ORBCOMM Expands its Legacy by Acquiring Skywave


By Joyce Deuley

In mid-June of 2014, ORBCOMM successfully launched six new satellites, bringing its total number of in orbit to eleven. The new satellites will deliver faster service to ORBCOMM customers, provide better coverage at higher latitudes, and increase ORBCOMM’s network capabilities. But, launching satellites is not all the company has been up to.

Within the last few years, the company has successfully acquired several companies within the asset tracking industry, including GlobalTrak, SENS Asset Tracking, and Euroscan. ORBCOMM is known as one of the transportation industry’s leading providers of tracking, monitoring, and control services. These acquisitions, plus ORBCOMM’s interest in SkyWave, shows that the company seeks to expand its capabilities in providing the most complete tracking services in M2M. As ORBCOMM subscriber numbers approach the one million mark (915K), the company is looking for additional opportunities for growth by trying to acquire Skywave.

Back in 2013, Skywave and Inmarsat entered into a partnership agreement, which gave Inmarsat 19% ownership that has now passed to ORBCOMM. Purchasing SkyWave has increased ORBCOMM’s presence in the global asset tracking industry by a large margin, since the majority of its business is in the US and Skywave operates in more than 100 countries. Additionally, ORBCOMM will gain more than 250,000 new subscribers and 400 channel partners through this acquisition, pushing Orbcomm's subscriber numbers to . Backed with an expanded network and tracking capabilities from the new satellites and by absorbing Skywave’s customers, ORBCOMM is casting a wide net within the global asset tracking industry.

While both companies share verticals within transportation, government, oil and gas, and maritime, Skywave also brings mining, energy, and utilities verticals to the table. These combined verticals will help stretch ORBCOMM’s reach within the industry, seeping into trailer and container tracking, rail tracking and logistics, heavy equipment managing, and workforce automation just to name a few.

By acquiring Skywave, ORBCOMM will also have access to the recently announced technology, the IDP 700 and IDP 800 High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) satellite-cellular terminals that can track assets traveling between urban and remote areas. It can utilize both 2G (GPRS) and 3G (HSPA) networks and has a redundant back-up battery system that can send out the last known GPS location if there are issues with unforeseen failures, issues with mishaps, or issues with operational conditions. Additionally, Skywave recently signed on to assist Russian fleet-tracking company, SpaceTeam, by providing its IDP 700 terminals to assist tracking within Russia’s most remote regions. The power of these devices will increase in effectiveness when powered by ORBCOMM’s newest satellites. But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Not only does Skywave offer satellite-cellular terminal solutions, but it also provides data networking services through its IsatData Pro and IsatM2M lines, along with its coverage maps, fleet management/analytics, and SCADA/fixed equipment applications. Customers will benefit from the increased messaging speed, revamped tracking capabilities even at high latitudes, and ORBCOMM’s expanded network as these two companies join forces.

ORBCOMM’s acquisition of Skywave will have dynamic impacts to the global asset tracking industry. Each company brings more than 20 years of experience within the industry to address the unique challenges companies are currently facing. ORBCOMM’s access to fresh ideas within the tracking industry via its acquisitions help make it the contender it is. Skywave’s sub-verticals and services within additional verticals, such as mining and utilities, extend ORBCOMM’s reach within the market. Between mid-June of 2013 and 2014, ORBCOMM reported a 31% growth in revenue; it will be interesting to see how this new acquisition will boost ORBCOMM’s presence within the global asset tracking industry during 2015.