Scott Chase, Chairman, SATELLITE 2008/2009
Scott Chase, chairman of SATELLITE 2008 and 2009, has been involved in the global communications satellite industry for more than 25 years, beginning in 1981, as a public relations professional at Communications Satellite Corp. (Comsat). In 1986, Chase joined Access Intelligence LLC’s predecessor company, Phillips Publishing Inc, as associate editor of Satellite News and a participant in the launch of Via Satellite magazine later that same year.
Chase left Access Intelligence in 2000 to become president and CEO of The Strategis Group, a global telecommunications market research and proprietary consulting firm. He returned to Access Intelligence in 2002 as executive vice president, business development, but left in 2004 to join Grid Media LLC.
But the satellite business is in his blood, and in May Chase agreed to chair the industry’s largest and longest-running annual international gathering.
Satellite News: What is your take on the current state of the satellite industry?
Chase: As we approach the 50th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik (and the 80th anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic), I can only marvel at how well satellite technology has adapted throughout the decades, remaining an integral component of the global communications infrastructure while at the same time maintaining a cost-competitive posture versus other solutions. When I first joined up more than 25 years ago, there was still an element of wonderment associated with spacecraft, spaceflight, launch vehicles and the whole idea of using satellites for communications. Today, nobody gives the transmission mode a second thought. Users and beneficiaries of communications via satellite number in the billions.
So my take on the current state of the satellite industry is that it is solid. It is moving with the times in terms of relevance, technology, services provision, efficiency and, perhaps most importantly, cost. The commitment of the major players remains steadfast, with many of the same principals in place, as I swoop back into the arena. Having lived through several variations of the imminent death of communications via satellite, I’m convinced that commercial spacecraft will be with us for decades to come.
Satellite News: What is the most significant change in the industry since last you were involved?
Chase: That’s a really tough question. . . . So much has changed in five years. The impact of private equity — the rush of mergers and consolidation throughout the industry — cannot be discounted. On the other side of the equation, technology advances and manufacturing efficiencies have altered the landscape considerably.
One significant change has been creeping up on us for years — the maturation of expertise around the world that competes with U.S. and European capabilities in the provision of commercial satellites and launch vehicle services. A couple of years ago I was having a casual conversation with Larry Boisvert, the long-time and recently retired head of Telesat Canada, regarding the ongoing shake-up of the marketplace. He predicted that “in the next five years this industry will be turned on its ear even more than in the last five years.” Across multiple disciplines and market lines, Larry’s prediction is turning out to be true. China is building commercial satellites for countries not constrained by [International Traffic in Arms Regulations]and other considerations. Brazil and India continue to develop their indigenous launch vehicle and spacecraft manufacturing capabilities.
The list goes on an on…
Satellite News: What is the next step for the Mobile Satellite System (MSS) sector?
Chase: I see continued development of MSS for users large and small, including personal applications that integrate a number of what are today unbundled or discrete services. For the MSS players themselves, I see a pretty rocky road ahead, with challenges related to constellation performance and degradation, financing of new and follow-on spacecraft, possible consolidation and even another bankruptcy or two, and difficulties associated with finding partners to underwrite and build the ancillary terrestrial component that is part and parcel of the success equation for some players in this segment.
But this has been a very resilient marketplace, and the players in it today are true experts. If anyone can figure out the road ahead, it is this group.
Satellite News: Which applications do you anticipate being the most disruptive or the potential next big thing in the industry?
Chase: My experience with the world communications satellite industry throughout nearly three decades is that there is no next big thing that closes the door to the continued development and deployment of communications satellite solutions. Way back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, there was a concern that satellites just couldn’t keep up with terrestrial alternatives. Then, in the mid-’80s, with the Challenger disaster and a sequence of launch vehicle failures, it was conventional wisdom that satellite companies were overly dependent on access to space and thus could never be anything more than niche players. Sometime around then we also witnessed industry-wide hand wringing over the advent of fiber optics, loudly proclaimed as the “death star” for satellites. Then came wireless…. You get the drill.
In each case, satellites either were in no danger — other than from pundits — or they bounced back stronger than ever. As it gets crowded up in the Clarke (geosynchronous) Orbit, I can foresee little in the way of a [next big thing] that will deliver a hammer blow to communications satellites.
Satellite News: How do you foresee the interplay of military and commercial applications proceeding?
Chase: Along the same lines as the last decade or more, with the military recognizing that commercial satellite capabilities, capacity and technologies are a viable complement to military applications and requirements. I also anticipate the commercial side will continue to court the military with spot-on, cost-effective solutions, robust on-ground and in-orbit infrastructure, superior customer service, and workable architectures for prioritizing military needs during periods of normal as well as surge usage.
Satellite News: How have things changed for the exhibition and conference since last you were involved?
Chase: The conference has expanded to address new user requirements; the exhibit hall has grown by tens of thousands of square feet, reflecting the vitality of this marketplace and presenting new capabilities and solutions. The participation of industry also has expanded to soak in all of the information, technology and advice world-class subject matter experts can impart on an annual basis during one special beginning-of-the-year week.
Satellite News: What may attendees expect from SATELLITE 2008 and SATELLITE 2009?
Chase: Attendees can expect a continuation of the commitment of Access Intelligence to host the largest and the best global gathering of commercial and military satellite users and providers all under one roof. We’ll all be working together to help organize and focus the sessions and the topics that deliver value to conference attendees, all while making sure that the exhibit hall reflects this industry’s commitment to continuing innovation and superlative service delivery.
Please send your comments and recommendations directly to Scott Chase at Scottchase@verizon.net or by telephone at +1 301/879-1613.