around
“In 2004 we had 100,000 customers. Today we have about 700,000 customers. If you consider how that happened, against the backdrop of all the satellite constellation problems that were only remedied in 2013, it’s staggering. It’s an amazing forward- march.”
the world. That information goes through a secure and private network and gets delivered as necessary. Telephone calls go the same way, from the North Sea up to the satellite down to the French gateway. From there it is either dropped into the public switch network and delivered to the receiver; or, more often, once that call arrives at our gateway we terminate it via VoIP, like Skype, and then deliver it to Manila or Rangoon or wherever ~ without involving the local telco. When you do it this way, the cost of that minute might drop from a dollar to a cent, which circles back to our core belief that if you make the product and the service much less expensive, more people will be able to avail themselves to it.
OCN: As we venture to drill in deeper waters, more remote land locations, and deeper down mines do you think technology will change?
JM: Absolutely. More and more data will be delivered over satellite, period. Canada is a great example for this: 10% of it is covered by cellular networks. That’s all, just 10%. While that covers almost everyone in Canada, as most live in major cities close to the US border, it doesn’t take care of industrial activity in terms of extraction, forestry, oil and gas, mining and beyond. All of that takes place in the 90% of the country that doesn’t have cellular coverage. Further, when you get to the sophisticated, expensive equipment to mine or drill today, those assets need to be monitored back at HQ. Mistakes can be expensive ~ as well as dangerous ~ so there’s a massive amount of data going back and forth. When you then consider those driving thousands of miles to monitor, say, 200 sites a day and staying in overnight camps during the process, they need a mobility option for voice, small- bit data, and tracking. That’s where Globalstar makes its entire living.
OCN: What separates Globalstar in terms of its offering?
JM: I believe that we’re different because we offer the total package. Many other companies are providers of the bandwidth that others build products for. We operate both ways, and that is to say we operate by building and designing and initiating our own products. As a result, we can quickly adapt to whatever the market needs. I want to share one such example with you, because in the world of mobility and in the world of communications, I really truly believe that what I’m about to describe fundamentally alters communications on the planet.
OCN: That’s a big statement, please do tell us more.
JM: It’s a device called Sat- Fi 2, which won’t be released until the beginning of 2016 when our new ground infrastructure can see it. And that will happen thanks to new chip architecture, amongst other elements. It’s about the size of a computer mouse and will turn anybody’s cell phone, laptop, tablet, in fact any device that has WiFi in it, into a satellite phone. Imagine a little town on a tiny island in Indonesia where anybody, with a smartphone and this new device, will be able to communicate for the first time over satellite where no terrestrial network exists. You can fundamentally alter communications on the planet with that. It’s a logical progression ~ and an amazing one.