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Over the past 8 years, Hughes has been providing a variety of services and products to a public service agency, including satellite network services, routers, and digital signage. These solutions support the customer’s distance learning efforts and new applications, as well as provide constituent-facing digital screens for use in office lobbies. These screens welcome visitors, display helpful information about requirements and forms, and support the “Next Number Served” function. This year, through a subcontracting agreement with YorkTel, the customer selected Hughes once again to refresh its 3400 router series with our newest models, including the 3603. This extensive technical refresh is taking place at over 1,600 offices nationwide and is another example of the long-term relationships Hughes has cultivated as a result of its unparalleled service.
In this issue, we speak with Dave Zatloukal, Hughes Senior Vice President, Products & Services, about how Hughes achieves operational excellence.
Hughes has long been known for its innovative technologies, but that’s no less the case for its operational excellence. Can you provide us an overview of the key challenges faced by your organization and examples of metrics that demonstrate its achievements?
Over the past several years, we have experienced significant growth in our Consumer business and have expanded our service offerings on the Enterprise side of the business. All of these changes have led to challenges and opportunities for the North American Operations organization.
For example, following the launch and impressive growth of our HughesNet® Gen4 service, it’s been important for us to remain highly responsive to customers. That means, when a customer places an order, we need to install and activate it quickly through our network of local dealers and installers. By implementing a real-time scheduling system, we’ve increased our order activation rate from 81% in 2015 to 84% in 2016.
We have also continued to improve the performance of our optional services, like HughesNet Voice. By improving our installation process and call quality, we’ve increased Customer Satisfaction from 68% (3Q15) to 74% (3Q16).
And we’ve introduced new technologies, such as SmartBrowsing, that allow customers to access websites at high speeds even if they have depleted their data allowance. The benefits of these changes have reduced our Customer Service cases by 15%. During the same time period, our Customer Service Satisfaction rates increased from 83% to 86%. In short, year-over-year we’re doing a better job. We’re eliminating the reasons customers call us for help and we’re improving the way we resolve issues when they do.
How does a company as large as Hughes drive excellence across all of its operational activities – from installation to service delivery to customer care to support?
We have developed Key Performance Indicators, or KPI reports, that we review weekly for both the Consumer and Enterprise business. The KPIs look at the business from the customer’s point-ofview so we can review our performance from the outside. This gives us insight into developing trends related to customer dissatisfaction that would not be readily apparent if we focused solely on internal operational metrics.
When anticipating a major milestone, such as the EchoStar® XIX/JUPITER 2 launch, how do you prepare in terms of operations?
We get involved from the early planning stages. During the satellite design phase, we have to decide where to put our gateways. For EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2, there are 22 gateways, between Canada, the US, and Mexico. We have to scout locations for the gateways and data centers, which require fiber to get to the Internet. It can be tricky to find those locations.
In the case of EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2, we expect over 1 million new subscribers. That means all of our backend systems— such as billing, ordering, customer care, and support systems—have to scale to support that type of volume. So we start the planning and upgrades up to a full year-and-a-half in advance. By the time we are a month or two from launch, we’re just fine-tuning those systems.
For the launch of EchoStar XIX/ JUPITER 2, is there anything new or different being addressed by the operations organization?
It’s “new” in the fact that we have 22 new gateways, 43 physical locations, and a total of 65 gateways to support the North American services and Brazilian operations.
It’s not that one satellite supports one network. For EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2, in addition to the new gateways, the satellite consists of 138 beams that represent over 3,100 individual networks being supported. In total, across all three of our satellites, the organization is responsible for the surveillance, management, and performance of over 7,100 consumer networks.
How does your organization work with the other Hughes service entities in Europe, India, and Brazil, and in particular, how has it assisted the launch of HughesNet in Brazil?
Think of Europe and India as large enterprise operations. The primary interaction between the organizations is in the context of supporting our joint multinational customers. And we share information and best practices.
On the Consumer side, with HughesNet in Brazil, we are more closely aligned. We manage their three gateways while they support the services that run over them. The support teams from Brazil and North America meet regularly to share learnings and best practices. We also meet at the executive level monthly, to ensure that the service is performing as intended. I have been impressed with how quickly the team in Brazil has come up to speed and am very excited about the consumer service opportunity there.
What are your longer term goals in driving continued innovation and operational excellence?
At the Consumer level, it’s all about scale and performance, which means automation. It’s taking the consumer experience – looking at our business from their perspective – and making sure that their experience is as pleasurable as possible. That may mean changing the way we do business. As an example, in the past, if a customer had a problem, they’d contact our call center. Now, we’ve come out with a Mobile App so customers can choose how they prefer to interact with us, be it through social media or texting.
In the Enterprise space, there’s been a shift in the market away from centralized IT departments. Today, instead of working with one corporate office, we deal with thousands of different individual franchises that own separate retail operations. We can’t do all of that manually, so we’ve turned to automation, taking much of what we’ve learned in the consumer markets and translating it to the franchise market.
At the network level, it’s all about quickly identifying and correcting issues. We look at fault management, which tells us if something on the network is working or broken, and we look at performance management, which provides us with performance-based trends over time. These trends enable us to set triggers that allow us to predict and correct problems before they occur.
And, in terms of installation and maintenance, it’s all about providing tools to the field so they can be successful. We track “First Time Success,” “Time on Site,” and the percentage of times we may have to return to a site within the first 30 days. Those are three key metrics that keep us sharp in terms of operational excellence.
The bottom line for our organization reflects the company’s and our parent company’s overall mission, which is “The Customer Comes First.”
In September, Hughes signed an agreement with Airbus Defence and Space to expand their business partnership to serve growing tactical military communications requirements around the globe. Under the agreement, Airbus Defence and Space will distribute all models of the Hughes HM System, a flexible satellite networking technology engineered around its Software-Definable Modem (SDM) and Scrambled Code Multiple Access (SCMA) waveform. Enabling affordable, resilient solutions for various mobility and portable government user requirements, the HM System’s ultra-compact terminals operate over Airbus Defence and Space’s XEBRA Service, via the Skynet 5 X-band satellite constellation. Hughes will also provide hardware, technology, and engineering support related to use of the HM System. Additionally, Hughes will offer XEBRA service to US government users requiring easily deployable and resilient satellite communications for tactical missions, bringing innovative solutions to more US users as well as customers around the globe. “The continued strategic relationship with Airbus Defence and Space along with Tampa Microwave’s ruggedized packaging of innovative Hughes technology will open new opportunities in the growing tactical defense market,” said Rick Lober, Vice President and General Manager, Hughes Defense and Intelligence Systems. “It builds on the early success of our joint delivery of combined HM System and XEBRA services, exemplifying the critical role that satellite providers play in supporting the rapidly changing, national security landscape around the world.”
With more than 3,000 rural communities across the country, the Argentinian Government has been focused on expanding and improving telecommunications access to its citizens. In October, the Argentinian telecommunications company ARSAT chose the JUPITER™ System to deliver high-speed satellite Internet connectivity to schools and underserved populations.
Hughes will provide ARSAT with a latest-generation JUPITER System, including gateways and Very Small Aperture Terminals (VSATs) that will operate over the ARSAT 1 and 2 satellites. In the initial phase, approximately 1,000 terminals will connect schools to the Internet with an eventual goal of connecting 2,000 sites.
ARSAT’s JUPITER implementation is part of Argentina’s initiative to increase Internet connectivity and reduce service costs for rural communities that are unserved or underserved by terrestrial broadband services. A particular area of focus is digital inclusion of educational facilities, bringing broadband connectivity to rural schools.
“Argentina has one of the highest rates of Internet connectivity in Latin America, but mostly in urban areas. We are working to build on that by improving the quality and accessibility of service across the country, particularly rural areas,” said Dr. Rodrigo de Loredo, president of ARSAT. “We selected Hughes because their products have the highest performance and efficiency for quickly expanding service to a large customer base over a big geographical area—which is exactly the challenge we face.”
“Major telecom providers around the world, such as ARSAT, are selecting our JUPITER System to close the digital divide,” said Hugo Frega, senior director for Hughes. “Its cost-efficiency, performance, and ease of deployment make JUPITER the smart choice for offering reliable and affordable Internet access at virtually any location, regardless of distance or terrain.”
As the leading choice of operators around the globe for delivery of high-throughput services in both enterprise and consumer markets alike, the JUPITER System features a modular and robust gateway architecture with lights-out operation, enhanced IPoS air interface for bandwidth efficiency and performance and high-throughput terminals of up to 100 Mbps capacity. The JUPITER platform also offers operators advanced capabilities on conventional Ku- and C-band satellite capacity with a seamless migration path to next generation Ka-band satellites.
HughesNet Voice for Business is now available, saving customers up to 45 percent over traditional landline services
HughesNet® Voice, a new high-quality, cost-effective phone service for small business customers in the US, was recently rolled out as part of HughesNet Business Internet. HughesNet is America’s #1 choice for satellite Internet service, providing small businesses nationwide high-speed Internet and voice services regardless of where they are located.
The new HughesNet Voice offering gives small business customers unlimited Voice over IP (VoIP) calling in the US for up to 45 percent savings over traditional landline services. Included in the feature-rich package is call waiting, caller ID, call forwarding, call block, simultaneous ring, and voicemail. HughesNet Voice does not use any monthly data allowance or affect performance of the customer’s high-speed satellite Internet connection.
“With HughesNet Voice, we are bringing our years of experience delivering high-quality VoIP services to the small business market,” said Mike Cook, senior vice president, Hughes Network Systems. “HughesNet Voice delivers fully featured calling services to businesses anywhere, enabling them to stay connected with customers, partners, and suppliers.” HughesNet Voice is an optional service that can be added to any of the HughesNet for Business Plans. It can be purchased either month-to-month, or on a 2-year plan commitment. Customers also have a choice of two international calling options, one for 200 minutes per month and one for unlimited minutes. Activation, voice equipment, and setup are free for new customers.
For years, Hughes has provided customers with a sophisticated network management portal as well as an online customer gateway, offering a detailed, interactive view into activities and installs, trouble reporting and ticketing capabilities. Today, Hughes solutions typically involve a complex mix of offerings, including multiple connectivity options (both satellite and terrestrial), high availability networks, and premium services, such as Wi-Fi and VoIP. To address this increased complexity of the remote network and keep pace with desired features and functionality, Hughes has developed a new integrated HughesON™ Portal with a state-of-the-art, intuitive user interface for end-to-end reporting and management.
The new HughesON Portal is designed with the user experience (UX) in mind, emphasizing the graphical representation of data and providing a single pane of glass for customers to access all relevant data. Summary level dashboard views deliver an at-a-glance status of the network and a snapshot of open tickets and scheduled field activities. Views can also be location-centric, built using site identifiers from the customer’s network to display consolidated information for each location. From a single page, customers can see all of the services and devices deployed and the current status of field service orders, tickets, and repairs. The design supports quick navigation, offering drill-down capabilities, global searches and hyperlinks. The new HughesON Portal will also use a standardized product catalogue for services and devices deployed on the network, which will be used across all supporting business systems. “With a clear view of what’s being deployed, a customer will be able to see what is going on in their network, where the services may be impacted and if we are rolling a truck to a site for a repair,” explained Avani Arora, Senior Product Director at Hughes. “It’s all there in a graphical format. The new portal will also enable customers to more easily reconcile invoices by cross-referencing orders and installs across the network.”
Recently, during the 2016 HUG (Hughes User Group) Conference, Arora and the development team debuted the New HughesON Portal to Debut in Early 2017 HughesON Portal storyboards to customers and received high praise and positive feedback. Hughes is planning to deploy the portal in early 2017, with plans to eventually migrate all customers to the platform so they can take advantage of the key benefits and functionality. Such functionality will meet the demand for enhanced network status reporting capabilities and solve a host of customer challenges, including how to effectively access, consolidate, and monitor information about disparate sites in a world of increasingly complex networks.
The EchoStar® XIX/JUPITER 2 satellite, designed and built for Hughes by Space Systems Loral (SSL), arrived on November 7, 2016 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in anticipation of its launch.
“SSL and Hughes have a long-term, collaborative relationship that has helped to expand the limits of satellite technology,” said John Celli, president of SSL. “We worked closely to develop one of the world’s highest capacity satellites on orbit today, and it has been our pleasure to further advance satellite’s capability with EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2, which will bring the benefits of quality, high-speed Internet service to families and businesses.”
EchoStar XIX is a large, multi-spot beam Ka-band satellite based on the powerful SSL 1300 platform, which has the capability to support a broad range of applications and technology advances.
“SSL, which also built our hugely successful EchoStar XVII, has been an innovative and reliable partner in the expansion of our advanced satellite fleet,” said Pradman Kaul, president of Hughes. “EchoStar XIX will power the next generation of HughesNet® services with more speed, more data and more advanced features for consumers and small businesses coast-to-coast who are unserved or underserved by terrestrial broadband Internet access.”
The Hughes Government Solutions team has seen a surge in business during the second half of 2016. That surge is largely attributed to years of Hughes service, operational excellence and strong Past Performance ratings, all of which have led to contract renewals and new business.
During the past 8 years, Hughes has provided comprehensive managed network services to support more than 200 locations for a large Federal Government agency. The GSA Schedule was used to contract for these services, despite the fact that since 2008 most Federal Agencies have typically used the GSA Networx contract. This agency chose the GSA Schedule route because it was a good fit to support its dispersed offices around the country; and Hughes was able to earn long-term loyalty—extending the service contract for more than 8 years— because of its dedication to ongoing support.
Another major win is to be a subcontractor to Level 3 Communications, which coincided with the end of the final option year under a Networx contract award. When the agency chose to move its procurement efforts over to Networx, it was able to maintain continuity of Hughes services through Level 3. To kick off the new contract, the customer ordered an upgrade of routers, moving from the Hughes HN7700 to the HR4700. The Hughes HR4700 delivers best-in-class enterprise-grade security and routing, with innovative broadband optimization technology in one easy-to-deploy unified platform managed by Hughes. Most recently, the customer also added 356 more sites to that network, pointing to Hughes stellar and long-held record of service delivery, operational, and program management excellence.
“Keeping a customer happy, having good references to share, and having them display their faith in us twice by upgrading and adding more sites, validates that Hughes is a good fit for Federal Agencies,” said Tony Bardo, Assistant Vice President, Hughes Government Solutions.
Another wide-reaching Federal agency—tasked with working in areas largely underserved by terrestrial broadband—was intrigued with the concept of using managed broadband services to support its network.
Since Hughes has supported one of the agency’s smaller bureaus for several years, the organization had a positive perception of the company’s people and technology capabilities. To demonstrate the promise of moving to a managed broadband model, Hughes conducted a pilot which was executed flawlessly across a number of sites.
Once the agency decided to move beyond the pilot stage, it chose to procure the necessary managed broadband services through Level 3’s Networx contract. With the Hughes/Level 3 agreement in place, the team had a viable way to compete for the work. Then in September, after conducting an extensive proposal evaluation process that involved representatives from several bureaus, the business was awarded to the Level 3/Hughes team.
“This was the first-ever managed broadband procurement and award under Networx; a historic milestone for the industry, the Federal government, and for Hughes,” Bardo said. “Users who were reluctant prior to the ‘fair bid’ process to give up the Hughes equipment and services which were deployed for the pilot, were also relieved to hear of the award.”
The bulk of orders will be for HughesON™, a suite of managed solutions that will help the agency empower its network and operations with new, cutting-edge technologies available only from Hughes. Ordering and implementation will take place over the next several months.
Hughes reputation for sustained service excellence is not limited to these examples; it extends to a host of government customers. One such example is the Government Education Training Network (GETN), a consortium of agencies that purchase satellite and programming services to support their distance learning efforts across 800 sites worldwide. Hughes has been delivering services to GETN since 2007, even as the program has evolved and the contract has been re-competed twice.
Similarly, since 2008, another government customer has had a satellite network with more than 450 sites. The network supports an important public-facing government website. Through the delivery of a strong program management team and an innovative network engineering team, Hughes supports surges in website activity, as well as periods of lesser activity. The network management effort to support the ebbs and flows of the site’s traffic is quite complex, but the customer has been satisfied with Hughes performance to continue with its contract over and over again.
Performance questionnaires are detailed evaluations of contractor and subcontractor performance on government contracts. They provide an overall snapshot of how a company has performed overall within the government. They have become a critical tool for determining which contractors are awarded future work, even if the Past Performance does not cover the same services or even apply to the same agency.
For Hughes, which has always received high ratings, Past Performances have become an important avenue for demonstrating operational excellence. Be it the continual high performance of Hughes satellite technology, a successful pilot of managed broadband services, or consistently high ratings on other contracts, Hughes Past Performances are a hallmark of its dedication and commitment to government customers.
Studies show that large populations in North America are still unserved or underserved by terrestrial broadband Internet access—representing a market of over 15 million households and small businesses. As more and more of society depends on the Web, it becomes ever more urgent that this disparity or so-called “digital divide” be closed. Satellite Internet access technology is ideal, reaching people no matter where they choose to live or work. With the launch of the EchoStar® XIX/JUPITER 2 high-throughput satellite, Hughes is expecting to grow its successful HughesNet® service by adding more than 1 million new subscribers, starting in the first quarter of 2017.
"EchoStar® XIX/JUPITER 2 is further evidence of EchoStar and Hughes leadership in designing and operating High-Throughout Ka-band satellites,” said Dave Zatloukal, Hughes senior vice president, products and services. “With significantly more capacity than prior HTS satellites, it will enable us to deliver more speed and more choices to meet the ever-growing demands of our consumer subscriber base.”
Designed and built for Hughes by Space Systems Loral (SSL), EchoStar XIX was poised for launch in late December 2016 from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. For the last year-and-a-half, Hughes has been planning and developing the infrastructure to deliver services over the EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2 satellite.
Planning has involved identifying locations for the 22 gateways between Canada, the US and Mexico, and the data centers. With locations secured, gateway deployment efforts began, including constructing the large RF ground stations that communicate with the satellite and implementing the baseband systems at the data centers. All of these elements also required high capacity connectivity to the Internet and the Hughes Network Management Center in Germantown MD. With the infrastructure in place, Hughes was able to focus on the backend systems that are required to deliver service excellence – namely, customer care, ordering and billing, installation, and maintenance support.
With each satellite launch there are fixed costs associated with the necessary infrastructure, but as a multi-satellite operator, Hughes no longer has to start from scratch.
“At our Network Management Center, the people who will support our new HughesNet subscribers are the same people who have been supporting our current subscribers—over 1 million of them,” Zatloukal said. “Hughes is now in a position to incrementally add resources to meet anticipated demand, be it capital or human resources. This ability to scale operations—between our customer support, development and engineering teams—is what drives efficiency and profitability.”
“The first emotion with any launch is excitement, once we know the satellite is up and on its way to its final orbital position. The second reaction is great anticipation as we start to look forward to the turnover from SSL to Hughes engineering and operations,” Zatloukal said. “Once it’s turned over, there’s a tremendous amount of work that has to be done by Hughes engineering, facilities, and operations teams.”
That’s because there is only so much testing that can be done before any launch. Hence, following each successful launch, an intense period of testing and certification begins to validate that all of the Hughes systems are working perfectly before going to market. This is a company-wide effort that in the case of the EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2 will stretch into March 2017. Once complete, EchoStar XIX/JUPITER 2 will join EchoStar XVII and SPACEWAY® 3 in powering the continued growth of HughesNet—America’s #1 choice for satellite Internet.
Headquartered just outside of Washington, D.C., in Germantown MD, the Hughes Network Management Center (NMC) is dedicated to monitoring and controlling the company’s North American Terrestrial and Satellite networks, as well as supporting certain International customers. From an operations perspective, that involves running the transport for all consumer and enterprise customers, including surveillance, escalation, triage, and troubleshooting activities. Hughes online portals enable HughesNet® and HughesON™ Enterprise customers to view, add, and monitor their services. Given the complexities of the network, issues are often escalated to an engineering team of innovative problem solvers. At the core of all these operations is a focus and dedication to customers.
“We are actively watching and monitoring, proactive in everything that we do to ensure service stability and customer satisfaction,” said Matt Kenyon, Sr. Director of North American Operations. “Serving our customer base and delivering the service they expect is our first priority. Hughes didn’t reach one million subscribers by accident; that’s just not possible without a large team of technical leaders committed to this mission.”
These efforts stretch across three main NMC locations in the US (in Germantown, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Southfield, Michigan). Operations span 43 locations containing 65 gateways supporting global operations for Hughes customers, plus equipment in 40 separate data centers, several of which are located in Canada and Mexico, and over 1 million terminals across the US—all managed by the same Hughes group. This group also provides assistance to and shares best practices with Hughes network management operations around the world, including Hughes Brazil, which has recently expanded service into the consumer market.
Hughes has spent a large portion of its research budget and its planning and management efforts on issues related to economies of scale.
“We consistently ask ourselves, ‘How do we grow?” and ‘How can we be more efficient?’” explained Kenyon. That philosophy, combined with decades of service experience and lessons learned, have resulted in network management tools, processes, and structures that are based on High Throughput Satellite (HTS) spot-beam technology, the ability to support both consumer and enterprise customers, and the need to be scalable. Consequently, the NMC has been designed and organized to quickly and easily ramp up to serve any growth in customers, such as the new waves of HughesNet subscribers expected following the launch of the EchoStar® XIX/JUPITER 2 satellite—all without large changes in headcount or resources.
That successful formula drives Hughes ability to consistently innovate and expand without compromising service and customer satisfaction levels.
For 28 years, the GCN Awards have showcased excellence in government IT. This year, with the GCN digIT Awards, the media publisher celebrated leading-edge technologies and solutions that are truly transforming government operations.
In the Cloud and Infrastructure category, Hughes customer the Ark-Tex Council of Governments (ATCOG) was named the winner from five finalists. ATCOG’s advanced NextGen 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) system improves public safety efforts through enhanced voice, text, and video communications capabilities.
ATCOG worked with Hughes to complete a series of tests designed to validate incorporating its SPACEWAY 3® satellite technology into their network to support the failover process and operational continuity. With the tests complete, Hughes services are now enabled to support 11 Public Safety Answering Points and one of the hosts within the Ark-Tex 9-1-1 network, achieving true path diversity for the system.
The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) sixth annual report on consumer broadband services has ranked HughesNet® first among all major Internet service providers (ISPs) for delivering on advertised performance promises. “Measuring Broadband America – 2016,” issued on December 1, 2016, ranked HughesNet the leader for delivering advertised download and upload speeds for the second year in a row.
The FCC report evaluated 16 satellite, DSL, cable, and fiber Internet access services, serving over 80% of the US residential marketplace. It found HughesNet exceeded advertised download and upload speeds—even during peak times—at higher rates than any other provider. Download speeds were consistently more than 150 percent higher than advertised. Similarly, upload speeds were nearly 200 percent greater than advertised speed. Among satellite broadband providers, HughesNet led in multiple performance categories, including consistency of speed, latency, and website performance.