Australian space and defence technology company Electro Optic Systems Holdings (ASX: EOS) has completed the $10 million acquisition of US-based Audacy Corporation and launched two technical initiatives in the expansion of its communications business.
The company announced in January that it would acquire Audacy to address near-term market needs with radio frequency satellites acquired on the transfer of communication spectrum licences approved by the US Federal Communications Commission.
It will now move forward to deploy the satellites in a $1.2 billion constellation named EOSLink, which is claimed to offer a leap in the capacity and cost metrics required by the market from their initial start date in 2024.
Electro Optic said the satellites would not compete with existing geostationary satellites or the large number of low earth orbit satellites expected to enter service over the next few years.
Both market segments are expected to look to EOSLink satellites to provide data transfer operations to increase their own capacity and competitiveness.
The Audacy deal follows Electro Optics’ acquisition of Queensland-based EM Solutions in October, which established the company as a global provider of stabilised on-the-move satellite tracking terminals for high-speed telecommunications.
Electro Optic’s approach is based on the industry view that optical communications will carry the majority of space communication traffic by 2036.
This traffic is expected to be around 100 times greater than current volumes, but will generate revenues for service providers at the same level as presently being generated.
The revenue for the market segment Electro Optics intends to service (which excludes broadcast and internet applications) currently exceeds $100 billion annually.
The company said the evolution of the market will be driven by new technology, new data-intense applications, expanding end-user numbers and fundamental commercial limits on all customers’ ability to pay.
“Market demand for pricing improvements is disrupting an industry facing the capacity limits of current radio frequency technology,” it said.
“There are mounting corporate casualties of the trend toward higher capacity at a lower delivered cost and the situation is expected to continue for some time.”
Co-operative research centre
A collaboration between Electro Optic and Adelaide’s SmartSat co-operative research centre will see the development of a new hybrid communications terminal, incorporating optical and radio frequency capabilities, for military satellite communications.
SmartSat is the biggest space-related research and development project in Australia’s history and was founded by Electro Optic Space Systems and EM Solutions.
Project participants include the Australian National University, Shoal Group, Young & Kot Engineering, University South Australia and DST.
“Current high data rate communications to and from satellite ground terminals such as the EM Solutions Cobra terminal utilise available RF spectrum which is becoming a highly contested and scarce resource given the ever-growing demand for services,” the company said.
“Optical communications has the potential to overcome these limitations but must meet military reliability and survivability requirements [and] there is the significant issue of existing radio frequency infrastructure being incompatible with [that] required for optical communications.”
The proposed hybrid communication terminal would combine radio frequency and optical technologies in a single system to overcome such limitations and offer higher data rates than existing solutions.
Electro Optic has also committed over $750,000 towards the establishment of a permanent EOS Professorial Chair in Microwave and Photonic Engineering and Applied Electromagnetics at the University of Queensland.
The Chair will establish a premier research and teaching group in areas closely aligned to emerging societal requirements in communications.
Electro Optic expects to collaborate closely with the group in various hybrid communication research programs.
“[This Chair] reinforces our commitment to leveraging Australian university research to develop world leading technologists and products,” the company said.
“We are excited to initiate the teaching of courses which will cover emerging applications of microwave and optics engineering in space and broadband satellite communications, and to support postgraduate research into active microwave and photonic engineering.”
The new centre is focused on developing “a more coherent ecosystem of Electro Optic technology solutions”, allowing the company to address a broader market and lower barriers to entry identified in new markets.