ABSTRACT In the commercial world, engineering lies at the intersection of business and science. The job of the engineer is to develop products and services that solve consumer problems at acceptable price points. However, in much of engineering, defining the problem is half the battle. In the best companies, engineers work closely with their business counterparts to find the sweet spot between what will sell and what can be developed. In 2011, ViaSat launched its first satellite with more data capacity than the combined fleets – over 100 conventional satellites – of the two largest satellite service providers in the world. A second satellite launched last year doubled that capacity, and satellites on the drawing board will provide another factor of five improvement. The story of how this was done is an excellent example of innovative thinking about both technology approaches and business models.
BIO Steve Gardner attended UMass from 1972 to 1978, receiving the BSEE degree in 1976, and the MSEE degree in 1978, studying communication theory and signal processing. He began his professional career at Linkabit Corporation in San Diego, where he designed error correcting decoders and modems for satellite communications applications. In 1985 the founders of Linkabit, Dr. Irwin Jacobs and Dr. Andrew Viterbi, left to form a new company they called Qualcomm, and Steve joined Qualcomm in 1986 when the company had about 50 employees. Subsequently he did system architecture design and helped develop the standard for the first mobile phone data service called CDPD in the mid 1990s. He was a co-founder of two different communications companies, both of which were ultimately acquired. In the early 2000s he chaired the technical working group of the HomePlug consortium, which developed OFDM based technology for high speed in-home networking over AC power wiring. In 2006, his second company was acquired by ViaSat, a satellite communication company founded by three of Steve’s co-workers from Linkabit. He was the Chief Technology Officer of ViaSat’s government business for several years, and then prior to retiring in 2016 worked on studying market opportunities in Africa, the Asian sub-continent, and Europe and examining satellite system architectures for these applications.