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Editor’s Insight: Ringing In The New year–A Look Behind, A Glance Ahead

By | January 10, 2001

      January 1st provides an excellent opportunity to examine events over the past 12 months and to look forward to what the coming year has to offer. The satellite industry has witnessed growth from unlikely markets in 2000, and 2001 promises to become an even more exciting chapter in the history of space-based communications. Whether it’s the continuing development of new aeronautical services or the final demise of the low earth orbit based mobile satellite systems, the recent past and near future are changing the markets, applications and profit centers to which satellite companies have become accustomed.

      In 2000, the satellite industry saw the development of satellite systems for an innovative application: airborne Internet telecommunications. Currently, a handful of companies are planning to provide these services using existing spacecraft. Several have dedicated satellites on the drawing board. Our Web-only exclusive story, “The New Hot Markets– Mobile Satellites Live On,” examines the projects by Tenzing Communications, In Flight Network, and In-Flight Online to serve this unique segment of the market.

      Meanwhile, the LEO-based mobile satellite operators continued to flounder. Orbital Sciences Corp. was forced to take huge non-cash charges due to the serious financial problems at its Orbcomm affiliate. And, third quarter losses for Globalstar reached $89 million. Iridium was revived when a U.S. bankruptcy court judge approved the sale of assets of the bankrupt Iridium LLC to a group of investors led by former Pan Am World Airways President and COO Dan Colussy for a few million dollars. Questions on its future viability remain, however; most notably the issue of who will begin building a follow-on system since the satellites are already nearing the mid-point of their five to seven year lifespans.

      Looking ahead, satellite officials underscore the importance of Internet applications to restore the industry’s vitality and profitability. At the recent Satellite Internet Services and Applications conference, analysts offered their forecasts as to how big this market can become. According to Northern Sky Research, total broadband satellite access service revenues will reach more than $13 billion by the year 2004. For companies that are manufacturing satellite broadband equipment, Frost and Sullivan predicts revenues will rise above $1 billion by 2004. Only time will tell how large this market will truly become, but its rapid growth for satellite companies is uncontested.

      No satellite company has or will be immune from the effect of broad changes that are transforming our industry. The ongoing privatization of intergovernmental satellite operators, the consolidation of the world’s satellites into huge fleets, the opening of previously-closed domestic markets to satellite service providers, and the unveiling of new frequency bands like the Ka-band to commercial satellite services are examples of just a few such changes taking place.

      Via Satellite has been reporting the development of issues such as these for a decade and a half. In this regard, we are proud to announce our 15th year of publication. As we begin another volume, our mission remains the same: to bring you news, information and analysis on the vibrant, and sometimes controversial, ways in which satellites are being used for global communications.

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