2010 is expected to be much brighter for businesses than 2009, and I’ve touched on some of the expected hot markets in the coming year. The mix of promising business sectors include already-developed areas (hybrid networks, satcom on the move, backhaul, government), emerging businesses (satellite broadband, Earth observation) and some newer niches that look ready to take off (3-D, interactive services). Which of these niches will pay off in 2010 and beyond, which may not, and what areas not mentioned here show promise?
The maritime segment of the satcom market is a bright spot in these sluggish economic times, attracting hardware vendors and satellite service providers like community organizers to an ACORN rally. MSS service providers have dominated the high seas for the last three decades; but improvements in technology have driven down both the size and price of stabilized VSAT terminals, making them more affordable to larger numbers of vessels. Combine the price reduction for VSAT hardware with ocean-blanketing footprints and the resulting sales curve of maritime VSATs has increased its northward tilt. Growing numbers of fleets are adding VSAT to their communication arsenal as the hunger for bandwidth increases.
Although maritime VSAT installations are increasing, Iridium and Inmarsat aren’t standing still, offering always-on, IP-based services which are billed by the megabit instead of the minute. Although the throughput is significantly less than what a VSAT can provide, the price for an MSS terminal is just a fraction of what a VSAT costs. The footprints of MSS terminals are tiny too, making them practical on just about anything larger than a bass boat.
While it may appear to outsiders that MSS and FSS service providers are locked in a class over the maritime market, both types of service offer distinct advantages and the Maritime Industry relies on both types of services heavily. Scan the superstructure and decks of large vessel and you will likely see an assortment of maritime terminals. Although it is tempting to put all your communication eggs in the proverbial basket, in the real world it is important to have multiple communication options while at sea.
The demand for bandwidth on the seas will increase, just like it does on land. New terminals will be developed to support new and creative applications, allowing maritime companies do improve efficiencies and increase profits. We have only scratched the surface in this satellite-dominated market. Look for this market segment to grow for the next several years.
As satellite is embraced as a vital and important technology partner in communication strategies, the industry must ensure that there is stringent adherence to security best practices. Since threats can come from a multitude of places, a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. A security policy must be crafted to meet your specific needs, followed by the use of security tools to ensure that your satellite network is safeguarded.
Security tools are just like any other tools. Instead of saws, hammers, and wrenches, there are firewalls, filters, and Triple A systems. The carpenter uses a level to provide perspective, showing at a glance if something is out of kilter; intrusion prevention systems do the same.
Quality tools are expensive and they prove their value every time you use them. If you don’t take care of a tool it won’t perform up to its potential. Leave a saw out in the rain and it will rust; thereby dulling its edge; installing a new piece of near gear and leaving the default password in place isn’t a wise idea either.
To build a house you need multiple tools. Oh, you can try to economize and buy fewer tools, using some for purposes they were never intended. For instance, you can drive a nail with an adjustable wrench but it isn’t as efficient as using a hammer. The same lesson applies to hardware and software which will safeguard your network. It often takes a bag full of tools to do the job properly. Security threats never stop; once you have the tools in place you must use them properly to get the desired results.
Satellites have a high-value role of monitoring climate change, an now the sector can be a leader in the trend toward embracing “green” technologies that help the planet as well. But the alarms raised over climate change are sure to raise instant debate. Climate change has become as volatile as religion and politics in conversation – its best just to not discuss it.
But there also looks to be revenue opportunities in green technologies, and it would be foolish for any industry to dismiss a revenue opportunity in today’s economy. Is there any danger in satellite players jumping wholeheartedly into the green sector?
Bill Gates has a touch as close to Midas as one can get, and with Microsoft signing an agreement with BSkyB for U.K. and Irish customers to watch BSkyB satellite TV via an application on Xbox 360 video game consoles, it looks like BSkyB is on its way to more notoriety and more revenue from an important segment of society – young video gamers.
But based on Micrsoft’s history of making sure the playing field is tilted heavily in its favor, it would be wise for BSky to be wary of the deal. Microsoft is a big name that brings a lot of brand name cache and financial power to any partnership, but should satellite players be cautious of hopping into bed with the software powerhouse?
MSUA’s opening MSS CEO panel moderator Tim Farrar should have been behind a drum set instead of a podium so he could roll off the endless jabs and zingers being thrown between these heated competitors.
The discussion started off cordial – with executive leaders from Iridium, Inmarsat, Orbcomm, ICO, Thuraya and Terrastar congratulating Globalstar CEO Jay Monroe for yesterday’s $574 million in financing won from the French government’s Coface credit agency. Of course, pot shots were subtly tacked on… Iridium CEO Matt Desch and Inmarsat CEO Andy Sukawaty went so far as to team up and agree with each other in order to show their surprise at the game-changing financial move.
But things got a lot more awkward and uncomfortable as the session went on. Desch and Sukawaty, as expected, went at each other’s business models. Sukawaty even likened Iridium’s polar coverage as reaching “penguins and polar bears.” Desch’s comeback questioned Sukawaty’s praise for the consumer market. “It’s just not profitable.”
And, of course, the other CEOs said stuff too – mostly advertising their new gadgets and services. But, the fact that this was largely overshadowed by the zinger-fest brings up an interesting point – are these hostilities a sign of confidence, or worry?
Some of Globalstar’s competition would have liked to see one less speaker on the panel (see Iridium’s aggressive ‘trade from Globalstar to Iridium’ campaigns), but as Tim Farrar humorously points out – “This panel is like the ‘Hotel California,’ no one ever leaves.”
This morning’s news that the French government’s export credit agency, Goface, has awarded Globalstar with $547 million to acquire and launch satellites is not sitting well with executives here.
Industry analyst Tim Farrar got the Globalstar issue rolling at this morning’s operator CEO panel by asking the panel to comment on the deal.
Intelsat CEO Dave McGlade: “Government sponsored financing of commercial companies will distort the market, especially in Europe. It’s bad for competition and is unfair to the companies that receive no funding.”
Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg seconds the motion.
This sort of reaction is expected as some executives were looking forward to less competition if Globalstar went under.
But, there is a certain part of the news story leaving some with a bad taste in their mouth – the money goes to a U.S.-based company to save French jobs at Thales Alenia Space, which is manufacturing the next-generation Globalstar satellites. The funds will be provided by a syndicate that includes major French banks and are intended to pay for at least 24 of the four dozen satellites Globalstar previously ordered from Thales, according to Globalstar.
So, with U.S. Congress becoming a sort of Colosseum for bailouts, will we see Le Special House Panel for Globalstar?
Today’s IP technology panels talked a lot about “untapped” growth sources for the industry and, of course, the impact of the economic crisis on supposedly well-insulated markets.
There was also plenty of “cautious optimism” to be thrown around.
In my opinion, optimism is optimism and the satellite industry has plenty of opportunities to capitalize on. First off, it is probably the only industry out there that is not experiencing massive layoffs and losses, yet, it’s also in line to receive stimulus money from the government. For ISPs, the broadband stimulus bill is a multi-billion dollar gift for rural roll-out and offering the potential to establish a new customer base.
For government markets, you have an upcoming military operation in Afghanistan and unprecedented demand for bandwidth from end users. In civil space, you have an imagery market boosted by a U.S. Department of Energy that has 10 times larger than it was last year. There are several energy initiatives that will be research-driven through imagery satellites.
For video-on-demand services and broadcasters, you have families staying home, watching TV, not going out and choosing to getting rid of their extra automobiles over their HD and Internet services. Did I mention that IP traffic and demand doubles every two years?
An old adage was brought up during the opening technology panel — with every crisis comes opportunity, and my optimism is a little bit more than “cautious.”
Posted: March 11, 2009 by Mark Holmes Filed under: CABSAT 2009
Every business trip you go on, while full of industry chatter and rumours, always has some lighter moments also. Our time in Dubai, as well as being very rewarding from a work perspective, certainly had one or two of these moments also. So I thought I would share some of these with you as well as a story from my own personal archive of funny anecdotes while away on business.
The Taxi Ride
Getting a taxi back from the Convention Center proved slightly harrowing on occasions. On the Wednesday, we had to share a taxi with a gentleman who was head housekeeper at one of Dubai’s leading beach hotels. Anyway, the driver did not seem overly keen on this situation (two fares at once) and proceeded to ask this gentleman to get out of the taxi in the middle of main highway. I kid you not. Understandably, this gentleman was not too keen and a heated conversation ensued. Eventually, in a kind act, this gentleman was allowed to stay in the car, and the journey continued. Not nice, trying to force someone out on Dubai’s busiest highway.
Then, our new housekeeper buddy proceeds to give us a sales pitch about the hotel, and the 8 million restaurants that it seems to have.
I have to say that I am very fussy eater, and despite improvements over the last few years (thanks to a very patient wife), I don’t do spicy food very well. So when we went to eat at a Thai restaurant one evening, I thought I need to order something real conservative, and steamed fish seemed to fit the bill, or so I thought. Alas, I was about to become horribly unstuck. This thing was just about the hottest thing I had ever eaten. I am surprised my head did not light up. Nothing worse than trying to look all dignified on the outside to your colleagues when your head is ready to go luminous. Needless to say, if I ever go to a Thai restaurant again, I am keeping away from snapper. I have been scarred for life!
The Taxi Ride 2
After a very pleasant dinner at a beach front hotel on our last night (yes, the same one of the infamous housekeeper), the three intrepid Access Intelligence people make their way back to their hotel with their Dubai mission almost complete. But yet again, the taxi ride would be nothing if not dull. The taxi driver had no clue where our hotel was and seemed to spend half the time on the phone trying to figure out where the hotel was. We end up being driven all round Dubai, where thankfully, my colleague, who has an infinitely better sense of direction than me (Mind you, it is impossible to have a worst sense of direction than me) led the taxi driver back to our hotel. How farcical is that? Not only did the scoundrel charge us more for the journey by not taking into account the late night tour, but he only wanted a tip as well. And I thought I was cheeky!
Forget Slumdog Millionaire, Satellitetoday.tv is Where it is at
As you may well have seen, CABSAT marked our first foray into video, which was also not without its humorous moments. Certainly, when I got to Dubai after a 7-plus hour flight, I could not have imagined that I would have a Flip camcorder thrust in my face at close to 1 am in giving a preview about CABSAT. The things we do to bring cutting-edge video to our audience! I have to say it was much harder than it looked. I have to say, it did feel a tad surreal.
Isn’t technology great? These Flip camcorders are so small yet you get great video. One of the funniest comments was just before one of the videos we shot, someone asked me where my production crew was. We all chuckled at that. That was the point where I knew I had made it in the video world. Since returning from Dubai, I have had a slew of agents on the phone. And there was me thinking I had a face for radio! We had a lot of fun with doing the videos, and although I still cringe when looking at myself on video, secretly, I quite enjoyed it. It seemed to bring out the Hollywood Diva in me. Quite scary, really. I will need my hairstyling team (admittedly, I don’t many for this now) and others for the next show we cover.
If you missed it, the fight for world video domination has begun between DTH providers, cable companies, and telcos. Three faceless adversaries have begun an interesting struggle; a battle each intends on winning but unsure of the final battle strategy. In the world of sports (err entertainment), the three technologies are like professional wrestlers engaged in a “battle royal”.
For those of you who fast forwarded through adolescence, a battle royal pits a number of pro wrestlers in the same ring with one goal: be the last man standing – good guys and bad guys all stacked inside a small space vying to be the winner at the end of the evening. One by one, wrestlers are thrown over the top rope and eliminated, leaving an ever-diminishing number of contestants. Sometimes a good guy and bad guy have to cooperate to toss someone out of the ring. There is a great irony in watching mortal enemies work together to throw a common opponent over the top rope, only to begin pummeling each other with folding chairs moments later. Ah, sweet youth!
In much the same manner, telcos, cable companies, and DTH service providers have begun trading punches. Video on demand rocks! We can deliver more channels of HD than you! Is either claim a knock out punch? Hardly. The battle will rage on, with good guys and bad guys teaming up when it is convenient. What they haven’t figured out yet is they actually might make excellent tag team partners. But that is a different story.