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.”
From SATELLITE 2009-
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.”