Vice-President, Government Business Development
Like many a child of the sixties, Russ Roberts wanted to fly to the moon. However, an eye condition saw him plunge into the deep instead, as a US Navy submariner, acquiring the multiple skills needed for an operation as self-sustaining and challenging as life on a spacecraft.
Nine years later, Hughes Network Systems gave this US submarine radioman his first break in civilian life – and his first taste of satcom innovation. As R&D lab manager for what became high-speed satellite internet access solution, DirecWay, he shut its chaotic lab down, disposed of most of its equipment and rebuilt it. Six months later, with new kit and proper processes, software development time was down by 60 per cent. After moving into sustaining engineering, he was hired by GTech, a DirecWay gaming customer, where he spent five years running its networks and getting them ITIL- and ISO-certified. What started as 5,000 VSATs (very small aperture terminals) in one state turned into 150,000 in a dozen.
When GTech needed to work its way out of an existential contract problem, it outsourced its VSAT business back to Hughes. Not wanting to tread old ground, Roberts moved on to a telecom business that became Comtech, managing a demanding teleport of up to nine-metre antennas. Once again, Roberts was faced with a management challenge in this youthful industrial sector: implementing mainstream certification and qualification standards, allowing Comtech to bid for multi-billion-dollar managed services for government business.
He liked government work and became a contractor, managing commercial bandwidth for the Federal Government. “That’s where I really got the inside track on how the US government does satcom and why”. It became the foundation for a consulting practice, putting his professional expertise and know-how at the service of innovative satcom start-ups looking to do business with one of the world’s largest public sector organisations. One of them was Phasor Solutions.
Electronically-scanned arrays weren’t unknown to him in military radar but this was really different: a highly inventive reimagining of established phased array technology. This was the one to bet on in the rise of enterprise-grade antenna for failsafe satcom on the move.
Five years on, Roberts’ confidence in what is now Hanwha Phasor technology is undimmed. He’s a full-time employee of a well-invested business, with the scope to fulfil one of his missions: to improve government satellite communication networks. But his roving imagination knows no bounds. “Enabling low-Earth-orbiting satellites alone will lead to extraordinary technology breakthroughs. I want to be part of that.”