Leslie Klein is the founder of C-COM Satellite Systems Inc., which was established in 1997 with the intent of designing and developing a system capable of delivering high speed Internet over satellite into vehicles and transportable structures. With the rapidly growing demand for Internet services worldwide, and with no technology available to make it transportable, C-COM designs, develops, manufactures and sells its proprietary iNetVu® Mobile Satellite Antenna Systems which make it possible to deliver high speed Internet services, voice over IP and video over satellite into locations where no terrestrial infrastructure exists. The company has over 8500 of its antenna products deployed in more than 100 countries around the world.
Leslie Klein is an Electrical (Professional) Engineer (BASc, MBA, Ph.D.). Dr. Klein was employed by such notable corporations as Hewlett Packard (NYSE: HPQ), Digital Equipment Corporation, IBM (NYSE: IBM), Control Data Corporation, and Bell Northern Research (part of Nortel Networks). He has been involved in the high-technology business over the past 40 years and has been a founder of several successful technology companies.
NORTH AMERICAN BUSINESS: Leslie, please tell us about more about C-COM and your latest innovations and how C-COM has evolved over the recent years to meet changing user needs?
Leslie Klein: C-COM was incorporated in 1997, 25 years ago. I started the company with the idea of delivering high speed Internet into moving vehicles using satellite communications. The company has so far sold over 10,000 satellite antenna systems designed by C-COM under the trade name iNetVu®. These antennas are deployed in over 106 countries on all continents and are sold and supported by 600+ integrators and resellers based in those countries.
The antenna systems we manufacture are designed to be a one button solution, where the user of the antenna needs to only press one button to get the antenna to communicate with any satellite anywhere in the world and get connected to the Internet using satellite communications. To point a satellite antenna to a satellite and be able to transmit and receive, a satellite engineer is needed, who can point the antenna with precision to a satellite which is in orbit at a distance of 36,000Km. This can take from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, or longer to accomplish, and requires special knowledge and special tools. Our controller used with the satellite antenna systems we manufacture can do this in a few minutes and anyone is able to accomplish this task with a simple press of a button.
The company has 33 employees and has recently opened a Research and Development facility on the campus of the University of Waterloo, where a team of researchers and scientists are developing the next generation Electronically Steered Ka-band Phased Array Antenna, which is in its final stages of development and commercialization.
This new antenna will be deployed on vehicles, trains, aircraft and marine vessels and be able to track multiple satellites in Low Earth Orbit and deliver high speed broadband while in motion. The Low Earth Orbit Satellite Constellation market is evolving rapidly with many large players entering the market. SpaceX, Amazon, Telesat, Boeing, Inmarsat and many others are launching or planning to lunch 10’s of thousands of satellites to deliver high speed broadband to billions of potential customers around the globe. A Phased Array Antenna will be required to receive and transmit to these satellites and this antenna market will be worth over $17 billion in the next 3-5 years.
NORTH AMERICAN BUSINESS: What are some of the latest trends of the satellite industry that you’ve been observing? What is C-COM’s competitive advantage?
Leslie Klein: The latest trend as mentioned above is the deployment of many thousands of LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites which orbit from 400KM to 800Km height and move across the horizon delivering high speed broadband to customer on the ground, in the air and in marine environments while stationary or in motion.
C-COM is one of the first companies to develop and demonstrate a Ka-band design of a Phased Array Antenna for mobile use which we expect to be in the market in late 2023, early 2024. The company has in place an extensive distribution network in 106 countries and has been profitable for most of its 25 years of existence, it has over 10,000 installed antennas, over $25million in working capital and no debt, and it has been paying dividends to its customers continually over the past 42 quarters.
So, while we are involved in Research and Development, we are not a pure research operation. We have many thousands of satisfied and repeat customers using our existing technology, we are profitable and not looking to raise funds.
NORTH AMERICAN BUSINESS: We know you have many users in various industries, in which markets do you see the greatest potential? Where is the growth going to come from? Do you have a target in mind in terms of market share and revenue growth?
Leslie Klein: The Phased Array Antenna market as I mentioned is going to be a $17+ Billion-dollar market and C-COM will have a significant share of this market with our new antenna in the next few years, as this market evolves, and more and more applications migrate to LEO satellite solutions. The existing vertical markets we are involved in will multiply by the fact that the market will expand from terrestrial fixed to terrestrial mobile, aero and marine thus creating many new vertical markets which the company presently is not addressing.
It would be difficult to estimate at this stage how large of a market share of the $17 Billion potential market for Phased Array Antennas C-COM will be able to garner, but even a small percentage of this huge market will make a significant impact on the future growth of the company.
The company is publicly traded on the Canadian TSXV (CMI) and the New York OTCQB (CYSNF) exchanges and we hope to see our share price appreciate as the Phased Array Antenna products we will manufacture enter the market place.
NORTH AMERICAN BUSINESS: We have been through the COVID-19 which has significantly accelerated digital transformation and communication technologies development, can you talk about how has COVID-19 impacted the industries and your business?
Leslie Klein: Covid had a negative impact on our business. Many government related equipment purchases from around the world were put on hold or cancelled, as funds were allocated to Covid related purchases. Our sales dropped accordingly for 2020 but they have now rebounded. Fortunately, we continued to operate at full speed as we were deemed to be an essential business and with the occasional employee staying home to recover from Covid, but the impact on the company was not as bad as it could have been.
NORTH AMERICAN BUSINESS: Leslie, please tell us about yourself, your personal experience, the lessons you learnt. Can you share something about your career journey and what inspires you about being in this industry?
Leslie Klein: I am an electrical, professional engineer with an MBA and a Ph.D. I came to Canada as an immigrant from Czechoslovakia at the age of 20. After graduating from the University of Waterloo, in Canada I worked for companies such as Hewlett-Packard, Digital Equipment Corporation, Control Data and Bell Northern Research. I have started and sold 2 companies which were involved in computer hardware and computer maintenance. 25 years ago, I started and financed the initial years at C-COM, until the company went public. I am the largest shareholder of the company with almost 40% ownership.
Being in the satellite industry is a challenging but rewarding experience. The company has assisted with providing satellite communications hardware during the Kathrina flood in New Orleans and helped Softbank in Japan with disaster recovery during the Fukushima tsunami by providing cellular backhaul over satellite, since most of their cell towers have been destroyed. The resource and exploration sector is a large user of our products as we assist them with communications in remote areas of the world where communications is only possible over satellite. We also have mobile banks, mobile medical units and many other satellite-based communication vehicles delivering essential services worldwide.
The next generation of satellite constellations and Phased Array Antennas used with these will open up a new chapter for satellite communications and will make it possible to connect billions more to the Internet and I look forward to C-COM being one of the enablers of this new technology for the benefit of all.