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The Business Of Operating... + Growing... An Independent Teleport
By Robert Smibert, Founder, President + Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Technologies


Virgin Technologies Inc., owns and operates its own iDirect teleport which features an 8.1 meter antenna, two 3.8 meter antennas, all with redundant RF, and more than 30 Mbps of data transmission capability.

Along with advanced manufacturing capabilities, the purchase and operation of this teleport has played a major role in the evolution of our business. The cost of a teleport is, obviously, a significant capital expense for any business, new or old—hard lessons have been learned as the teleport evolves from a regional based, independent operation to one with strong North American growth.

Obviously, the recurring fees, upgrades and costly expenses for broadband are monetary challenges that immediately spring to mind for anyone considering entry into the teleport business. Yet, once overcome, the real business tests come into full view, namely, managing the teleport properly to ensure that the operation is a profitable enterprise, while simultaneously and constantly aligning capacity to meet user demands and needs.

One key strategy that has allowed scaling to our customer base has been the modular design of our network infrastructure, permitting the match up of blocks of data with new revenue streams. Moreover, Virgin Technologies unique industry niche is that, while we own and operate the teleport, we also manufacture our own line of Ku- and Ka-band, auto-aiming satellite antennas. A robust international customer base that uses our products and relies on the teleport for their day-to-day operations is also a significant plus for the operation. 

The teleport’s history has been predominately to serve the oil and gas markets in Western Canada—from drilling rigs, camps, and mobile data vans to pipeline.

What is unique about Virgin Technologies’ North American teleport is that a significant portion of the users are direct end-users. In practical operational terms, this means the teleport and network operations center (NOC) receive routine phone calls on everything from a down Internet connection to a broken phone, and often by someone in a highly stressful situation. 

Through the management and operations of our sales and operations teams, the NOC team, the company’s CTO and network team, and the field technician teams, the quality of management and operations is tested on a daily basis. Operational success is underpinned by a growing footprint in the O&G verticals in North America, coupled with the recent launch of an OEM Global Dealers Network.

In practical terms, real-time reports are produced on teleport operations that are distributed to management every eight hours, 24x7x365. This information drives constant management of our operations and rapid response to customer and market demands is the result. 

This growth is not without hiccups—recently, the NOC began to receive complaints from U.S. based customers on Canadian IP addresses while web browsing. This required the company to purchase a new set of American IP addresses to please the customers. This close link between teleport operations, end-users, field technicians and sales can sometimes admittedly be messy—it is not unusual for a sales person to be in the NOC championing a solution for their customer, while NOC personnel simultaneously trouble shoot the issue remotely over the phone with the end user. Ultimately, as a business, the teleport operation embeds accountability across the entire company, as there is no one else to point to for failures, bad service, or mistakes. 

Going forward in 2015, Virgin Technologies’ goal is to continue to add new users to the teleport operations who directly use our products and the teleport. However, we also foresee forging new, reciprocal relationships with international teleport operators who we can potentially pass along our customers to, and who may also want to leverage our company’s unique value proposition as manufactures of antennas.

For example, to help move this play forward, our products are offered to international buyers in Canadian dollars as an incentive to join our Global Dealer Network. As teleport operators ourselves, we believe our identity and capability will continue to resonate with new customers, as we share their experiences and challenges in working closely with end-users directly. That’s been Virgin Technologies’ history and, we anticipate, the means to a successful future, as well. 

The company’s infosite is located at www.virgintechnologies.com/