C-COM Satellite Systems Inc.

Driving innovation in mobile communications with commercial-grade products
Written by: 
Matt Dodge
Produced by: 
Brandon Bagley

Based in Ottawa, C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. is a leading developer of antenna systems, enabling satellite-based broadband Internet access in even the most remote locations. Established in 1997 by Dr. Leslie Klein, C-COM’s commercial grade, auto-pointing iNetVu mobile antenna systems can be found in over 100 countries, helping news organizations, law enforcement agencies, energy companies and emergency providers to stay in constant communication.

The idea for C-COM came to Klein in the late ‘90s, when Klein looked beyond the bulky desktops and first-generation cellphones of the era to the day when high-speed, satellite-based wireless communication would become just as much of a standard feature in automobiles as the radio. This led Klein to team up with a few engineers and to develop C-COM’s trademarked COMM-ON-THE-PAUSE iNetVu mobile antenna systems, which enable stationary vehicles to send and receive information via a satellite-based broadband network.

As Google and others roll out their driverless car prototypes, Klein’s vision is coming to fruition and C-COM’s products are ready to help even the most bandwidth-hungry consumer meet all their mobile communications needs. The company’s current system require users to be stationary while they are in use, but the next generation of C-COM’s Ka-band Comm-On-The-Move (COTM) products are aiming for the holy grail of mobile communications: on-the-go broadband Internet delivered via satellite into moving cars, trains and buses.

“Many driverless vehicle manufactures would love to see real-time performance information coming from the car, but that requires a tremendous amount of bandwidth,” says Klein, president and CEO of C-COM. “You could update the firmware in your car over the satellite the way you update the software on your phone and download movies the same way you do at home if you had the proper antenna coupled with broadband connection.”

Data on the move

The C-COM COTM system will be operational using ViaSat’s Ka-band High Throughput Satellites (HTS) covering North America as well as Eutelsat’s Ka band HTS satellites providing services to customers across Europe and parts of the Middle East. The COTM antennas will enable on-the-go communication and data transfer at broadband speeds. “We are working with some of the largest satellite operators around the world who are interested in the type of products we are developing,” says Klein.

C-COM is already working toward the next generation of COTM antennas to help reduce the size, weight and cost by teaming up with the University of Waterloo in Ontario. “These next generation antennas should be smaller, lighter and significantly less expensive than what is available today,” he says. “If it does work out, it will transform the way broadband is delivered into moving vehicles and will provide huge benefits to the satellite industry as well as to C-COM and the University of Waterloo.”

This new technology will open up applications far beyond automobile manufacturers. “There are billions of people in the world who are presently not connected and this type of technology could provide them with low-cost connectivity using new satellites, which will be deployed to deliver broadband around the globe at reasonable prices,” says Klein.

“C-COM’s On the Pause antenna systems have been delivering broadband communications to the commercial marketplace for a number of years,” he adds. The technology has also become increasingly popular with oil and gas companies for exploration. While C-COM’s products aren’t designed to be military-grade, Klein says that they have still garnered a following among some of the world’s armed forces, including the U.S., Russia, China and NATO forces. “They are just as rugged and reliable as any military product and cost a fraction of what the military gear costs,” he says.

Scaling down to grow

As the company looks to the future, Klein expects the COTM products to drive growth for C-COM. “Ultimately I expect to see it in cars, trains, boats —and anything that moves — providing that the technology can be reduced in size and the bandwidth reduced in cost. If you think of the cellphone 30 years ago, we’re going through the exact same transition today. They used to be big, boxy and expensive. We expect to see a similar evolution with satellite antenna technology moving forward,” he says.

C-COM has already patented engineered materials developed at the University of Waterloo that will be used as a building block for its COTM antennas. Should the technology make the impact that Klein predicts, it could very well change the future of the company

With a potentially revolutionary innovation set to hit the market and a tech-hungry consumer base eager for increased mobile bandwidth, C-COM Satellite Systems Inc. is well-positioned for significant growth within its market.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Virtucom Cable Products Ltd.