New tech, apps fuel satellite industry rebound

(Satellite News via NewsEdge) After a few challenging years, satellite-enabled business initiatives have begun to rebound, fueled by new technologies and applications.


Many industry observers believe that the notion of a "killer app" that will trigger significant business development has gone by the wayside. Rather, diversified service offerings enabling voice, video and data for a broad client base are now the leading advancers of satellite-enabled communications.


In September 2005, IPTV services, centralizing military communications and niche-focused broadband applications, both for mobile and fixed transmissions, were the top agenda items for industry equipment and service providers. Business topics consistently surfaced as the focus for their business growth.


Likewise, niche programming of content delivery between Europe, North America and Asia was increasing, with high-definition technology being fueled by global sporting events such as this summer's World Cup.


Broadband service providers were also witnessing significant growth opportunities coming from Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Russia, which were still developing today.


What was most interesting to note was the growing need for cohesion between IPTV services and HD content. Talks had also begun to significantly center on mobile transmissions and getting away from traditional television programming.


Today, companies continue to look at new business avenues that can provide an enhanced service offering to customers. During the next few years, satellite service providers and telecom giants will conduct trial runs for numerous ways to distribute programming, the Internet, interactive services and telephony through a more transmission-agnostic platform.


As of press time, EchoStar Communications Corp. and DirecTV, under the consortium Wireless DBS, were preparing to bid for the advanced wireless services spectrum auction.


Though it is still unclear how the satellite operators plan to use the spectrum, their interest potentially indicates a significant desire to deliver more content services beyond traditional programming.


VSAT developments


Within the VSAT services sector, momentum materialized behind the uptake of connectivity needs surrounding disaster recovery and emergency response applications, triggering new business partnerships that were still maturing today.


Service providers who were called upon to provide emergency communications in the wake of Hurricane Katrina cited as problems disorganization, lack of accessibility to affected areas and even slow implementation of satellite-enabled services once delivered.



Today, these service providers have increased their offerings to government and commercial clients, urging them to be prepared in advance for this year's hurricane season.


Caprock Communications is one of several communications providers that have launched new service packages specifically designed for the needs of either emergency response teams or large organizations looking for high-performance business continuity communications.


Hughes Network Systems also began bundling equipment and service packages for first responders in times of crisis.


"Satellite communications provides a viable alternative infrastructure when terrestrial networks are severely damaged," says Pradman Kaul, chairman and CEO of Hughes.


Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. also announced that its Skyedge hub had met the Cisco Technology Developer Program criteria for interoperability with the Cisco VSAT NM for the Cisco 2800 and 3800-series Integrated Services Routers and the Cisco 2600XM, 2691 and 3700-series access routers.


This interoperability enables VSAT service providers worldwide who operate Gilat's Skyedge hub to provide satellite services using the Cisco VSAT NM and collaborate with Cisco on helping new and existing Cisco customers deploy broadband satellite networking solutions for business continuity and backup, emergency and disaster recovery, video and content distribution and primary connectivity for rural and remote locations.


Such networks are significant because many corporations already have Cisco systems in place. Rather than installing a platform from the ground up, established customers can now have access to satellite-enabled backup, giving them the ability to maintain highly secure voice, video, data and wireless communications over high-speed satellite links when traditional terrestrial infrastructures fail.


Spacenet and Satlynx are among the first existing Skyedge service operators to offer satellite services compatible with the Cisco VSAT NM. Spacenet, Gilat's US-based wholly owned subsidiary, delivers satellite managed services, while Satlynx delivers satellite managed services in Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa.


Sat broadband progress


The advent of Ka-band satellite broadband services in North America, the strong performance by Hughes and the successful launch of Shin Satellite's iPSTAR system in Southeast Asia were the drivers of the resurgence this past year.


According to Northern Sky Research, the satellite broadband industry generated nearly $2.7 billion in 2005 from an installed base of 11 million IP VSAT sites and satellite broadband subscribers.



As for the future‾


"A new generation of ground equipment, revamped service plans and some exceptional in-orbit satellite assets has given the satellite industry access to a variety of business opportunities," said Patrick French, senior analyst with Northern Sky.


The big picture, according to published forecasts, is that satellite broadband Internet access to consumers and small businesses will be the fastest growing segment of the broadband satellite market, with more than 80% of global subscribers being located in North America in the next five years.


"The rest of the world is taking a wait-and-see approach to consumer broadband,"

French adds. "If it sells well in North America, it could succeed in other places."


Moving forward


Many factors will come to play in the coming 12 months.


According to Futron Corp. analysts, some of the major drivers include the solidification of new standards and equipment for expanding DTH and other consumer services; regulatory changes that will open new markets around the world and increase the number of channels carried; technology advancements that will help reduce the costs of HD production and transmission as well as receiver equipment; the development of more agile and more compact equipment for on-the-move communications; demand for new mobile satellite services that will drive innovative satellite designs; hybrid solutions and partnerships with terrestrial telecom companies; new spectrum allocations centering on developments with ancillary terrestrial component technology; and advanced mobile phone services with data and video that will be leveraging satellite backhaul capabilities.


With all these developments surrounding diversified service offerings, one thing does remain certain: customized, satellite-enabled applications will play a significant part in shaping the communications industry


© 2006 Access Intelligence, LLC


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