The company’s UK Managing Director on how Viasat is working with the Ministry of Defense
In this episode of the Viasat podcast, we catch up with Steve Beeching, Managing Director of Viasat’s UK business. It’s clear the business Beeching heads up is growing, making key investments and developing cutting-edge, British-designed technology for the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD).
In an interview with Alex Miller with Viasat corporate communications, Beeching said Viasat’s UK business is growing its footprint in the UK and Europe and touched on a variety of topics:
- Modernization of ground and space networks for the UK Ministry of Defence
- Identifying the needs of the MoD to enhance its crypto technologies and cybersecurity capabilities
- Employing more economical and advanced technology capabilities with private sector entities such as Viasat
Beeching says a big part of Viasat’s success in the UK comes from working closely with customers to understand their needs and developing cutting-edge capabilities ahead of government mandated requirements. By employing Viasat’s private investment capabilities and deep expertise in the defense sector, the company is poised to be a #NationalAsset to the UK MoD—helping modernize forces, adapt to new technologies, improve safety and enhance mission effectiveness across today’s technology-driven battlespace.
Alex Miller: Hello and welcome to the Viasat podcast. I’m Alex Miller with Corporate Communications. And today, we’re going to be talking to Steve Beeching, managing director of Viasat UK. Here’s the interview.
Alex Miller: Ok, we’re on the line with Steve Beeching, the managing director for Viasat UK in Farnborough, England. Steve, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. Or I guess it’s nighttime where you are. So can you just start by telling me just a little bit about yourself and your role at Viasat?
Steve Beeching: Yeah, sure. So I’ve been with Viasat now for just over seven months. I’ve joined Viasat I think due to its depth of technology and the customers that it’s talking to. And really the exciting time in industry that’s moving forward - such a breadth and speed of technology advancements, the customers and the change in the industry that’s happening here. Modernizing the force through here in the UK, the brand new satellites being launched, leveraging private investment. So it’s a really interesting time to join this company. And that’s kind of what’s driven me. I love being at the forefront of those challenging changes and developments. I just found that really attractive. Myself, I’m married. I’ve got four children, two adult children and two younger children. And they’re kind of following in business footsteps and started on the way themselves.
Alex Miller: Okay. Well, that’s great. So can you tell me a little bit about what Viasat’s government systems business is like in the United Kingdom?
Steve Beeching: Yeah, sure. So we have a broad portfolio dealing with UK MoD and other governments. So we obviously do information assurance. We’re doing ground networks and secure mobility, specifically through the acquisition of Horsebridge last year. We’ve got the crypto elements running through and obviously we’re on a lot of vessels through the integrated wave form. So it’s a growing footprint. That footprint is accelerating, obviously, with the modern development of ground networks and space networks. And with these very large UK programs on the horizon in Trinity and Morpheus and Skynet in particular.
Alex Miller: Can you tell me what are some of those things? Trinity, Morpheus and Skynet?
Steve Beeching: Yeah so Skynet is the end of the current PFI for the satellite constellation that is run by MoD. That program expires in September 2022. And so this is the look at how they transition that network out of the existing PFI, which they call the service delivery wrap, and then moving forward into enduring capability where they’re looking at the modern technology and how to leverage that into their services, into MoD and to why the government. So that’s a very, very large program with the existing satellites. And then Trinity and Morpheus are around the regeneration of the battlespace ground networks and how that data’s brought back to base.
Alex Miller: Okay. So is it somewhat similar to what the US Department of Defense, where our position is that instead of purpose-built satellites that they could be a lot more efficient and keeping up with technology easier if they were buying services off of something like Viasat satellites?
Steve Beeching: I think that MoD are very interested in all of those new as a service provisions moving forward. I think that the initial program really is, let’s ensure that we don’t break our network as we go through the transition and we make sure that we continue to provide service. But I think underneath that, they’re very interested in what good looks like, what the art of the possible is and how to leverage private investment. But keeping that sovereign wrap on it. I think these are very sensitive, assured networks, and they want to be ensuring that they’re making the best of the technology that’s available. You know, they do talk of network networks, understanding what can be commoditized and how to do that moving forward.
Alex Miller: So overall, what is the current investment look like for Viasat’s government business in the UK?
Steve Beeching: So last year we managed to a 30 percent organic revenue growth through our existing information assurance core businesses. But the investment ramp is dramatic. This year we’re trying to target 150 to 200 percent growth. A lot of that growth coming through quite different programs. As we discussed, we’re really moving into ground networks. We’re looking at leveraging private investment and US investment into crypto solutions, secure mobility. We’re moving into doing platforms on connected vehicles. There’s the dual-band solutions now running X and Ka and Ku. So all of these things are driving a very different agenda. And underneath that, we’re trying to work with MoD through modern techniques such as minimal viable products and working through that experimentation funds they have to really start to explore what the art of the possible is, and therefore how to define the capabilities that’s required moving forward. Because at the end of the day, I think the right way around this is helping the customer deliver its national asset through understanding what capabilities can be delivered through ours and other companies’ technology.
Alex Miller: Ok. So, I mean, you touched on a lot of things in there. I was just going to ask, what are some of the top priorities and initiatives that your team is working on at the moment?
Steve Beeching: I think the top initiative’s really around the building on the UK investment curve. So we’re starting to invest in our network operations and security operations centers. We’re reinvesting into our future crypto technologies. We’re working hand in hand with the US on joint developments of IP and then how we overlay kind of sovereign wraps. And also the real deep focus is around future space and heavily into ground networks and capabilities of the multiple bands that can be sourced.
Alex Miller: Ok. So how are you currently working with the Ministry of Defense? What does that look like? The relationship?
Steve Beeching: I think we have a very good relationship and an intimate relationship with MoD in government. Now we’re working to try and provide thought leadership. We’re obviously providing a lot of good, secure products into the core solutions now, either directly into MoD or through primes for MoD’s use. And we’re working with them to understand how to use and leverage this technology the best way forward. And obviously MoD is striving to deliver those services and work through some of its own challenges as it moves through this new technology road map.
Alex Miller: Ok. So the other thing I wanted to ask was what differentiates Viasat’s UK business from other defense companies?
Steve Beeching: We pride ourselves on innovation driven by customer capability requirements. We like to really work with our customers to understand the question of what it is they’re trying to solve. And the more you can understand that question, the more proactively you can work to support the customer in achieving its goals. I think we challenge ourselves and we really ask industry to challenge itself in investing to develop the national asset. And I think all the time that you put the national asset and the capability first, I think that’s what we’re endeavoring to do. We’re endeavoring to leverage, therefore, our private investment to bring those capabilities through solutions and services at a much faster pace and into the hands of our troops and our service men and women. All aimed at saving lives and operating in those difficult environments at pace to achieve mission objectives.
Alex Miller: So you’ve talked a lot about moving forward with a lot of different initiatives. I was going to ask, what are some of the things that Viasat UK has done in the past in the UK with the MoD or any other government?
Steve Beeching: Well, I think we’ve worked heavily on integrating communication networks so that they work in the hardest theaters as we discussed. We’ve got our integrated wave form on all of the naval platforms and open those communications. We’re working very hard on supporting the kind of information assurance and the crypto elements and supporting and working those elements as well. And we’re trying to drive as much thought leadership and deliver that to MoD to help them understand the capabilities and what’s in the marketplace, to help them look at the art of the possible and delivering their solutions. So we work on all of those things continuously with our customers, because I think as technology changes and we understand it’s really around networks - there’s a ground network and a space network. And the technology really supports operating those networks. The threat environment and the adversaries are changing that pace. And therefore, the networks and solutions we provide, instead of being a kind of platform procurement that you do every so often, it’s much more about providing these products at pace and keeping the technology refresh there so that they’re always up to date. And I think we’ve been working to strive to do that in our other solutions. And I think that’s a real megatrend moving forward, if we’re going to keep in front of these detailed assured networks with everything that’s going on in the world today.
Alex Miller: Right. So in a couple of years, ViaSat-3, the first one will be up over Europe, adding a lot of satcom capacity over Europe. And is that something that you are talking to MoD about, the potential for that network?
Steve Beeching: Absolutely. And I think this capacity that goes up is across all of the government areas. So you look at the emergency services network across rural communities, you look at the wider government element, you look at the quality and the amount of bandwidth that it provides and the signal and the capability introduces it into MoD. It absolutely is at the forefront of our conversations and trying to leverage all of the available technology and networks to MoD to strengthen their network. And being an ISP, it offers so many other advantages. You know, our ability to process how we analyze attacks on the networks through AI. If you can leverage those kind of private investment data into and on top of secure networks and sit behind the wire, you’re deepening the strength of the sovereign services offered. So all of all of these things add up to create deeper solutions at faster capabilities and delivering the technology and the data across the battlefield at pace.
Alex Miller: Steve, those are the questions that I had. Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you’d like to touch on?
Steve Beeching: I think it’s a really interesting time in the U.K. You know, we talked around modernizing the defense and recognizing cyber and space in addition to our traditional air, land and sea domains. I think there’s a huge realization of modernizing the defense force and the pace at which our adversaries are moving. And I don’t think there’s a great understanding there’s a change of how MoD is needing to work, because modern warfare seems to be a continuous event. It’s not always about huge battles, but it’s also about the small things that happen and even things that happen on home soil. So I think all of these elements on top of these big programs are leading to a really exciting time for MoD and great challenges for them too. This technology is moving so fast today. I think, you know, our defense forces always try to stay really on the forefront of these things. And that leads to challenges in their procurement policies to try and stay in front of that and in their budgets. And I think, you know, our aim as Viasat UK is to really support our national asset and support MoD and really try to make the art of the possible as clear for their capabilities as we can and to help with articulate commercial models through these really challenging, exciting times. So I think it’s gonna be a really, really exciting five years moving forward and I think it’s going to set the underpin for the future demands for MoD with these changes in services and solutions and capabilities.
Alex Miller: Ok. Well, yeah, it certainly does sound like there are a lot of exciting and interesting things going on with Viasat UK. So, Steve, we appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. I know you’re in the middle of some transition there moving into a new home, and so we appreciate you taking the time.
Steve Beeching: I really appreciate the opportunity and very exciting times. Appreciate it. Thank you so much.
Alex Miller: Thank you, Steve.