World Class Communications for the Most Challenging Environments


From the most extreme temperatures, to the most dangerous environments and the most remote communities, Norsat creates high quality, long-lasting solutions valued for their quality and field-tested performance.

Providing communication solutions for even the most challenging environments is what Norsat, the British Columbia-based satellite communication company, is best known for domestically and around the globe.

Founded in 1977 by Rod Wheeler, a satellite enthusiast who specialised in creating his own hardware from scratch, the company has grown to become a TSX-listed company that is consistently ranked among the top technology companies in Canada and the top 100 public companies in British Columbia. The company boasts a workforce of over 170 employees, and saw over 38.4 million in sales last year alone. Its three year compound annual growth is 29 percent.

Brian Donnelly, Norsat’s Director of Sales and Marketing, discussing the genesis of the company: “The company initially produced communications and microwave technology,” but has grown organically to include a whole range of products and services. “What’s interesting is that if you talk to people in China, Brazil, US, Russia, or Africa, people really do know the Norsat name because of the millions of LNB units we’ve produced.” With over 2.5 million units sold, Norsat’s LNB products have become the industry standard.

Norsat’s LNB, or Low-noise Blockdown Converter, is the company’s flagship product of its most mature business unit, used in millions of applications the world over. The Microwave Division produces products for a range of bands, including Ku, Ka, C, and X-band.

But Norsat is a great deal more than even its very well established microwave division. Core business units include satellite, maritime systems, remote networks, power solutions, and the Sinclair Division. “Though many people know us for our microwave products, and we’ve done that business since day one and it’s a very mature division, we’ve seen some great growth across the board,” explains Mr. Donnelly.

Norsat’s exciting satellite division produces complete satellite communication terminals used in military and media applications throughout the world. The unit, which can be set up by the end user in about ten minutes, comes in an IATA certified transit case, meaning it is airline checkable, and is highly configurable to meet even the most demanding applications. “From case to operating is very quick. They are extremely rugged in order to be used by the US NAVY, Army, NATO, and military programs around the world.”

These field tested units can survive in real world applications for years, and have been engineered to take the bumps and bruises that come with operating satellite communication technology in various and demanding environments.

Though popular in military applications, these units provide instant, worldwide communications for various news agencies the world over, as well as remote research teams, allowing the near instant communication of vital information from previously incommunicable locales. Terminals have also been designed for mobile use with land and marine vehicles, using specially developed algorithms and stabilized antennae to maintain communications with satellites while on the go.

Norsat’s Sinclair Division is a fairly recent development for the company, having been acquired last year to meet the growing demand for large scale antennae, housings, and RF filters used by public safety commissions, security, and utility applications. “Sinclair has been in business for 60 years and is well known for its 700/800 MHz and UHF/VHF antennas and filters,” says Mr. Donnelly. This new division is experiencing rapid growth and strong numbers this year.

The company’s brand new Power Solutions Division has also enjoyed great traction within the industry, producing DC to DC converters and DC to AC inverters. This division supplies items applied in large-scale projects, such as utility substations.

The Remote Networks Division is another new development that looks to provide Wimax and Wifi solutions to remote locations for oil and gas markets, as well as others. “We’ve also provided connectivity for First Nation communities in BC,” explains Mr. Donnelly. “We were able to come in and provide very high quality networks to connect friends and families, provide educational opportunities and provide medical assistance for the remote communities.”

As communication becomes even more important in the daily lives of Canadians, remote services such as those offered by Norsat can effect a great deal of positive change in the lives of those affected.

“It’s a very important project that we won in 2011. We looked at what the requirements were, and we designed the entire network and deployed it in the field. We worked with the First Nations Emergency Services Society of BC and the First Nations Technology Council to design the network to provide 17 communities in remote locations in BC with connectivity, representing 2300 residents who receive support 24/7.” Since the initial deployment, Norsat has continued to add additional homes and communities, and hopes that with funding from the Canadian Government, even more communities will receive network access in the future.

Brian Donnelly attributes the company’s strength and continued growth, even in such mature divisions as microwave and satellite technology, to a number of factors, both internal and external. “Part of the growth [stems from how] the industry itself is growing,” he says. “The other part is the renewed focus on research and development to create new products and solutions for the marketplace as well as bringing additional sales and marketing resources into the organization,” which he attributes to the strength and foresight of company president Amiee Chan, who has placed a strong emphasis on growth within the organization.

Technology and communication trends within the industry are closely observed, allowing the company to make strategic decisions guiding future growth, such as the development of Ka-band products, for which the market has grown significantly in recent months. Also, as can be seen with recent acquisitions and the development of new business units, Norsat continues to find new and exciting areas for diversification, never content to rest on its laurels.

But ultimately, Mr. Donnelly identifies certain key values as the strongest drivers of the company’s continuing success. “First and foremost, we value extremely high quality, and we’re known for very high quality products. We have customers that have been with us for decades because they know that when they buy a Norsat product it’s a high quality, high performing product.” Indeed, Norsat products are renowned for their durability, often operating in arctic and desert conditions.

The relationships developed between Norsat, its vendors, and its clients have also contributed to the company’s longevity. Norsat is always willing to work with clients to create one of a kind, custom solutions to meet their specific needs. For example, customers may desire their satellite terminal to work with specific modems, certain operating bands, or may require physical modifications, such as raised electronics that sit higher off the ground to prevent water, snow, or sand from damaging the electronics. Says Mr. Donnelly, “We have the ability to customize our products to make them exactly what our customers want, which feeds our product development, often leading to new commercial products available to all clients.” Of course, with the highest quality products, comes high quality support, and Norsat technicians are available 24/7, 365 days a year to provide ongoing support for customers.

Norsat’s vision statement steers it toward future and continued growth into new areas for application and development. “Our vision statement, which is to be the premier provider of innovative communication solutions for challenging applications and environments, really does guide our decision making process when we look at new growth markets.” This vision leads to development not only in extreme physical environments, but also in other challenging ones, such as within aging urban infrastructure applications, where multiple technologies may need to be integrated or secondary networks developed. “Wherever people have a challenge with communications infrastructure,” says Mr. Donnelly, “that’s where we want to be.”

Going forward, new areas for Norsat’s growth include the resource industry, such as the oil and gas sector, where a great deal of potential for growth exists. “We’ll continue to look at these new markets to see how we can deploy our technology to solve communication issues.”

Ultimately, Norsat’s 35 years of industry experience providing the most rugged and versatile communications equipment have given the company a rock-solid foundation of quality products backed by excellent service. Clients the world over have grown to appreciate the company’s dedication to innovation and quality, and with its further growth and diversification into new markets, future Norsat customers can expect great solutions to meet even their most extreme needs.

June 21, 2018, 11:34 PM EDT

A Proactive Approach to Resolving a Longstanding Debate

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