[Satellite News 03-06-12] During the past four years, the central discussion topic for many industries has been dealing with the global economic recession. The cable industry, for example, is still trying to figure out the behavior of its budget-conscious subscriber core and which technologies can lead to simultaneous efficiency and growth. The satellite industry, however, has interacted with the tough fiscal climate in a rather unique fashion, as illustrated by the key topics that are featured at the annual SATELLITE conference in Washington, D.C.
The SATELLITE 2012 show kicks off on Monday, March 12, and arrives at a transitional time for the international satellite industry, with recent technological and political developments taking center stage. In the following SATELLITE 2012 conference preview, Satellite News breaks down the topics that have received the most attention coming into this crucial spring season.
LightSquared – Interference and the Value of Spectrum
The LightSquared story represents one of the most remarkable dynamic shifts of the satellite industry in 2011. The wholesale 4G LTE operator entered 2011 backed by a strong investment team, an even stronger partnership network and an ambitious offering to connect hundreds of millions of Americans to broadband service. A large part of that momentum, however, was lost early on, when Garmin engineers submitted a report to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) claiming that LightSquared’s 4G LTE mobile infrastructure could create significant areas of signal interference that would result in GPS dead zones across the United States. By the end of 2011, LightSquared found itself facing a growing alliance of opposition, which placed its business plans in serious jeopardy. The company was dealt a significant blow early in 2012 when the FCC blocked its spectrum license after testing allegedly showed that there were no viable solutions to its interference problems, prompting LightSquared CEO Sanjiv Ahuja to resign in February.
SATELLITE 2012 opens on Monday with a timely, LightSquared-centric engineering panel featuring its President for Regulatory Affairs and Public Policy Jeff Carlisle, along with technology partner Javad Ashjaee, president and CEO of JAVAD GNSS. Together, they will be discussing the interference issue at the core of the LightSquared debate with Brock Butler, director of location technology for Spirent and Garmin GPS Systems Principal Engineer Bronson Hokuf. One would be hard-pressed to find four more qualified executives to elaborate on this technological issue with billions of dollars at stake. Look for the LightSquared discussion to branch off into several other FCC policy talking points, including the value of spectrum assets held by various network operators.
The “LightSquared and GPS: Status Update and Lessons Learned” session will take place on Monday, March 12 at 9:00 a.m. in conference room 207B.
Military Budgets/Hosted Payloads
With military operations winding down in heated battle theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq, several financial analysts warned that the government satellite industry could take a hit as a result of shrinking defense budgets. The U.S. Department of Defense’s planned 2013 fiscal year budget cuts generated a significant amount of attention this past year, as did the role that hosted payloads would play in a new schematic for military acquisition processes. The formation of the Hosted Payload Alliance at last year’s SATELLITE conference represented a combined satellite industry effort to change the way satellite providers, operators and manufacturers engaged with military customers.
Several panels have been formed to dedicate attention to the hosted payload topic. Northern Sky Research Senior Analyst Claude Rousseau and Hosted Payload Alliance Chairman Don Thoma — also vice president of marketing for Iridium Communications — will open the show with a one-hour presentation that leads into the “50 Years of Hosting Payloads — Lessons Learned from the Largest Purveyors of Space” session.
The panel features NASA/GSFC LADEE Payload Manager Bob Caffrey, U.S. Air Force GPS 3 Advanced Capabilities Program Manager RayMing Chang, retired U.S. Navy Captain and General Dynamics C4 Systems Senior Staff Member Jack Nicholson and ITT Exelis Director of Commercial Optical Sensing Systems Kyle Schmackpfeffer will discuss the applicable lessons learned in hosted payloads. Flight qualification, design and integration issues, as well as the value of collocated capabilities are among several core topics that have illustrated the complex missions of hosted payload platforms. This panel seeks to answer the question — what are the solutions employed for solving those issues?
The “50 Years of Hosting Payloads – Lessons Learned from the Largest Purveyors of Space” session will take place on Monday, March 12 at 10:30 a.m. in conference room 201.
The Evolution of the Video Consumer
Sessions on “digital natives,” now better known as “content anytime, content anywhere” customers, may not have been major conference attractions three years ago, but the topic has developed into the key element of long-term broadcast industry success. With the emergence of budget-conscious consumers with a unique ability to access free content, the pressure has mounted for broadcasters to meet demands and provide flexibility and content more screens — services that a new generation of consumers are willing to pay for.
SATELLITE 2012 features a second-day Broadcasters Roundtable panel that aims to break down the new fragmented landscape that presents both threats and opportunities for broadcasters. “More screens, more formats, more opportunity” is the motto for this session discussing the satellite industry’s role in the evolving broadcast landscape and how this multi-screen environment is leading to strategic changes. Audiovisuel Extérieur de la France Technical Solutions Director David Couret, HBO Executive Vice President of Technology Barbara Jaffe, PBS CTO John McCoskey and Disney ABC Television Group Executive Vice President and CTO Vince Roberts will speak on this panel, representing the top-level minds behind the industry’s long-term video business models. Attendees should familiarize themselves with the economics of Over-the-top (OTT) offerings — it is a term that is expected to come up often in 2012.
The “Broadcasters Roundtable: More Screens, More Formats, More Opportunity” session will take place on Tuesday, March 13 at 1:30 p.m. in conference room 209.
The Expanding Launch Sector
The SATELLITE conference launch services panel is always a popular draw due to the limited players in the sector and the strong and influential voices of its leaders. The launch vehicle sector has had a very busy year in 2011, with the successful debut of several rockets and the emergence of the U.S. commercial launch sector in the international arena.
The last year, however, also came along with a few bumps in the road. India and Russia experienced several costly failures, while almost every other international launch provider experienced delays at some point in its 2011 manifest. The conclusion of the 30-year space shuttle program, while never a real factor in commercial communications via satellite, put a new focus on launch services and annual launch capacity for all payloads — commercial, governmental, military and scientific. The U.S. government’s reliance on foreign launch entities in the wake of the shuttle program also put a focus on international export and trade policy, which could simultaneously open the door to the U.S. commercial launch market for countries like China. But in the end, there are only so many rockets to go around.
Is the current stable of launch providers up to the task, or will new or returning providers disrupt the marketplace? Sea Launch President Kjell Karlsen, Arianespace Chairman and CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall, International Launch Services (ILS) President Frank McKenna, China Great Wall Industry Corp. Vice President Gao Ruofei, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell and Lockheed Martin Commercial Launch Services President Jack Zivic aim to answer those questions. The panel is also expected to discuss if anything can be done to reduce the costs of reaching orbit and if launch services providers have incentives to drive those costs down.
The “Launch Services: How Will the Competitive Landscape Change?” session will take place on Tuesday, March 13 at 1:30 p.m. in conference room 202.