Pradman Kaul is retiring from his role as president of Hughes Network Systems at the end of the year, after nearly 50 years with the company. Kaul is a longtime leader in the satellite industry, and joined Hughes in 1973 and became president of the company in 2000.
Paul Gaske will succeed Kaul in January and become COO of Hughes, reporting to Hamid Akhavan, CEO of parent company EchoStar. Gaske has been with the company since 1977 and currently leads the North America division, which operates HughesNet.
“There is no industry like the satellite sector, combining space and rocketry with down-to-Earth solutions that meet an essential need for connectivity. And there is no team like the Hughes team, so committed to excellence, innovation and changing people’s lives for the better. Having the privilege to be part of both is about as good as it gets for an engineer. With Paul and Hamid at the helm, I know the company will continue to blaze new paths in connecting people, enterprises and things,” Kaul said.
Kaul will continue to serve on the board of directors of EchoStar and will be appointed its vice chairman.
Akhavan commended his service to the company. “Pradman has been a visionary, an inspirational leader and an extraordinary steward of engineering excellence. He leaves a legacy of innovation and collaboration that sets us apart as an employer, a service provider and a partner to customers worldwide.”
Kaul wrote about the beginning of his career in the satellite industry at COMSAT for Hughes 50th anniversary in 2021. In 1968, he had graduated from Cal Berkeley with a master’s degree and had an offer to join a computer company, when he met his future COMSAT boss on the way to a cricket match in Washington.
“His passion, excitement and vision of this new field of satellite communications — a field I knew nothing about — was so powerful that, when he offered me a job at COMSAT Labs, I accepted the same afternoon,” Kaul wrote. “With that, I became a satellite communications fanatic and have remained so ever since.”
Kaul was employee No. 10 at Digital Communications Corporation (DCC) a company founded in 1971 by a group of COMSAT employees. DCC later became Hughes Network Systems.
Hughes highlighted a number of industry firsts achieved under Kaul’s leadership: the first broadband satellite network; the first commercial satellite implementation for a national retailer; the first satellite internet service; and the first multipath satellite-plus-wireless service for consumers.
Kaul has a number of accolades from industry groups, and was named Via Satellite’s 2008 Satellite Executive of the Year for the company’s success in the VSAT market and satellite broadband.
“The people that started Hughes left Comsat Laboratories and had the vision to see that digital satellite communications would be the future,” Kaul said in his SEOTY interview in 2009. “A lot of people didn’t see it that way at that time. The first digital systems used SCPC, TDMA and other technologies and were developed at Digital Communications Corp., the name of our company in the 1970s. We started in a garage in Rockville, Md., and always have been leaders in the digital space. It was a $2 million market in the beginning, but even then we had greater than a 50% share.”
He is also in the Society of Space & Satellite Professionals Hall of Fame and received the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation 2012 Innovator award.
Kaul’s retirement comes amid a time of change for Hughes and parent company EchoStar. Akhavan became CEO earlier this year, succeeding former CEO and President Michael Dugan, who retired after more than 30 years of service to EchoStar and its predecessors.
Akhavan has embarked on a strategic course for the company to improve the company’s financial position and realize growth opportunities. This includes a focus on the global enterprise business including its managed services portfolio, hybrid LEO-GEO business solutions and manufactured products. On the most recent investor call, Akhavan said EchoStar is exploring “potentially small acquisitions” and in the longer term, commercializing the company’s S-band assets and potential larger scale M&A opportunities.
Hughes is expected to see the launch of its long-awaited and delayed Jupiter 3 satellite in 2023. Manufacturer Maxar Technologies recently forgave EchoStar around $50 million in future payments to compensate for repeated delays on the program. Hughes is capacity constrained on its current satellite fleet as it waits for the additional capacity Jupiter 3 will bring to its satellite broadband business. In its most recent quarterly financials, Hughes said capacity limitations are contributing to subscriber decline. Satellite Today