In a one-on-one meeting at the NEF Tendencias forum between Hispasat's chief executive, Miguel Ángel Panduro, and the company's president for the last eight months, Jordi Hereu, the two executives of Spain's leading satellite communications operator acknowledged the company's entry into the field of cybersecurity in the space environment.
Both have revealed the new direction that the company has taken as a result of the transformation process in which it is immersed and have unveiled the ambitious project that they are leading. It brings together the interests of different companies, scientific bodies and national public entities, in which "the Spanish space and security community is participating", confirms Jordi Hereu, former mayor of Barcelona.
In essence, it consists of developing a secure communications demonstrator satellite, whose technologies, emissions and links will be protected from interference, eavesdropping and denial of service by means of indecipherable quantum keys. The president of Hispasat described the initiative as "highly innovative” and considers that the space project "is capable of being undertaken entirely by Spanish industry, although making it a reality "is not a short-term issue", he pointed out.
In his capacity as CEO of the operator and the person to whom shareholders will ask for results, Miguel Ángel Panduro highlights that the project has been christened Space QR and that more than 17 companies, scientific bodies and national public entities have joined forces to take it forward. Among them are, for example, the National Institute of Cybersecurity of León (INCIBE), the Institute of Photonic Sciences of Castelldefels (ICFO) and several communications operators.
The initiative relies on Hispasat's own investment capacity, which both directors have valued at "700 million euros over the next five years". It is a "co-investment" proposal, Jordi Hereu points out, which will be added to the contributions that may come from the Next Generation budgetary framework of the European Union's Recovery and Resilience Fund.
The Space QR project does not want to stop at the national level, but rather seeks to structure a much more ambitious European secure communications programme. Its ultimate goal is to realise a constellation of satellites to bridge the digital divide that exists in some territories of EU countries, as well as to provide essential and secure services to authorities in Brussels and governmental entities in member countries.
"We are very much in line with the philosophy of the Next Generation funds," agree the Chairman and CEO. "We are industry drivers, we generate alliances that strengthen the value chain in which many companies participate, we have a very clear link with Europe, we are transformers, we create jobs and we help to overcome Spain's demographic challenge.
Hispasat is leading another proposal that it has also put forward in the Next Generation framework. It consists of offering 100Mb/s broadband connectivity in any part of Spain and projecting it beyond the Iberian Peninsula, a speed that it is committed to raising to 200Mb/s by 2024. In addition to the two aforementioned initiatives, 15 other expressions of interest have been put on the table. All are closely linked to the field of digitalisation and connectivity in areas related to artificial intelligence, Big Data and cutting-edge technologies.
Underlying the new business approach is the transformation defined by the recently approved Strategic Plan 2025. The aim is to grow the company on the basis of moving "from an infrastructure company to a services company", giving special relevance to the areas of mobility in the maritime and aeronautical plans and the development of broadband in space. The strategic priority is to make a major contribution to boosting the development of Central and South American countries. Jordi Hereu sums it up by saying that "we want to reduce our role in Europe and strengthen our presence in Latin America".
One example of its American activity is providing satellite connectivity to schools and rural communities that have no other access to the outside world. In April, a programme was activated in Honduras that has established a WiFi network in 15 geographic areas affected by the devastation caused by hurricanes Eta and Iota in late 2020. Similar initiatives are being implemented in the Peruvian Amazon and in different regions of Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico.
The first big step towards strengthening its presence in the Americas is its new Amazonas Nexus communications satellite, which is being manufactured in France by Thales Alenia Space. Amazonas Nexus will be its first space platform with all-American coverage. It will not only cover South America," says Panduro, "but the entire continent, including North America," although it will also cover the North Atlantic and the Greenland area to offer mobility services.
Within the framework of the new space market that is opening up around the world under the generic name of New Space, Hispasat says it is "at the negotiation, analysis and planning tables of European strategies", which contemplate new models of access to services and applications linked to the outer space sphere.
For Miguel Ángel Panduro, New Space has made the space sector "sexy". He says this in the sense that the great entrepreneurs and billionaires such as Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson and the large financial corporations of the United States, China, Russia and the European Union are placing their bets by investing huge amounts of money in large constellations of satellites.
Jordi Hereu notes that this is a new world "in which we have our antennae set up", to analyse innovation processes, observe which mature "and from which we will be able to extract performance". But Panduro stresses that regulation in the space field "is still to be done" and we have to be "tremendously careful". "We have to ensure that the projects we launch are protected, in order to "offer legal certainty to our customers", one of the reasons for its Space QR project.
Hispasat was created in 1989 and its main shareholder is Red Eléctrica, with 89.68% of the shares. Its largest client is the Telefónica Group, both nationally and in Latin America. Its business model is to reach residential users through traditional distribution channels. Under no circumstances does it plan to change this approach. On the contrary, its intention is to expand its collaboration with a greater number of communications operators at local, regional or global level.