27-year history of space & satellite business
The Lachman brothers and several Titans Universe/TSI co-founders were involved with space, satellites, and broadband long before it became a race among billionaires. In fact, they entered the satellite broadcast business in 1995, and after a stint with an LMDS terrestrial systems developer, they funded the first-ever pilot of a multi-hundred megabit per second connection satellite connection in 1999 on an Eutelsat transponder, (which they then advertised in the WSJ (Dec. 1999). The plan was to service multi-ten million people all over the world.
When the 2000 recession hit, they decided to focus on pioneering fiber to the home instead. Fast forward to 2022, after more than three years of operating in stealth mode, the Titans Universe team recently announced the upcoming launch of TitansN, a new satellite service provider, on Linkedin. The December 26, 2021 announcement is copied below. (Click here to go to source.)
TSI CEO Neal S. Lachman announcement
Since 2013, my team and I built a strong relationship with hundreds of telecom and technology suppliers. In 2018, after a year of highs and lows, we suddenly stopped communicating with the world. Today, I’m explaining briefly why that was, through this announcement.
While we'll be entering the consumer market (Direct to Home/Premise) as a service provider, TitansN will also work with Angie Communications and other fixed, mobile and wireless (WISP) operators all over the world, as a wholesaler and backhaul provider.
To make a long story short, over the last three years, we have been setting up new businesses and projects. Today, those projects are collected under Titans Universe. Meanwhile, we kept researching the best and most efficient way to provide (wireless) services to tens of millions of people; something we have been trying to accomplish for many years.
Some of you may know the pioneering role my team and I played in the Fiber to the Home industry (since 2000). We pioneered the FTTH industry since early 2000 when zero homes were connected. More about that later in this article.
Fun fact, I coined or at least popularized the term FiberBroadband in 2000, and used to own the fiberbroadband.com domain. Now, the huge, global FTTH council is named the Fiberbroadband Association.
As I explained in a 2017 post, I believe that FTTH is not going to survive too long as a stand-alone business. Building large (nationwide) FTTH infrastructures would cost many hundreds of billions of dollars; we realized that very early on. On the other hand, mobile and wireless 5G services (while very promising) are too limited in terms of reach and capacity. Instead, we started looking at satellite broadband again, which also happens to be an industry I helped pioneer in 1998.
1998-2000: Setting up satellite internet
In 1998, everything "internet" was red hot and raking in hundreds of millions. When my brother Aniel and I decided to invest a few million dollars of our own money in a pioneering satellite broadband and multimedia venture, we also agreed that we'd invest heavily in digital infrastructure. That's why the company was called Lachman Brothers Digital Communications. This included the physical infrastructure of satellite constellations, satellite user equipment, and rocket launches.
We organized the world's first multi-hundred megabit per second internet connection over satellite (on an Eutelsat transponder) in on December 3, 1999, and advertised the results in the Wall Street Journal.
We explained our grand vision and ambitions for the future, we hired pioneers like one of the fathers of the Internet, Dr. Barry Leiner (who brought the Internet to the public domain) to join our advisory board, and we invested heavily in R&D. In January 2000, more than 22 years ago, we officially signed the first five satellite internet transponders on the Eutelsat constellation, planning to have hundreds if not thousands more. We got involved with satellite as well as rocket launch and manufacturing firms. We would be huge in space business.
If you open the millennium edition (December 1999) of The Economist (all print editions), right in the middle, you will see the spread advertisement of InternetHyperGate, a satellite broadband service provider that was set to launch in 2000.
The company was founded by Lachman Brothers Digital Communications Inc., established in 1998, and as you may have guessed it, that refers to (two of) my brothers and me. We had already contracted capacity on five satellite transponders, and early 2000, we were special guests of General Electric’s American Communications Broadband Forum in St. Petersburg, Florida, where we would discuss launching our own satellites on our own rockets to serve tens of millions of people all around the world. We had to because other providers were just inadequate.
That in itself is a long story, but the main point is, this is years before Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos would dream up their space and rocket ventures, and almost 20 years before they’d have the fantastic plan to launch a satellite internet service. In 1999 and 2000, we spent several million dollars in advertising (WSJ, The Economist, FT, Time, CNN, CNBC, etc.) and research and development, before giving up on it.
A track-record of pioneering and thought leadership
My brother Aniel and I were having lunch at the beautiful Renaissance Resort where GE’s Broadband Forum was being held (2000), and we saw the market crash, the start of the internet and telecom bubble burst, on Lou Dobb’s program on CNN. That, and some serious satellite capacity/bandwidth issues, was the reason we dropped all our satellite internet plans on our plane ride home, and instead focused on a new pioneering idea: fiber to the home.
In 2000, we couldn't imagine that it would turn into a multi-hundred billion dollar industry. Back then, exactly zero homes had a fiber connection. Fast forward to 22 years later, several hundred million households are enjoying fiber connections all over the world, and an ever-growing part of the $2 trillion telecom services market.
Of course, there were several companies involved in fiber testing and trying out fiber technologies, but there were no real plans to roll out fiber to premises. When I called the then world leader in fiber, Worldcom, in April 2000 with the question, "How can we extend your fiber to connect homes?", they answered, "You tell us!".
Indeed, that was the beginning of an extensive relationship, and I even consulted them on VoIP protocol. That's another fun fact. Almost all communications nowadays run on VoIP-based systems, but back in 2000, even the largest telecom players didn't have a clue what the future would be, or which system would become standardized. I knew because we had been researching and analyzing it in-depth.
My team and I wrote the book on Next-Gen Communications
In 2007, we wrote a 160-page white paper, “Building Communications Infrastructures for the 21st Century”, which gave us the “bragging rights” to claim that we literally “wrote the book on next-generation communications”.
This document was requested by more than 2,500 people, and maybe because of that large group of readers, it had many ramifications for the communications industry, including settling the WiMAX (which had major players pushing for it) versus LTE issue (we explained why LTE would/should win), bursting free city-wi-fi dreams, and most importantly open-sourcing the Fiber to the Home business model, as a result kickstarting the Fiber to the Home industry in a major way.
In 2009, I co-authored a paper about the future of photonics in the telecom infrastructures, describing a novel approach (those days we were called iUHBA). In 2017, we published a 5G infrastructure design proposal paper, based on our pioneering 10-Gigabit fiber connections to three separate private (non-enterprise) clients. And the list goes on. I must have forgotten at least a handful of other seminal research we have published.
Fun fact: I owned and published the largest FTTH, Wi-Fi, and Free Space Optics newsletter from 2000-2003, with more than 25,000 bi-weekly recipients.
The Infrastructure Conundrum
My team mates (from TitansN and thus Angie/Oy and its predecessor companies) and I formed the 21st Century Infrastructures Consortium in 2002, mainly because we realized, through experiences since 1995, that there were enormous and manifold challenges pertaining to building infrastructure.
We understood the immense value of joining forces with like-minded individuals and partner firms and institutions. This concern was primarily telecom related; satellites and rockets (1998), fiber to the home (2000 onwards), WiFi and Free Space Optics (2001), etc. Fast forward to 2022, and nothing much has changed, if not for the worse.
Whether it’s antenna attachments, fiber trenching, or building systems like Hyperloop, progress in building infrastructure is severely limited by many factors, including right-of-way and geographical restrictions. Furthermore, technological, regulatory, and public issues arise more often than not, making building infrastructure an almost impossible task.
This all accumulates to costly, unaffordable, time-consuming, and soul-wrenching situations, hampering innovation, and thus progress. We know, because we have been the victim of such schemes more than once, destroying our plans to build future-proof nationwide telecom infrastructure from the ground up, which would have brought much-needed investment (of $100+ billion) to the industry over the course of five to ten years.
Our immediate solution is to launch a mega-constellation of 55,000 satellites (starting with 555 in H2-2024), to become a service and platform provider, and our long-term solution is tied to the futuristic OrbitalLoop systems.
Billionaires and satellite internet as their side hustles
Around 2018, Elon Musk and his Starlink, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon and Kuiper, and Richard Branson and his Virgin Orbital were planning tens of billions $ of investments in satellite broadband, and we decided to let them fight and watch what's going to happen. That was a wise decision.
The industry has now invested billions of dollars in an industry that we plan to dominate. It won’t be Starlink, Kuiper, OneWeb, Virgin Orbital that will benefit most from the technological readiness level that we'll achieve in the coming months and years. It will be TitansN. Thanks though, Elon!
All joking aside, the satellite broadband market is huge, since almost 4 billion people are unserved or underserved.
With all the idealistic business models of yesteryears, this is still a fact. The digital divide hasn't disappeared, it hasn't even narrowed, and as a matter of fact, I think that it's worse than ever. Thanks to new technologies and many billions of dollars invested by others, satellite broadband is finally becoming at least equally powerful as 5G Mobile and wired FTTH, with the added huge and unique benefit of having no land or border restrictions.
We can make billions $ while also helping a chunk of those 4 billion people with high-speed service. There is enough market and profit potential for all satellite operators present and future. My Captain Obvious-but-seemingly-not-so-obvious statement: Just don't try to charge poor people rich-people prices.
You may realize that all those other projects are like side hustles for those billionaires. They may know their stuff but they don’t know much about telecom; it’s an afterthought for them. On the other hand, TitansN was founded by a group of telecom and technology pioneers and experts with a combined 300 years of telecom and technology experience.
This has been my bread and butter for more than 23 years, and for some of us three or even four decades. These are my co-founders with whom I worked for many years (some more than 20 years, some since 2008); they are not just hired guns.
Yes, we have huge plans, but they are realistic and doable. Difficult, but not impossible, as they say. In terms of our role in society, I promise that we are a different kind of company. We believe in fair wages, unionized labor, fair taxation, and thriving employees. We will look after society through responsible investing and social care, but also by empowerment and cooperation.
55,000 satellites from TitansN would contribute to the space debris, don’t you think? No, we know it won’t. There are regulatory plans in place to avoid satellite collisions. We are also no real fans of why a few American companies would rule over space. As such, we are considering launching our mega-constellation outside of the USA realm.
On our websites you can find extensive information about our plans, including our satellite and spaceplanes launch strategy, our plans to connect the poorest people and low-wage earners, and how suppliers and tech firms can help and benefit as well.
InternetHypergate, Lachman Brothers Digital Communications
“Lachman Brothers are proud to announce Dr. Barry Leiner as the first member of its Advisory Board.”
In a 2002 interview, journalist Nils Adriaan asked me “With Free Space Optics, do you have the Holy Grail of broadband in your hand?”; Nils Adriaans; Emerce September 27, 2002; Accessed November 3, 2021.
A quick remark. This interview led to some of the stakeholders in the government-funded Kenniswijk project rudely awakening and consequently blocking support for our FSO-based proposal. The eternally envious Dutch incumbent, KPN, was strangely enough asked by the Dutch government to run the board of Kenniswijk, which was supposed to be the testing ground of fiber to the home, a direct threat to KPN’s DSL business. Such envious blockings and outright sabotaging of incumbents and their minions of our projects have been a red thread throughout my telecom career. This is one of the many reasons why I am very outspoken and don't often play nice with other telecom players, and why going through space is our saving grace.
InternetHypergate, Lachman Brothers Digital Communications press releases (2000)
Building Communications Infrastructure for the 21st Century; Neal S. Lachman et al; July 2007
Challenges And Opportunities For Google's Fiber Project: A Reality And Sanity Check (August 2012)
Smart Homes and Smart Cities: Why Don’t They Exist Yet? An Analysis of Smart Paralysis; Neal S. Lachman et al; November 11, 2016