Strong Leadership Remains a Hallmark of Our Industry

By | February 1, 2013 | Editor's Note

We are getting very close to announcing our Satellite Executive of the Year Award winner for 2012, which is always an exciting and interesting process for our team. This month’s digital edition of Via Satellite will contain our selected nominees for the award. Every year it is tremendously difficult even getting this to stage, due to the caliber of executives we have in our industry. Despite difficult economic circumstances, our industry continues to perform strongly and produce more good news than bad.

To even get to nominee status, it is a reflection on how well a company has performed and often an execution of a business plan that was years in the making. In 2013, a number of operators will make significant strides with their business plans. In the operator community, it will be interesting to see how the likes of O3b Networks and Thuraya will perform over the next two years. O3b has one of the most ambitious business plans in the market, with encouraging deals in place with vertical market customers like cruise ship operator Royal Caribbean. Iridium CEO Matt Desch won the award last year from the MSS sector, which has a lot of interesting dynamics at play here. Inmarsat’s Global Xpress initiative has been one of the most talked about over the last two years, and in 2013, with the first of its satellites launched, we may be able to better assess its progress. Also, in 2012, Thuraya increased revenues for the first for the first time in five years. However, with the MSS sector seeing plenty of competition, Thuraya, Globalstar, Iridium and Inmarsat are contending in an uber competitive market. Interestingly, a lot of talk in 2013 is likely to be around the blurring of the MSS and FSS worlds, and this could bring another dimension to this competition.

In the launch sector, it goes without saying that 2013 could be a huge year for SpaceX. The contracts they have signed are certainly big statements of intent, but will mean relatively little if the U.S. commercial launch provider’s promise does not transform into execution. ILS, which has had change in leadership, could also be an interesting one to watch in 2013.

I am also keeping an eye out on the satellite manufacturing space this year. Many believe that Boeing stole the manufacturing technology show in 2012 with the unveiling of its 702SP electric-propulsion satellite and deals already in place with Satmex and Asia Broadcast Satellite. It will be interesting to see if others respond to Boeing’s advance and whether or not this will become the ‘norm’ in the satellite industry.

Regional operators are always a good source of potential nominees for the award. Who can forget Petra Mateos’s stunning win for Hispasat two years ago, partly driven by the operator recognizing the growth opportunity in Latin America, and executing on its strategy there. With Latin America, Asia and Africa likely to remain key hotspots for satellite communications over the next two to three years, operators will be the most fitted to monetize markets that could well see their executives become contenders for the award. Companies like Measat and AsiaSat have certainly made some interesting deals in recent times, and Thaicom has bounced back well after early struggles with its Ipstar programme. There are also new names that have made a big noise in our industry. Companies such as Yahsat and Newsat, to name but two, have invested aggressively in high-powered satellites and now must make good on their strategies.

It is also important not to forget the technological element of a company’s success. Behind every successful constellation of satellites, there is a practical and reliable new piece of technology allowing satellite operators to compete better with other communications technologies than ever before. I fully expect that when it comes time to explore nominees for the 2013 Satellite Executive of the Year award, it will be equally as difficult as it has been this year.

Finally, I was very sad to hear about the passing of SES executive, Robert Bednarek. On behalf of all of Via Satellite, I would like to pass on my condolences to his family. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Robert on many occasions, and he was a true gentleman of our industry. He will be missed.

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