When the Internet was in its infancy, Leslie Klein envisioned a day when the technology would as ubiquitous as a car radio. Klein, the founder and CEO of C-COM Satellite Systems Inc., also saw an opportunity. If the Internet flourished as he expected, there certainly would be a need for remote access.
Founded in 1997, the Ottawa-based company is a leader in the design, development and manufacture of commercial-grade, fully motorized, auto-pointing mobile antennas for the delivery of broadband Internet to remote locations.
“We took a chance,” Klein recalls. “There was no market for commercial or consumer satellite-based Internet services in 1997. It didn’t exist.” But Klein assumed a market eventually would develop as the Internet’s popularity grew. “I assumed it would become part of everyday life.”
His assumption was correct, and today his company has sold more than 7,000 satellite antennas to a variety of industries in 103 countries, he says. Those markets include oil and gas, the military, first responders, healthcare, media, banks, schools, race teams and mining companies. “It mushroomed quickly,” he says. The company partners with 700 resellers worldwide, Klein says.
C-COM had little competition when it entered the marketplace, but “competition came along,” Klein says. But the company had its business plan in place and was well-positioned in the market. C-COM decided not to market to individuals living in remote locations, as other satellite providers had already penetrated that market.
The company also decided to “get out of the comfort zone of the United States and Canada” and sell to tough, overseas markets first, Klein says. “It was a huge step,” he says of having his product succeed in foreign markets.
C-COM’ iNetVu® Controller series allows users in any vertical market to connect to a satellite in less than two minutes by a simple press of a button, Klein says. But the current technology allows for connectivity only when a vehicle is stationary, he says. The company has developed technology in cooperation with Viasat that will allow vehicles, trucks, trains and buses to connect to the Internet over satellite at broadband speeds. The new technology will be significantly less expensive than anything currently available to customers, he says.
Klein also is developing a new advanced satellite antenna product made from special materials to be used for in-motion solutions in partnership with the University of Waterloo in Ontario, his alma mater. A trial version of the product should be on the market within two years, he says.
Owners of recreational vehicles were among the early adopters of the original antennas, Klein says. The ability to connect to the Internet via a small satellite antenna placed on the roof of the vehicle was appealing to RV owners, Klein says.
The oil and gas market makes up the majority of C-COM Satellite System’s market. Indeed, 25 percent of the 7,000 installed antennas can be found at oil drilling sites in the U.S., China, Canada, Russia, Africa and Australia, Klein says. The antennas’ durability in extreme weather conditions and its ease of use is the primary reason for its success in the market, he says.
Professionals in the oil and gas industry use the antennas for a variety of applications, including email, Internet access, VOIP and for transmission of seismic data, Klein says. “There are big, time-saving solutions for the industry,” he says.
The antennas have been deployed for varied applications throughout the world. For example, they are being used in conjunction with drones to monitor the poaching of rhinos in Africa, for mobile breast cancer screening labs, mobile ATM machines and even mobile post offices in places like Malaysia. The antennas also were used in 2014 during a landslide in Japan and earthquake relief in China.
“We’re always looking at new products,” Klein says. “We know there is a demand for it. (The demand) is going to increase dramatically. I think the applications are universal.”