By Melissa Keogh
Mike Kenneally is a senior executive at Adelaide-based Speedcast and says there is no better home for the leading global communications company than South Australia.
He says that over the past four years the business has acquired a handful of other companies, boosted its revenue and is now a world leader in high performance communications for government, maritime, defence, mining, oil, and gas sectors.
“If you looked at where we were four years ago to now, it’s chalk and cheese,” Mike says.
“We have a much larger revenue, we’re a much bigger company, and we’re much more strategic.”
As the largest provider of remote communications and IT services in the world, Speedcast’s services are delivered via a global network of more than 70 satellites and more than 40 teleports worldwide.
Mawson Lakes in Adelaide’s north is home to a sophisticated anchor station facility that connects Speedcast’s clients to the rest of the world.
Speedcast acquired state-of-the-art teleport infrastructure from NewSat in 2015 and has since installed more infrastructure, employed more engineers, and experienced “healthy” revenue growth.
Mike says the Mawson Lakes-based teleport is “one of the biggest and most strategic from a military point of view”.
“The anchor station contains a whole lot of antennas that are pointed at different satellites and we connect all the clients of those satellites to the rest of the world,” he says.
“The location (of the teleport) is extremely strategic because we can cover all of the Pacific, Asia and the Middle East from Adelaide, we’re right in the middle of it all.
“We’ve supported Australian government initiatives in the Middle East and in our own region, providing comms to soldiers in the field. Any sort of communications they want, we can provide.”
In 2017 Speedcast was awarded a contract to provide mission-critical remote communication services for the Department of the Environment and Energy’s Australian Antarctic Division.
The service allows individuals in Antarctica’s harsh climate to communicate with the outside world and in the event of an emergency.
Mike says Speedcast has upgraded the satellite technology in the Mawson, Davis and Casey bases in Antarctica, quadrupling their data throughput.
“Certainly it’s been an interesting challenge and we’re expanding the roles of some of the people here and in Perth (another of Speedcast’s hubs), but the responsibility for the project rests with the team here in SA,” he says.
“One of our guys (from SA) has been down to the ice for a couple of weeks to actually do the conversion, which was pretty exciting for him.”
In a more recent leap forward, Speedcast won a $184m contract with the National Broadband Network (NBN) Co to deliver enterprise-grade satellite services.
“The NBN up until now has been a consumer level service but they are ready to expand it and offer services to business … and clients in mining, oil, gas, defence, and maritime,” Mike says.
He says Adelaide’s climate makes it the perfect city to host satellite communication networks for use by the defence sector, among others.
“The weather here is perfect for us because satellites operate best in clear sky conditions, we’re geologically stable, politically stable and we have excellent communications infrastructure,” Mike says.
“We also share a border in some respects with the US, which you wouldn’t immediately think but for US clients who want to connect using (station in) Adelaide, they can connect without going over anyone else’s territory.”
Despite Adelaide being an important hub for Speedcast, it has 1300 employees worldwide, the majority of them engineers.
The company has two sites in Adelaide, one in Thebarton and the other in Mawson Lakes.
Mike says Speedcast is “looking to expand its role” in the nation’s naval shipbuilding plan, including the $35 billion Future Frigates to be built in SA.
He says that with the state secured as Australia’s defence epicentre, over coming decades will come a drive in growth and optimism for local start-ups.
“I think we’re seeing recent wins by a lot of companies and a decision to continue shipbuilding-related activities here,” Mike says.
“That will have a spin-off for SA and businesses are sensing that optimism, which hasn’t been there for quite a while.”
Mike has a background in technology, satellites and defence-related projects and says he’s glad he can remain in the industry from his home state.
“The changing technology now makes it possible for people to work from anywhere but still be engaged in the sector and I think that’s a fantastic thing,” he says.
“It means that people don’t have to move away for their job.
“It also means there are new opportunities for new start-ups to capitalise on niche opportunities and operate from here … they don’t have to go and live California to do it.”
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