COMSAT Takes Flight with FlexAir: A Conversation with Ed Slater

In December 2018, Intelsat General launched FlexAir, a new managed service offering that provides high, performing, resilient broadband service for en-route communications for government officials, troops and cargo aircraft as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

COMSAT, a leading operator of customized and secure end-to-end satellite communication services to the United States (U.S.) government–and subsidiary to leading global in flight communications provider for business jets–was the first to add FlexAir to its suite of airborne satellite communications services.

Intelsat General recently sat down with Ed Slater, Vice President of Government Business Operations at COMSAT to discuss the rationale behind adding FlexAir to their portfolio, near-and long-term challenges facing military customers and how FlexAir will help them achieve mission success.

Can you provide a bit of your background and role at COMSAT/Satcom Direct Communications (SDC)?

As a prior USAF Airborne Communications Operator, during my career I flew E-8C, C-20B/H, C-37A, C-32A and VC-25A. My current role at COMSAT/SDC is Vice President of Government Business Operations. My responsibilities include: Government Support/Activations, Program Management and Aero Sales/Business Development.

Who are your typical customers?

COMSAT/SDC’s customer base covers all aspects of Military & Government aviation/maritime/land mobile/terrestrial networks. Each COMSAT customer has a unique set of requirements and missions sets requiring COMSAT/SDC to ensure our services and networks are flexible to every mission need.

From your perspective, what are the biggest communications challenges facing your government aviation customers today?

Network flexibility is the most challenging. Military customers want the flexibility to freely move from network to network.  They no longer have the budget, manning, training or aircraft downtime to be installing new equipment with each network move. They need industry partners to come together to design and build open architecture networks that provide this capability.

It is not enough to just solve customers’ needs for today.  In your view, what do government customers need in order to meet emerging threats and successfully complete complex missions?

Many government customers need to focus on open architecture networks that have multiple options to meet their needs. Open architecture networks bring partners together to provide better equipment, service and value-added features that will cover most requirements at a better value to military customers. Proprietary networks are usually focused on a few core customer bases and lack the flexibility to support most requirements, lack innovation and prevent industry partnerships.

How does FlexAir fit into your current portfolio?

FlexAir provides an open architecture network that is flexible to our customers’ needs whether the focus is cost, coverage or bandwidth. COMSAT/SDC’s goal is to provide the right solution, that meets our customer requirements at a great value.

How does FlexAir help COMSAT/SDC solve needs for en-route communications?  ISR communications?

For many customers, their bandwidth requirements between en-route communications and area of responsibility requirements are very different. Many services require a customer to determine a single rate plan that covers both operations which drives unneeded cost to users. FlexAir provides Global Access plans that reduce en-route costs while providing ISR plans that increase bandwidth in areas of greater need.

Given the mission-critical nature of government aviation, how will FlexAir help you scale and meet the changing dynamics of missions going forward?

The FlexAir layered network allows Intelsat General to add capacity to areas in need. As areas of responsibility change and move across the globe, the network will change to meet the demand of our customers.