SatADSL celebrates its 7 years of business with its head in the stars – the company’s story is one of success! Let’s return to earth and talk about the reasons behind this success with Thierry Eltges, co-founder and CEO of SatADSL.
What was the context that led to the creation of SatADSL?
SatADSL was created 7 years ago. After working as an engineer at the European Space Agency (ESA), I started my consultancy company in the early 2000s ‒ Sea & Space Exploration. Several people, all working at SatADSL now, joined me in this adventure: Caroline De Vos, Fulvio Sansone, and Maïte Aguirre. For 10 years, we worked for ESA and industrial companies such as Newtec or satellite telecommunications operators such as SES. Sea & Space Exploration, still active today, is very business-oriented and specializes in market research for launching new products and services. After a study for ESA, we decided to start SatADSL.
What was this study about?
It focused on the African VSAT market and the technological potential of the low-cost terminals developed by the Belgian company Newtec, one of SatADSL’s current partners. For almost a year, we traveled extensively throughout Africa to understand the real needs of local businesses. We noticed that, at that time, only very large, expensive telecommunications systems existed, resulting in a very high communications cost. There was a real demand for a reliable, low-cost system and our market study showed it was possible.
So you went from theory to action…
Yes, we were determined to prove that our market plan was realistic and achievable. We launched SatADSL in 2011 and started looking for a private investor. Two years later, SPDG, the holding company of the D’Ieteren family, became a partner. They launched a capital increase of EUR 1 million and SatADSL became a limited company. Today, SPDG owns about one-third of the company. The other shareholders include SatADSL employees.
How has the company developed since then?
We started out with 4 in 2011. In the following years, we hired more and more people and today we have 17 full-time employees. Since the beginning in 2011, our business grew very fast and has continued to do so exponentially. Initially, we were only reselling the services of other operators such as SES. But already during the first year, we realized that these services were not suitable for the African market. We wanted to offer complete solutions and customized services for end-user customers. That is why we created our own service offering and even developed our own service platform: the Cloud-based Service Delivery platform (C-SDP). This platform meets the need for monitoring and control of our customers. It also allows for preventive maintenance, which means our customers can check the quality of their connections in real-time (speed, interruptions, etc).
Which technological developments can we expect?
In 2012, we started to buy bandwidth for our service platform in Brussels. This allowed us to manage customer traffic directly and to create our own service profiles: dedicated services, shared services with limited contention (cheaper than dedicated services), multicast services for radios, VNO services for customers who want to share capacity between multiple sites, etc. We can now offer customers complete solutions, even in professional niche markets. Our customers need more than just a connection. Just to name one example, we have a solution for hotspot services. This allows our customers to offer end-users ‒ typically nearby villagers ‒ WiFi access: they can connect via their laptop or mobile phone to the Internet from anywhere within a range of 300 meters of the customer’s hotspot.
So you had to develop software and obtain a high amount of IT expertise…
Exactly! Especially to distribute the bandwidth more effectively between the various users. Today, we can offer more complex solutions, like networks for tactical military communications. In addition, we have opened our serivce platform C-SDP to every satellite, teleport or service operator. We are very proud of this platform, it is unique on the market and we just filed a patent application.
In your opinion, how does the SatADSL team contribute to the company’s success?
We are a really close-knit team with multiple skills: engineers in very specialized fields, software developers, and administrative, sales and operational support teams. We are particularly recognized for the quality of our technical support. Unlike most companies, we do not limit ourselves to reactively helping customers when they have problems, but we proactively offer solutions to their specific needs. Another important feature of this team is its flexibility: we believe nothing is impossible and we always provide satisfying solutions to our customers. This “modus operandi” made it possible to develop a service platform that is as flexible and complete as the C-SDP.