Eagle Broadband looks to land fed sales

Eagle Broadband Inc., a broadband communications company, hopes that recent distribution agreements with two large information technology firms will result in sales of its non-line-of-sight, satellite-based communications platform to various federal and military agencies.

The League City, Texas-based company recently signed a multiyear agreement with Science Applications International Corp. to sell Eagle Broadband's Orb'Phone Exchange platform, which uses Iridium Satellite LLC's network to provide voice, data and Internet communications for multiple users.

Last fall, Eagle Broadband announced a similar arrangement with General Dynamics Decision Systems, a division of General Dynamics Corp. Both companies have long-standing relationships with the Defense Department and other federal agencies.

Those relationships could produce sales for what company officials say is a unique product. "We're not aware of anyone else in the marketplace that is offering this technology," said Randy Shapiro, the company's vice president of marketing.

The Orb'Phone Exchange works with the Iridium Satellite network, which consists of 66 low-Earth-orbiting satellites that provide line-of-sight communications. That means people have to be outdoors to use the system. But Shapiro said the system amplifies radio frequency transmissions from handsets up to the satellites via antennas, so users can talk indoors, underground or even on airplanes without disrupting commercial or military communications systems.

Conceptually, Orb'Phone Exchange works like wireless access points that provide 100 to 200 feet of coverage so users can access the Internet or a local network within a building, he said.

"You put an Exchange unit in the area of the building that you want to get coverage for within about 200 to 250 feet depending on the thickness of the walls, the construction of the particular building area," Shapiro said. "It'll allow users to make phone calls or do data transmissions within that area. You can make a call indoors, and then you can actually walk outdoors and it'll actually seamlessly maintain your connection to the satellite."

He said the platform can be used with any Iridium-compatible handsets. Users would need to purchase repeaters that come in various configurations, including an aeronautics version, a rackmount version, a larger weatherproof unit and a portable one. Each comes with two antennas, one that needs to be affixed to the roof or outside a window and one indoors. The mobile version has built-in antennas.

Costs start at $22,000 depending on the system configuration and number of users. Shapiro said the system's reliability, especially in the face of potential disasters, might drive interest in the technology. However, he said they're in the early stages of educating prospective customers and negotiating with state, local and federal agencies.


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