BridgeComm, a startup founded in 2015, is developing a global network of optical ground stations for mobile terminals that provide high-bandwidth, high-security solutions for unique applications. The company serves its clients in the states of Massachusetts and California. Major partners and collaborators of BridgeComm include NASA, USAF, Boeing, Naval Research Laboratory, Airforce Research Laboratory, and the MIT Lincoln Laboratory
OWC – The future of connectivity
There is a growing awareness about the benefits in terms of capacity, security and lack of interference that fixed and mobile optical wireless communications (OWC) terminals offer end-users. This is leading to organizations exploring augmentation of their RF (radio frequency) infrastructures with OWC. However, one major limitation in the adoption of fixed and mobile OWC terminals is the lack of ground stations.
BridgeComm Inc.’s (BCI) global network of optical ground stations and cloud-connected delivery services are designed to interoperate with a wide range of OWC terminals from various manufacturers and enable users to purchase terrestrial connectivity services for OWC similar to the way they provision fixed and RF connectivity services.
“Benefits of BCI’s OWC Terra High-throughput Optical Receivers (THOR) Ground Station Network include customer web interface and app-based software providing global scheduling, tasking, near real-time status, data delivery and problem resolution from our central state-of-the-art network operations center in Denver”, says Barry Matsumori, CEO, BridgeComm.
The company also intends to accelerate the adoption of optical communications systems by providing operators with a solution that seamlessly connects satellites and high-altitude unmanned vehicles to the ground.
BCI has been working with end-users and operators to define communications requirements including speed, encoding, polarization and link calculations for spacecraft, aircraft and terrestrial OWC terminals.
“We’ve then incorporated those requirements into our THOR Ground Station Network to ensure compatibility/interoperability, adds Matsumori.
Ground station as a business model
The launch of AWS (Amazon Web Services) has turned the ground station business on its head by providing subscription-based, pay-as-you-go service and launching Ground station-as-a-service as a breakthrough. Matsumori believes that BCI’s THOR Ground Station Network has a competitive edge because it is powered by AWS and interoperable with 15 other commercial cloud service providers.
“We began offering subscription-based and pay-as-you-go services for all of our OWC customers with the deployment of our first THOR ground station and the activation of our Denver-based state-of-the-art OWC NOC on March 5, 2018”, he adds.
OWC ground station location diversity helps mitigate the negative impacts of clouds when they are present over a given ground station but there are major challenges in setting up a ground station for enhancing communication capabilities.
“For OWC ground stations, there are two major challenges: cloud cover and access to terrestrial fiber for cloud connectivity and backhaul. OWC ground stations are generally placed at higher elevations to reduce the amount of cloud density overhead and enable as much clear-sky connectivity as possible”, says Matsumori.
Increased cloud storage, refined analytics functionality, artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling advanced functionality and an ever-increasing variety of services in the telecom industry. These technologies collectively represent the promise of a future connected world.