We speak to Richard Currier, Senior Vice President, Business Development at SSL ahead of the VSAT Latin America event in Jule 2013. Rich will also be particiapting in a panel discussion on Day 2 at 12.20pm entitled ‘HTS and the influx of bandwidth: reassessing the economics of the satellite industry’.
1. What do you see as the key drivers for VSAT in Latin America?
Latin America is a huge region with many different countries, cultures, economies and demands for satellite communications. While much of the world’s economy has been slowing, growth in Latin America has increased, particularly in Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and Colombia. Driven by the economic expansion, growth in energy, manufacturing, mining, food production and distribution, and retail are fueling increasing demand for VSATs for enterprise services and infrastructure.
Brazil, which has 48 percent of the population in Latin America and accounts for roughly 41 percent of the region’s economy, has the seventh largest GDP in the world, according to the International Monetary Fund. It will host the Football World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Olympics, which will drive demand for satellite TV as well as enterprise services to support the economic development and infrastructure growth associated with these events.
Additionally, there has been a general trend for increased deployment of VSATs around the world. This is driven by decreasing costs, smaller antennas, and the demand for high speed Internet in rural, underserved areas. We expect this trend to continue in Latin America.
Just as in other regions of the world, the explosion of digital content is driving demand for all kinds of telecommunications infrastructure including both terrestrial and satellite networks. It has been estimated that in 2013 the amount of data generated worldwide will reach four zettabytes, which is the next order of magnitude after exabytes and means 1021. As Latin America continues to flourish, satellite infrastructure will help this part of the world to keep pace with the demands of social media, minute by minute communications, and exceptional video experience.
2. What have been the biggest milestones for SSL in Latin America over the past 12 months?
In November, SSL was acquired by MDA. This is exciting for our company for many reasons, but particularly because MDA is making a long term commitment to doing business in Latin America, with a particular focus on establishing a sustained presence in Brazil and making Brazil a part of our global supply chain. MDA provides radar and surveillance services in addition to communications systems and robotics. SSL is also committed to this market as a part of the broader corporate initiative and we have already proven the value of our communications satellites in Brazil and other parts of Latin America.
We have provided multiple satellites for use in Latin America over the past 12 months. Most recently, Satmex 8, Amazonas 3 and Anik G1 have all gone into service, and all three of these satellites provide service in Latin America. We were honored to participate in a ceremony with Hispasat and its Brazilian affiliate Hispamar on May 9 to celebrate the commencement of service on the Amazonas 3 satellite which is the first satellite to provide Ka-band broadband service in Latin America. Over the years we have built more than a dozen satellites for Intelsat, which provide service in Latin America and we have also provided several satellites to SES that provide service in the region, including QuetzSat-1, which is used for direct-to-home television in Mexico and Central America.
We have other satellites for service in Latin America currently under construction in our Palo Alto manufacturing facility and last week we learned that we are one of the three companies selected to compete for a tender to build a satellite for the government of Brazil. The satellite will provide Ka-band service for Brazil’s National Broadband Program as well as government communications.
We are leaders in putting broadband capacity in space and have built the world’s highest capacity Ka-band satellites. We are particularly well-positioned to provide this satellite for Brazil as we are currently doing a similar type national broadband network project for the government of Australia and we have a very good understanding of both the technical and administrative issues involved in this type of project.
3. What would you say are the major challenges facing SSL over the next 2 years?
Under the guidance of our new parent company, MDA, over the next two years we will be quite active in growing our business and developing new technologies. We are currently building a new Thermal-Vacuum Test Chamber that doubles our capacity for testing satellites under conditions that mimic the harsh environment of space.
We recently established an office of Technology and Innovation within SSL, with the mandate to both lead next-generation satellite capabilities and to leverage MDA’s technologies into our product portfolio. Beyond just satellites, we are expanding our integrated ground systems capabilities and incorporating MDA’s robotics technology into our offerings. The next couple of years will be very dynamic for the company but one thing that will not change is our customer-focus and flexibility.
4. What do you hope to get out of VSAT Latin America?
We are very glad to support this inaugural event and believe that our participation is a small way to demonstrate our ongoing commitment to the region. Attending VSAT Latin America will help us get to know the Latin American companies that are currently involved in the satellite industry and will give us a better sense of the region’s most critical needs and how communications in Brazil and other parts of Latin America are evolving. The event provides an opportunity to spend more time in the region and to help potential partners and customers better understand how we can help build out the type of infrastructure that will bring the most benefit to Latin American companies and governments.