By Nick Mitsis
The year 2005 was a robust year for services and hardware within the global satellite communications industry, with even stronger activity forecasted for the next few years. Once again, Via Satellite took a closer look at the industry developments that shaped business endeavors in 2005. Based on our database that tracks geostationary commercial satellite activity, all indicators pointed toward an uptick of hardware activity and growth among advanced applications.
Commercial Launch Activity
The launch services industry experienced a similar year in 2005 as it did in 2004. The major satellite launch service providers - International Launch Services (ILS), Arianespace and Sea Launch - maintained steady momentum with multiple successful launches, with ILS garnering roughly 36 percent of 2005's commercial launcher market.
According to Via Satellite, 15 commercial launches were executed, with 16 commercial launch contracts signed in 2005. Pricing spikes and payloads slipping from the que did, however, impact this competitive landscape.
Today, we see supply and demand equalized and these major launch providers' manifests are full through 2007. Government launches will continue to be the major source of capital for all players, but further backup constellation build out and replenishment of commercial spacecraft also will make an impact on the companies' ledgers.
Commercial In-Orbit Activity
In 2005, the wave of change for commercial satellite operators began with significant movement toward consolidation among global players. SES Global has completed its acquisition of New Skies Satellites and Intelsat is set to acquire Panamsat, altering the leadership ranking among the major Fixed Satellite Services (FSS) players.
According to our numbers, as of Dec. 31, there were 243 geostationary commercial communications satellites in operational orbit.
SES Global commands 34 percent of the market share among the major satellite operators - Eutelsat, Intelsat, Loral Skynet, New Skies and Panamsat.
Once the proposed mergers are finalized and fleets are blended, the new Intelsat will own and operate 43 percent of the major's market share.
Under new ownership, stronger business models will continue to be solidified within the FSS industry. Likewise, the new mergers among these players will change the landscape and service offerings. In addition, new customers are surfacing, more regions of the globe want access to advanced applications, and more hybrid solutions are materializing to provide complete services to customers. The new entities ultimately will have to service these emerging needs while tending to their current customers.
On the regional operator front, operators began to expand the size of their fleets as well, particularly in Asia. Not only have many of these regional players created a legacy of service among an established customer base, they are offering some of the most innovative services in today's market. With so much activity underway, the commercial satellite operator arena will be one to watch as its business model changes and service requirements increase among its customer community.