Home >> September 2008 Edition >> UPLINK — SatView: Europe
UPLINK — SatView: Europe
by Hartley and Pattie Lesser

The European satellite communications market is most certainly alive and well... The research analysis firm, Futron, finds a 77 billion euros market worldwide, with satellite services generating some 38 billion euros of this global revenue. Europe is a dominant force in the satcom marketplace‚ and as Futron estimates, the European space industry can claim approximately 40 percent of the world market in the trinity of satellite environs: manufacture, launch, and operation. In addition, just in case you were unaware, three of the five largest satellite system operators in the world are European based.

Mix in estimates from companies such as Northern Sky Research who determined new service launches in Europe will assist in revenue growth for the broadband satellite market of more than 22 percent per year through 2011. To learn more about how the European market interacts with the global environs, I invited leading, subject-matter experts, and company executives to comment on this marketplace.

Here are the thoughts of those who bring all of the disparate pieces together, in company alphabetical order...

Pedro Schoch afforded his insight into the European market and identified his company’s strengths in this market.

“GMV is a large company that has been providing solutions, from products to systems integration, to the space market, worldwide, for more than 20 years. We are involved in a wide array of activities including satellite control, flight dynamics, payload management, mission data processing, mission analysis, mission planning, and navigation systems and applications.

“In particular, for the satcom market, GMV is one of the leading providers of ground systems for satellite control, flight dynamics, and payload management. Our systems have been selected to fly over 100 satellites from 18 commercial satellite operators worldwide. Our position as a leading supplier for ground systems to a large number of satellite operators, and our relationship with the six largest satellite manufacturers in Europe and the U.S. provide us with a unique view of the market.

As to the market’s strengths, Pedro added, “Satellite operators need to plan ahead and prepare satellite ground control infrastructures in order to accommodate fleet expansions for the coming years. We have seen a solid market with healthy growth in the past years and we expect to see a strong European market going forward. New broadband applications, Internet-related services, and HDTV seem to be carrying the brunt of the market growth as many analysts have already pointed out, and the HDTV market still has a long way to go in Europe. Capacity is growing and new satellite orders are being developed for European satellite manufacturers, not only from European satellite operators but from operators in other regions of the world. GMV is certainly as busy as ever and has a strong order book going into the future.

“Another interesting area for further growth will be provided by the convergence of navigation, Earth observation, and communication technologies for the development of systems and applications for different markets. The European GMES program is certainly fostering the development of these applications in the security and environmental areas, and the market is slowly being built. The satcom market should benefit from this promising trend.”

When it boils down to issues that need to be confronted, the GMV marketing and communications director said, “The market is extremely competitive and this puts a lot of pressure on independent suppliers of ground systems such as GMV. We are working on our competitiveness to offer the market good value for their money, and above all, solutions that target our customer needs.

“As satellite operators examine methods by which they can lower their operational costs, they are closely looking into the ways they conduct operations and the systems they have at their disposal to manage this work. Satellite operators’ concentration has also furthered this trend and changed the dynamics of the market. GMV is responding to these issues by providing an array of products and services to our customers by offering multi-satellite systems that can accommodate any number of satellites of different manufacturers for homogeneous control of heterogeneous fleets. Other services include augmenting system automation so operational costs can be lowered and system reliability can be increased, and by introducing new technologies to address obsolescence and improve maintainability.

“GMV also offers support for LEOP operations and expert consultancy for satellite collocation. As a matter of fact, GMV has been asked by several actors in the market to increase our role and to integrate larger systems for the satellite ground segment. The bottom line is reacting to market demands and doing so in complete alignment with customers’ needs. GMV has a number of innovations, thanks to a strong R&D policy — 10 percent of the Company’s annual revenues fund research.

“We just released version 6.0 of our hifly® satellite control system, which supports satellites built by manufacturers around the world, with everything from launch and early orbit phase (LEOP), to routine on-station operations of satellites. We continue to add new capabilities to focusSuite, our family of flight dynamics products, and to smart rings, our payload management system. We are also looking into other areas in the ground segment to discover areas where we can add value with new systems. The years to come are going to be quite busy as we move forward with new systems and services.”

But there’s more to research than simply funding the work. As Pedro stated, “The key issue here is that we not only incorporate new functionalities and improve our products based on our market knowledge, but most importantly, we work hand-in-hand with our current customers to address their specific needs incorporating these solutions into our systems and products.”
Integral Systems, founded in 1982, provides satellite ground systems and has supported more than 205 satellite missions as of this writing. The Company’s customer global customer base includes various commercial and government satellite operators, spacecraft, and payload manufacturers as well as aerospace systems integrators. The company also owns four subsidiaries: SAT Corporation, Newpoint Technologies Inc., RT Logic, and Lumistar.

The President of Integral Systems Europe (ISE), Bruno Dupas, graciously took the time to answer a few questions regarding the European market. When asked how he believes growth within the satcom environs will be evidenced, he answered, “Integral Systems Europe believes the European SATCOM market will grow significantly in two major areas: military support and television-related services. SATCOM is increasingly becoming a larger issue for armed forces across all of Europe. It is especially important to nations currently involved in coalition and peacekeeping operations. Because these operations are often in extremely remote regions, SATCOM services are a logical option for satisfying communication requirements.”

Regarding the commercial side of growth, as well as issues that need to be addressed, Dupas said,
“Integral knows that new applications and services such as satellite radio services like Ondas or television on mobile phones, will create added demands for the SATCOM industry. In addition to these growing demands, there are significant pressures facing operators, including the need to reduce operations costs, while at the same improving quality of service and working on interference management. We are well aware of the industry growth and the associated issues amplified by such growth. To address these issues, Integral has introduced new approaches for managing the ground segment to increase situational awareness and automation to reduce operations costs. We are also improving reactions to operational and business-related issues, resulting in improvements to our delivered services.”

Integral has additional plans and projects in the works. Dupas stated the company’s integrated solutions are proving highly successful because they are delivering real measurable value to their end customers. As a result, the Company continues to expand and improve their integrated service solutions. He added, “Beyond delivering turnkey ground control systems, ISE continues to investigate other ways to provide solutions for our customers. If we do not have the product or capabilities required to address a customer need, we reach out to our numerous partners and integrate their product and/or capabillities into our overall solution to address that need.”

Certainly, Integral has grown far beyond its early days as solely a provider of satellite control systems. The Company has extended their product and capability offerings into signal monitoring and network management. They have also entered other markets, such as satellite data processing. As Dupas said, “We have repeatedly demonstrated our ability to provide complete systems from antennas, satellite command and control, transponder planning and monitoring, to network management as well as baseband and network functions. Integral has delivered these systems with pre-integrated products and a commitment to maintain the solution for the entire life of the system.”

We all possess “wish” lists for changes in the industry. Dupas, “would like to see more open competition, particularly in regard to government involvement in industry and in government procurements. We want to ensure that government institutions do not directly assist in commercial product development, thereby potentially rendering procurement processes unfair and non-compliant with WTO rules. On the positive side, I applaud the European Union’s new procurement guidelines for Galileo. We believe they will improve the competitive process and deliver better value to taxpayers. As a result, it has allowed ISE to be able to bid on the GCS work package, where under the old procurement method we were effectively locked out of the process.
“You know the saying, ‘there is no place like home’, and this is the sentiment behind one of the major drivers for capacity in Europe—programming entering the market that originated elsewhere.” Jean-Phillipe Gillet of Intelsat dives directly into the European market growth patterns. “DTH platforms will also continue to expand, especially in Eastern Europe, where a few operators have been very successful in entering new regions and spreading their service areas. Proliferation of HD programming has accelerated in North America over the last year, and we are now seeing European programmers’ HD requirements heating up — especially coming off of a successful summer of the European soccer championships and the Beijing Olympics.

“Our European customers are benefitting from the globalization trend, and we literally offer them access to any market that they need to reach. Our Fuchsstadt, Germany, hub has become one of the largest access points in our global network, and so our technical team is continually upgrading our facilities there in order to make access to the Intelsat network as easy and efficient as possible.  A growing number of our customers use two, three, or even five satellites as they deliver programming and services to different regional markets. This trend is a by-product of serving the European market for many decades, and partnering and supporting our customers as their business challenges grow.

“Actually, Intelsat has been serving the European market with video, voice, and network services for more than 40 years and has a solid operating platform in the region. Nearly $400 million of our annual revenues are earned by serving European customers in the media and network services sectors. One of our major strengths rests in video distribution of ethnic programming, both into and out of the region, and providing DTH platforms for major operators in Eastern Europe. Europe continues to be one of the most important regions for Intelsat’s business.”

In regard to Company initiatives, Jean-Phillipe said, “Our initiatives take the form of smart, strategic investments that result in better service to our European customers. For instance, Intelsat and Telenor Satellite Broadcasting (TSBc) announced the completion of an agreement for Intelsat to purchase 10 transponders on Telenor’s THOR 6 satellite, due to launch in Q2, 2009. Under the contract, Intelsat will gain additional capacity to expand its growing DTH business within Central and Eastern Europe.”

MITEQ, an acronym for Microwave Information Transmission EQuipment, designs and manufactures a complete line of high-performance components and subsystems for the microwave electronics community. Located on Long Island, New York for more than 38 years, the Company is dedicated to achieving technical excellence, producing quality products, and satisfying their customer’s specific needs.

The President of the company, Howard Mausman sees the growth areas for the European markets as follows… “Broadcast television via satellite is still a competitive alternative to terrestrial systems. The growth in HDTV and the related requirements for wider bandwidths continues to drive growth for the satellite Industry. The satellite industry challenges all of their suppliers to come up with more advanced and higher reliability products on a daily basis. MITEQ Inc., with its diversified engineering staff, meets these challenges and continually adds to its widely diverse product offerings. Currently, Internet access through Ka-band is a growing satellite application. MITEQ has a complete line of products for uplinks and downlinks in Ka-band, and continues to offer a more diversified product line as customer demands increase.”

MITEQ does have some additional programs and projects in the works. “We are working on higher power Ka-band amplifiers; more integrated solutions for Earth Station up- and downlinks, and integrated high dynamic range fiber optic links to connect antenna systems to base stations independent of their respective locations.”

PBLSat specializes in the occasional use marketplace and provides customers with global satellite capacity, mobile services, uplinks, downlinks as well as expert advice on the requirements for global connectivity. In April 2007, the Company acquired the rights to BT Media & Broadcast’s ad hoc satellite infrastructure, which allowed PBLSat to offer an even wider range of broadcast services to an international client base.

When queried regarding growth in the European market, Paul Claydon of PBLSat said, “We see European market growth for occasional services coming from the increasing demand for HD transmissions. Broadcasters’ thirst for coverage of niche sporting events to fill airtime on the growing number of HD sports channels continues to increase. An example of the escalating requirement for repeat HD solutions year after year is demonstrated by the coverage of the Wimbledon Tennis tournament. In 2007, PBLSat provided the first HD transmission from the venue. In 2008, three of our four customers transmitted in HD. We predict next year’s tournament feeds will all be in HD.

“Currently, HD satellite solutions require additional bandwidth to ensure a lucrative proposition for service providers. However, this also brings challenges, such as, how to source enough capacity in an already scarce European market. We have also noticed an increased demand for fully diverse redundant paths for high profile major events — customers request both hybrid fibre and satellite solutions. Given the value of certain sporting property rights, the reassurance of a diverse path offers sensible insurance against unforeseen problems.”

The challenges include “Establishment of the value of our brand by delivering excellent service and advice. We have developed our own dedicated customer service center that offers a fully trained booking, and major event, staff working around the clock on a 24/7 basis. Whatever time a customer calls our Space Centre, they will be able to speak to an experienced booking operator and discuss our full range of services. The development of the Space Centre and our new scheduling system has been a considerable investment. However, this financial commitment has proven to be essential in helping us increase our market share by providing world-class service.

“We operate a Pan-European truck fleet, field experienced operators, as well as offering three in-house, European satellite solutions. Due to the increase in HD broadcast events, we are currently assessing the market for additional dedicated satellite capacity to meet growing customer demands. Locating the correct satellite option to enhance our services portfolio is becoming increasingly difficult, as suitable capacity is a scarce resource. An additional challenge with the increase in HD requirements is the need to increase our fleet of mobile HD capable units. We have recently purchased three redundant HD trucks and such investments will need to continue over the coming year.”

A number of new programs are also on tap for PBLSat. “The heritage of PBLSat is built on the playout business developed by the PBL Group in 2004,” said Paul. “We are addressing how best to integrate these playout options into our Occasional Use business to offer a complementary layer of services. In addition, we have added permanent uplink and satellite services to our portfolio over the last few months and are looking to develop and grow that division. We are also building streaming and archiving solutions to best meet the increasing demand for those value-added services. A key project, central to company expansion and development plans, is our head office move scheduled for October of this year. The new premises in central London will provide us with much needed new space to solidify our infrastructure plan that’s focused on the company’s future initiatives and service diversifications. The building will centrally house our Booking Centre, MCR, Playout, and Commercial teams, and will also provide us the opportunity to develop, over time, our own teleport infrastructure.”

PPM delivers components, modules, and system solutions to customers from a wide range of industries. For example, the Company offers an extensive range of fiber optic links, typically used in satellite and broadcast, military, security, cellular and radio operations. ViaLite is PPM’s RF over fiber technology.

Colin Morris at PPM expects to see modest growth in Europe in 2009.

He adds, “Most of the new business will be derived from existing markets responding to the uptake in areas such as DTH across the region. Anticipated growth in the newer developing Eastern European countries has been slow to materialize and while we have had some general interest, the market is extremely price sensitive.”

This, naturally, brought up the subject of challenges that will have to be faced. “The industry is becoming ever more competitive with other equipment suppliers looking to design in fibre optic interfaces into their existing equipment,” said Colin. “PPM is working hard to educate manufacturers and show them that they do not have to spend valuable resources on designing their own solutions and that PPM can provide them with OEM modules that will integrate simply and effortlessly into their new and existing products. We currently have plans to launch new products in time for IBC, which include SNMP monitoring for our existing product platform and new wideband RF over Fibre modules with the additional capability to carry low speed digital data in RS232,422 and 485 formats along side the main data carriers.”

SatLink Communications is a recognized pioneer in the worldwide satellite services arena and a leading provider of transmission solutions for video, audio and data over satellite platforms, fiber optics and IP. Their CEO, David Hochner, estimates the growth markets in Europe as follows…

“The satellite communications market in Europe, as a whole, is growing across the continent from East to West. HD channels are being added on an almost weekly basis, DTH operators — especially in Central and Eastern Europe — are moving forward and this is something we expect to continue. SatLink’s operations bridge the world from the U.S. to Asia, effectively making Europe the center of our operations universe and provide us with the ability to offer superior service. With a number of multi-channel platforms on satellites over Europe, we are fulfilling the growing need for more services for channels and creating neighborhoods over Western, Central, and Eastern Europe as well as in the Mediterranean Basin. The Olympics provided more opportunities for broadcasters to enter the HD market and the constant stream of breaking news and entertainment programming continue to make the European satellite industry exciting. SatLink fully intends on continuing our growth pattern, one that led the World Teleport Association to rank us the world’s fastest growing teleport in 2007.”

What are the challenges David believes will need to be addressed? “Frankly, one of the biggest issues facing our industry presently, and most likely for a few more years, is the growing demand for satellite space and the lack of satellite capacity. We are dealing with the challenge by ensuring that we provide multi-channel platforms on more than one bird orbiting Europe. Currently we have platforms on HotBird 8, Eutelsat W2, Eurobird 9, Hellas Sat, and AMOS. This flexibility allows us to offer services on a regional or a technology basis.

“With our teleport and transmission facilities, we are able to offer comprehensive transmission solutions including downlinking and uplinking channels for distribution to cable head-ends, re-broadcasters, and individual home viewers in the region. In 2008 and into 2009, we will also be looking at other opportunities to expand our presence in the European market. This may include co-operations, acquisitions, partnerships, and other joint ventures. We have excellent cooperation with France’s Globecast, and this is a plus when considering new projects in Europe. For our existing platforms, we are in the process of adding new channels to our neighborhoods and are investing time seeking more opportunities to add new platforms to our global distribution network.”

Spacecom operates the AMOS-3 and AMOS-2 satellites (constructed by Israel Aerospace Industries), which are co-located at 4° W. These satellites offer a wide range of communications and broadcasting services in Europe, the Middle East, and across the Atlantic Ocean, as well as connecting the U.S. East Coast to the Middle East and Europe. David Pollack leads off the conversation with his thoughts regarding where he believes the growth areas in Europe will reveal themselves over the next year or so.

“The expansion of DTH, broadband applications and HD throughout the continent are making Europe the place to be over the next five years. Central and Eastern Europe are growing at a rapid pace and should remain high growth markets. Spacecom is continuing its successful expansion into Central and Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East and U.S. Our AMOS constellation at the 4° W orbital slot is meeting broadcasters and operators’ needs across Europe and further afield. We have found that working closely with clients and customizing service initiatives goes very far toward enhancing market and business opportunities. With the recent addition of AMOS-3, which came on-line in June 2008, we are able to deliver advanced satellite services to current and prospective customers. We believe that Europe will continue to be a fertile region for our business.”

He continued, “The global demand for satellite services is expanding, yet capacity – especially in Europe and the Middle East – has not kept up. Therefore, we are exploring new opportunities and initiatives to both further our presence in our existing service areas over Europe and the Middle East, as well as expand our services to new regions throughout the globe. As a business, we believe it is important to be flexible and cooperative within the industry so that we can take advantage of opportunities that open up with potential partners. We remain confident that satellite services, as compared to other technologies, will continue to grow, and we plan to play our part in this growth. After all, communications is what the world is based upon, and our industry’s support makes communications and the proliferation of entertainment easier.

“Spacecom plans to expand its reach into new service areas throughout the globe with the AMOS-4 satellite announced last year, which will extend our footprint into Asia. Additionally, the recently announced AMOS-5 will further expand our service footprint into new regions, while future AMOS satellites that will be announced in the near future are planned to enhance our offering in existing markets in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. We are always considering new initiatives with potential partners to increase our presence and offer additional services to our clients. At present, as a public company, we cannot comment on the details — except to report that our goal is to transform Spacecom from a leading regional player to an emerging global provider in the satellite communications industry.”

When asked about his company’s product lines and initiatives, David answered, “Spacecom’s aim is to provide superior broadcasting and communications services to DTH operators, TV broadcasters and programmers, government organizations, and VSAT network operators. We currently serve three DTH platforms on the AMOS satellite constellation with more than 300 channels onboard, including many HD channels, such as BOOM TV in Romania, a new DTH platform initiated by T-Kabel in Hungary, and YES in Israel. 2008 is proving to be a very exciting year so far with the launch of AMOS-3 in April and commencement of its operations in June. Replacing AMOS-1 with AMOS-3 is increasing revenue by adding capacity, expanding coverage areas and providing advanced capabilities, such as Ka-band and steerable beams.”

Space Systems/Loral (SS/L) is subsidiary of Loral Space and Communications. The Company designs, builds, and tests satellites, subsystems, and payloads; provides orbital testing; procures insurance and launch services; and manages mission operations from Mission Control Center in Palo Alto, California.

“The Ku-band/ FSS market is strong in Europe, as evidenced by this year’s satellite procurements by Eutelsat, HISPASAT, and SES,” commented Arnold Friedman, Senior Vice President, Marketing and Sales for SS/L, when asked about European growth markets. “We expect this trend to continue and we are excited about the market expansion in mobile video and broadband, which is helped by new S-band and Ka-band frequency allocations.”

We inquired if SS/L has any immediate plans for additional programs or projects, the Senior Vice President answered, “So far in 2008, Space Systems/Loral has begun work on two satellite programs for European companies. We are providing satellites to SES New Skies and HISPASAT. Both these satellites will broaden the availability of video programming in Europe when they are launched in late 2010.” He quickly added, “At SS/L we are proud to say that more bits are delivered over satellites that we have built versus satellites from any other manufacturer.”
STM is a supplier of IP networking solutions via satellite, based on the open, international DVB-RCS standard. With their SatLink™ products, the Company offers complete hub systems, VSATs, turnkey managed networks, and global teleport services. And now STM is leading an international R&D consortium to develop and test technologies aimed at the nexgen of DVB-RCS products and standards.

The Company’s Vice President of R&D and General Manager for STM Group for Europe, Bjorn Platou, “expects strong growth in the European market for consumer broadband VSAT services for Internet access, particularly in areas with poor terrestrial access. There are currently a number of companies jockeying for position and market penetration in the Ka-band spectrum, with the first services coming online in late 2009.”

Challenges that will need to be addressed, “are not unique to us, but to the industry as a whole. European consumers have either not had any experience with satellite broadband Internet services, or the experience so far has been less successful than one would hope for. This is for a variety of reasons, including price and service quality, which we expect will be addressed when new Ka capacity with lower price points and higher throughput becomes available.

“Nevertheless, the main challenge is to reach areas and have customers accept that satellite broadband is a good and viable alternative, just as they have accepted satellite TV. We are currently involved in the Hylas project with Avanti, which will target Ka services in Europe once the Hylas satellite is launched in 2009.”

UDcast is a leading software company providing IP broadcast solutions for wireless networks worldwide. The company’s products and solutions provide the broadcasting and telecommunication industry with the necessary tools for delivering data and media applications, anytime, and anywhere. UDcast is a provider of platform-independent, satellite-aware IP routers that make it possible to access satellite-based services throughout the enterprise. UDcast services have been approved by all of the leading satellite service providers, with thousands of units deployed throughout the world. The acceleration technology of UDcast is also available for usage in terrestrial WAN and WiMAX networks through collaboration with external partners.

When discussing European market growth, Filip Gluszak, UDcast’s Vice President of Marketing, had this to say… “The consumer Internet services are going to become the main driver for the growth of VSATs in Europe. Following the success of the ‘low cost’ satellite services in U.S. and Asia, the main European operators are about to launch equivalent solutions in the European countries.
“The second growth area is linked to the green energy production. The contribution of green energy to the overall energy production in Europe is expected to grow from three percent today to more than 20 percent within the next 20 years. Several thousand wind turbines are installed every year in Europe. Many of the new turbines require efficient data connection for real time remote control and monitoring. UDcast is already present in this market.
“Finally, Internet on trains is becoming a high demand application. The railway services operators invest in on-board Internet solutions in order to differentiate themselves as well as to face progressing deregulation and internationalization of the mass transportation market. UDcast has recently equipped a number of high-speed trains in France with a secure broadband solution and we foresee an important growth over the next few years.

UDcast is going to address upcoming challenges in two main ways, says Filip. “On the one hand, we make sure our products correspond to the need of the consumer and SOHO market, through adequate product packaging and reseller partnerships. On the second hand, the demand of professional customers becomes increasingly sophisticated; therefore, we continue to invest in advanced application-specific software features (eg. CIFS acceleration, data redundancy elimination WANcompress) and platform-specific hardware integration (eg. enabling integration of our equipment on board of high-speed trains).

Where will UDcast be heading with their upcoming projects? “UDcast has launched a WAN optimization solution for WiMAX and terrestrial networks. Ipaname, a leading vendor of solutions for terrestrial network optimization, has integrated this technology by default in their routers. We also continue to develop Mobile TV, and in particular, DVB-SH standards, making use of hybrid satellite-terrestrial transmission, as well as satellite distribution for DVB-H.”

The company has also recently launched a new compress technology for wide area networks called WANcompress. This technology enables acceleration of file transfers 25x, and there’s an average bandwidth reduction of as much as 50 percent for business customers. The system is now on trial with one satellite operator and one WiMAX network in Europe. In addition, UDcast will soon announce the deployment of an e-Learning system into one of the countries of Oceania.
Vizada is a provider of global satellite communications solutions. The Company has more than 40 years of direct satellite innovation experience combining the technical and market expertise of the former France Telecom Mobile Satellite Communications and the former
Telenor Satellite Services organizations.

Erik Ceuppens, the CEO of Vizada EMEA & Asia, is an expert on the European market and his comments included… “The European mobile satellite services (MSS) sector experienced significant growth during the first half of 2008 and this is set to continue into 2009. We can say this specifically for on-demand MSS services in the three key market segments, which are maritime, land, and aeronautical. This is the first time that we are seeing growth on all three, which is very positive. At Vizada, we partner with multiple satellite network operators (SNOs) to offer customers in these segments more choice in terms of MSS services — we’re well placed to tap into that growth.

“On the land segment, growth has been strong and even higher than industry forecasts, and driven more by data than voice. The Inmarsat BGAN service, for example, has seen very strong uptake during H1. Media companies were typically the first adopters, as BGAN allowed them to report on events in ways they were not able to do so previously. A good example of this is the coverage of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in 2006, which earned our customer CNN and Vizada two IBC awards.

“In the maritime market, growth is spurred by the increase in trade and maritime transport as well as the number of new-builds. These new-builds require communications systems, which is where we come in. Our customers are among the world’s largest shipping companies and we have developed a specific offering for them, meeting their needs in terms of cost-efficiency and remote control of operations. We’re seeing an increasing need for data connectivity from services like Inmarsat FleetBroadband or the upcoming Iridium OpenPort, as well as for crew calling solutions.

“In the aeronautical market, demand is being driven by two main elements: an increasing need for data connectivity and passenger communications. We are currently conducting the first commercial trials of cabin communications solutions with key partners, and this is an interesting market evolution to follow over the coming months.”

In discussing upcoming projects, Erik said, “A key focus for us is to introduce and develop new broadband and IP-based services and solutions, as we see a real increase in the need for high-speed connectivity in many different sectors. Our offering already includes a number of key broadband services such as Inmarsat BGAN on land and Inmarsat Fleet at sea, and we will continue to extend our portfolio later this year, and next with the Iridium OpenPortSM maritime solution as well as ThurayaIP. At the same time, we have a great deal of in-house broadband and IP expertise, and have developed a range of interconnection solutions that are designed to meet varying needs in terms of quality, flexibility, security and bandwidth. What’s more, these solutions are available over multiple satellite network services, and I believe this will be a key driver in the development of broadband in the MSS industry.”

Change, We Must
Certainly nearly everyone working in this industry has ideas as to what changes he or she would like to see incorporated into the various processes. Let’s absorb what our subject matter experts reveal as to their “wish lists”…

Pedro J. Schoch, GMV
“The big changes in the satcom market are going to be led by both the satellite operators, which need to respond to their final users, and the satellite manufacturers, who will be proposing new technologies for their satellite systems to respond to market trends and customer needs. These are the real satcom market movers.

“Satellite ground control systems constitute a fraction of the development and cost of an entire satellite system and are, therefore, not central to change for the satcom industry as a whole. However, ground control systems need to be viewed under a new light… they should not just be another element of operational cost for a satellite operator. Ground control systems are vital for satellite operations and can play a significant role in securing efficient and robust operations. They are business critical and are intimately related to customer satisfaction, which, in the end, translates directly into the bottom line of the satellite operators.

“Advances in IT systems are fast-paced and provide the means for welcome competitiveness in many industries. Satellite ground control systems are IT systems and, as such, they should benefit from these advances. However, the industry has been traditionally slow in accepting new technologies and advances in IT systems for their ground control systems. Operators value flight-proven and robust systems above all they are reluctant to change or upgrade them. In some extreme cases, change has been induced by obsolescence. This is something that should be changed, and a more open attitude to new IT systems and technologies should be developed by the industry. We think that industry stands to gain a lot from the incorporation of IT advances within their ground control systems. GMV is certainly going to continue proposing new and innovative advanced systems incorporating new technology for the benefit of our customers.”

Howard Hausman, MITEQ
“Any customer base is best served when future equipment requirements are accurately forecasted. With that said, MITEQ understands and accepts the fact that changes in the satellite industry are normal as systems are updated and improved.”

Paul Claydon, PBLSat
“Always a good question! From my point of view, I would like to see greater options available for occasional use satellites to help us provide solutions to meet customer demands. Over the past few years, we have gone from a period of near-capacity saturation to a virtual drought. The launch of new satellites in 2009/10 should help ease the situation, somewhat. However, there is always an element of risk with launches and, consequently, all service providers need to develop contingency plans. Another area of development I strongly support, and one I hope will accelerate in the coming year, is interconnectivity between the booking systems used by third parties. Strong links between suppliers can only strengthen relationships and speed up the booking process for everyone.”

Arnold Friedman, SS/L
“This is a great industry. While competition at times can be fierce, there is also a spirit of teamwork among the manufacturers, operators, and suppliers. We are all working together to expand the availability of information and communications worldwide.”

Bjorn Platou, STM Group Inc.
“We think a wider acceptance of standards based technology will help the growth of the overall market. STM is a big advocate of this movement, as a major flag holder of the DVB-RCS standard and its upcoming new releases. Our hope and expectation is that more operators will base their service roll out on standards based technology to expand the market.”

Eric Ceuppens, Vizada
With specific reference to the MSS industry, I can say that, after many years operating in a very competitive environment, I’m looking forward to a business driven by product innovation: one that provides real value to our customers. Satellite services have become so much more affordable that now I think it is time to capitalize on the expertise we have in the industry and ensure that it is innovation that will drive further demand for mobile satellite services, rather than price. The way in which we can create value for customers is by driving the MSS industry towards greater simplicity and accessibility.

“This means making the services and solutions we provide easier to use and to integrate into our customers’ business operations. Vizada has some of the best networking experts in the industry with the ability to seamlessly integrate MSS services and solutions into our customers’ network. This way we ensure that satcoms are an essential building block forming an integral part of a complete communications solution.”

There can be little doubt the European market segment is ripe with opportunity for companies that are flexible and understand how to drive technology, without alienating customers. As can be said for almost any global industry, regardless of genre, customer satisfaction is the key to any success — most satcom businesses already understood the relevance between happy clients and increasing revenue generation. Those who fail to recognize this significance will soon fail to be recognized at all. — The Lessers