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SATELLITE 2010 Reflects Strength of Sector

By | March 29, 2010
      by Scott Chase

      From the opening bell Monday morning, March 15, to the closing hammer Thursday afternoon, SATELLITE 2010 became capital of the world’s satellite-enabled marketplace as it does every year. Nestled into the sweeping Potomac River vistas of the Gaylord National Convention Center on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., SATELLITE 2010 welcomed more than 9,500 visitors, 300 exhibitors, more than 250 top satellite expert speakers and dozens of members of the press.
          Sunday was consumed with last-minute preparations as final details of the week’s program were ironed out. In the exhibit hall, trade show professionals bustled to get more than 60,000 square feet of exhibit space ready for the grand opening on Tuesday morning.
          News was made early Monday, as speakers at the annual Satellite Finance Forum outlined key initiatives for the near- and long-term future, including innovative financing for existing and planned satellite constellations. The U.S. Federal Communication Commission’s near-simultaneous release of the U.S. National Broadband Plan sparked much discussion about the role satellite will play in providing high-speed broadband access to millions of American homes as well as the funding required and the results anticipated from implementation of the plan. Experts from Coface and the Export-Import Bank offered strategies for big project financing, and Wall Street analysts generally are enthused about the health and vitality of the world satellite marketplace.
          Meanwhile, at the all-day Engineering Forum, chief technology officers representing a broad array of satellite-delivered services discussed ongoing innovation and the role of both private and governmental funding in catalyzing the development of new hardware, software, and architectures for satellite. A subsequent CTO panel took these discussions a bit further, sounding the call for more investment in future technologies and architectures.
          These themes were sounded again at Tuesday’s hallmark opening general session, “The Big Four: Agenda for the Coming Decade,” featuring the CEOs of the world’s four largest FSS operators. While some sniping took place regarding the relative importance of various regional markets and the emphasis on Ka-band versus more traditional spectrum use and allocation, the CEOs stood united in declaring the state of their companies to be excellent, with strong prospects for continued growth at least over the foreseeable future. As all four operators — Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and Telesat — have aggressive satellite procurement and launch plans for the next few years, the role of satellite in the global telecommunications infrastructure is assured for the time being.
          One major emerging theme of CEO discussion focused on the problem of intentional as well as incidental interference. Another topic of debate was the challenge of the launch vehicles pipeline. As Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg put it, the supply of rockets right now from ILS and Arianespace has been adequate, but what happens when something happens, “and something always happens.” It’s no coincidence that China’s commercial launch capability, in the form of chief executive Yin Liming of China Great Wall Industry Corp., reappeared at SATELLITE 2010 after a long absence.
          At SATELLITE 2009, then-Eutelsat CEO Giuliano Berretta made some interesting predictions regarding the impact and uptake of 3-D TV. As it turns out, the advent of this new broadcast format has taken the satellite marketplace — and consumer electronics outlets — by storm. In fact, executives across the board in the creation and delivery of 3-D TV say that nearly all technical issues have been resolved, and the future of 3-D rests in the hands of content suppliers and adoption by the general public. In an uptake scenario similar to that which propelled HDTV to nearly-overnight prominence, it appears that sports will be the lead genre driving equipment and services purchases, with the upcoming FIFA World Cup in South Africa serving as an early test bed. It came as no surprise that ESPN and Discovery have announced major programs in the 3-D TV arena early in 2010, and other broadcasters continue to unveil their 3-D content plans.
          SATELLITE 2010 also featured a comprehensive Military Forum, and this segment continues to evolve into a key component of the revenues mix for satellite operators. Topics from hosted payloads to the Future Comsatcom Services Acquisition program fueled heady discussion about the role of the commercial sector as it relates to government and military requirements for ubiquitous connectivity. Several speakers alluded to the expanding level of coordination between government procurement officers and industry service providers, noting that these discussions can only lead to more efficient utilization of existing as well as planned satellite capabilities.
          The once nearly moribund MSS sector showed its resiliency as CEO after CEO mapped out plans for new capacity and new services during the collocated MSUA-7 conference (and exhibition area). MSUA President Tim Farrar presided over dynamic presentations from the CEOs of the top five MSS operators, and the overwhelmingly shared conclusion of these discussions was that MSS players are moving forward with aggressive plans for the future, from satellites scheduled for launch in the near term to focused regional and national initiatives designed to drive demand for MSS. While there may still be a few bumps in the road for MSS, the sector has completely recovered from its missteps of just a few years ago.
          SATELLITE 2010 concluded with two closing general sessions exploring developments in satellite broadband and Ka-band services as well as the opportunities and threats for the world’s satellite-enabled marketplaces of today and the future.
          SATELLITE 2011, along with MSUA-8 and the various pre-day forums and educational seminars, will return to the Washington Convention Center March 14, 2011, for its traditional four-day run. By the close of SATELLITE 2010 on Thursday afternoon, exhibitors had endorsed what conference delegates and show floor visitors had experienced by rebooking more than 90 percent of the WCC space.
           From every angle, SATELLITE 2010 reflected the very best that the world satellite-enabled marketplace has to offer. I look forward to welcoming you back again next year.

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