Once upon a time in the satellite business, everyone knew what to expect. So many launches per year by the same launch providers. Incremental increases in satellite mass and power. A few dominant satellite operators with long legacies. New codecs and algorithms that steadily packed more bits into each megahertz.
As the business rolls into the next decade, we are saying goodbye to all that. I had a chance to talk to a number of very smart people at satellite services and technology companies recently, and that is the one thing they all agree on. The agent of change is high-throughput technology in space and on the ground. By 2020, as one executive told me, “It is going to drive down prices as the market expands to absorb the capacity. We are going to have to support more customers on less revenue per customer.”
On the positive side, everyone also agrees that the opportunities will be vast. “Mobility is the fastest-growing segment today,” said another executive I interviewed, “and it is going to accelerate the spread of HTS. Maritime, aeronautical and land transport will be big growth engines. Finding new segments is going to be key.”
Bringing a VSAT-based service offering to market and getting it sold, however, is going to require a top-to-bottom rethinking of how we deliver service. A complex service in the future may include a third-party gateway on a vertically-integrated system selling Mbps rather than MHz and a growing range of communications carriers, who integrate this service into a more comprehensive offering.
To manage end-to-end, the providers are going to have to give each other visibility into their networks for the first time ever. If that doesn’t change how you do business, the demand for partnerships will. Except for the largest service providers, it is going to be the only way to achieve the economies of scale that an HTS-enabled market will demand. A CEO told me that his company’s future depended on “getting inside the telcos and convincing them that we are part of the customer solution. Big telcos have 10,000 sales people; I have fifteen. We can only win by using their people.”
Change is hard. But there is a very bright light at the end of this particular tunnel. A tech CEO put it this way. “The winner will be the one who can turn the HTS threat into the HTS opportunity. NSR predicts that only 20% of the HTS capacity will be used for the typical B2B applications for enterprise, government, mobility and so on. But that 20% will generate 80% of the revenue, which means an extraordinarily big opportunity.”
Robert Bell is executive director of the Society of Satellite Professionals International, the industry’s largest membership association, with 4,000 members in 40+ countries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.