Partnering Power NanTenna CEO Talks Narrowband SATCOM, the Upcoming SatShow and Teaming with Reticulate Micro


Partnering Power NanTenna CEO Talks Narrowband SATCOM, the Upcoming SatShow and Teaming with Reticulate Micro

In the defense technology space, Reticulate Micro and NanTenna are uncommon partners: the companies frequently co-present their firms’ dual and disruptive capabilities with customers – blending video compression with high-performance antenna technologies where NanTenna focuses on narrowband SATCOM, providing “better performance in a smaller footprint.”

Then last month, the two partners did the unheard of: streaming video in real time over the Army’s ultra-narrowband UHF TACSAT network, a feat that continues to generate industry-wide buzz.

On the eve of SATELLITE 2024, where both firms’ technologies will be front and center at Reticulate’s Booth #954, we sat down with Thomas Larkin, who wears two hats as CEO of NanTenna and as senior director of Business Development for Reticulate Micro.

A Brit by birth who now calls Florida home, Thomas “perfectly illustrates the American dream, where anything is possible with the right blend of determination, grit, and hard work,” says Josh Cryer, president and CEO of Reticulate.

Applauding Thomas’s work ethic that enabled him to complete his university studies and build a successful business that develops and delivers disruptive technologies, Josh also noted his excellence “at being a good husband and father.”

“I’m proud to call him a friend,” he says.

Below, Thomas opens up about his business and close partnership with Reticulate Micro to address military comms requirements, and how he sees the two companies disrupting communications and connectivity at the tactical edge.

Q. How did NanTenna come to be?
Thomas: NanTenna emerged from my past venture, Larkin Industries, where our focus was on bridging the gap between startup commercial entities and the Department of Defense. We collaborated with forward-thinking communication experts in an environment that fostered innovation to elevate capabilities. From those interactions with both government and industry, we pursued our initial project through an SBIR (small business innovative research grant), which was successful in large part due to our timely access to the right end users. Our initial antenna was a quick hit and we rode the trajectory and adoption of the MUOS (Mobile User Operating System) constellation.

Q. What antenna technology challenges are most pressing to the military today?
Thomas: Size, weight, and power parameters, global coverage, mobility in transit. While notable developments and enhancements are occurring in satellite technology, the ground antenna domain, at least in the near term, is not experiencing as much tangible progress. The upcoming years are anticipated to bring significant disruptions, with the growing need for connectivity prompting increased innovation in ground antenna technologies. This is especially true since conflicts have moved from Afghanistan and the Middle East to the near-peer threats that are cyber focused and require more and more resources and demand for data. We need better ways to move data quickly and efficiently.

Q. What attracted your close collaboration with Reticulate not only on proving out new capabilities but also at industry events where we often co-exhibit?
Thomas: NanTenna and Reticulate Micro share numerous common objectives, each employing distinct approaches to enhance and empower end-users’ capabilities. I would say 99% of NanTenna customers are VAST (Reticulate video encoder) customers. Where VAST shines is on constrained narrowband pipes, which is what NanTenna antenna hardware works on.

In recent demonstrations, we’ve successfully provided customers with enhanced capabilities, and we believe there is substantial untapped potential for further collaboration.

Q. We are joining forces at SATELLITE— what can attendees look forward to seeing?
Thomas: Our initial offering, an on-the-move UHF TACSAT antenna, was recently tested in a groundbreaking event alongside Reticulate Micro’s VAST appliance. We are excited to share the outcomes of this high-quality video streaming demo and discuss our upcoming plans for the year, including the launch of our L Band antenna. This antenna will once again be assessed and deployed with Reticulate Micro’s VAST appliance to enhance end users’ experiences.

Q. The recent joint TACSAT radio encoding test with the Army was a breakthrough. Were you surprised by the military and industry response?
Thomas: While UHF TACSAT is a widely used platform, it is inherently designed as narrowband SATCOM, which poses limitations for high-quality imagery and video. We combined video quality, packet size and latency in our first-ever blend was remarkably impressive. While not necessarily surprised, the overwhelmingly positive response was truly gratifying. Our commitment to thorough research and analysis guides our strategic decisions in product development and partnerships, ensuring they align with our customers’ needs. In this instance, we are confident that our decision-making has once again proven to be on point!

Q. Both Reticulate and NanTenna are doing more detailed testing on March 18th with the Army. What do you hope to accomplish next week at that event?
Thomas: The exercise on Monday before SATELLITE comes as we’re getting into the evaluation stage of our joint capabilities with the customer. We’re excited about talking about the future of capabilities and sharing results of our testing.

We’re focusing on honing the precise data we can obtain, especially when on the move. We will look at quality, latency and packet size to help the customer understand the true requirements moving forward.

The ability to achieve such high quality while on the move is a key benefit of our technology. It’s not just about the quality; it’s about the convenience of obtaining it in transit, thanks to our advanced antenna. Consequently, we’ll consistently evaluate optimal configurations to reinforce the message of the enhanced capability that users can readily harness through our combined technologies.

Q. Where do you see the partnership with Reticulate headed? What is most exciting about the future?
Thomas: We have a lot already slated for 2024, including Reticulate Micro having a successful IPO. NanTenna is a passive antenna provider while Reticulate is going to be a much bigger company with more communication solutions. I hope together we continue to work very closely to develop bleeding-edge capabilities for narrowband communications. I’d like to see a VAST encoder paired with every UHF or L band antenna sold, and vice versa. Hopefully we are collectively helping customers to get the most out of their allocated SAT services through our combined innovations.

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