Across all aspects of life in today’s increasingly complex and interdependent world, the need for large amounts of data to be moved from anywhere, to anywhere, on demand, is vast, immediate, and growing. This demand is driven not only by social and commercial requirements, like the sharing and improvement of educational, medical, and business information, but also, and perhaps most critically, by military applications. However, the expansion of high data transfer rate capacity is hampered by a critical lack of required infrastructure, especially in less developed areas of the world.

This paper looks at today’s growing commercial and military satellite communications and technology markets.

The traditional focus in this market is for expanded data transfer rate capacity on demand, and the efforts are to migrate from sparse, terrestrial networks, centered on both the economic and military needs of the current world’s developed countries.

This trend is now changing toward a space-based network with the capacity to service the entire globe. In this report, the key metric for the communications market is the assured, reliable, high-capacity data transfer rates (DTR), on demand, for the end user. This report presents a summary and assessment of both the current terrestrial and space-based communication networks, the projected evolutionary paths over the next decade, and the implications of both technical and political influence on the global market for high, on demand, and secure data rates.

This report provides the reader with an understanding of what can be achieved within the next decade if both the political and commercial will, and economic incentives, are present to connect the entire globe.

The increasing market demand for live, streaming video-quality data for mobile users is fiscally limited by terrestrial infrastructures and technologies. Large parts of the globe are left out of a global network because of the inability, both nationally and regionally, to invest in the necessary terrestrial infrastructures. The majority of the consensus among experts is that the solution within the next decade is to make the investment to develop the next generation of communication satellites and to add the space segment of the global data network. A space segment would work very economically with a terrestrial based communications backbone, even though sparsely populated in regions of the globe where both terrain and culture limits what can be installed.

In this report, a qualitative description of several ‘disruptive’ platform technologies will provide the reader an appreciation and qualitative understanding of how even developing countries can be connected to the global communication grid by 2022.

While the ground and launch segments of the space industry are key for overall success of space operational capabilities, this paper focuses primarily on the space segment of the industry and how that relates to the industry as a whole.

In particular, this forecast provides an in-depth analysis of:
  • Current and Future Technologies: Space-based capabilities are delivered today through large, expensive systems.  That limits markets and consumer choices.  Future technologies will be much smaller and cheaper.  Some may actually fly in the atmosphere while delivering satellite-like capabilities.
    • Radio SatCom:  Today’s consumers demand essentially unlimited data bandwidth, all the time and everywhere.  They can’t get that with traditional satellite communication.  Radio frequencies limit data rates, as does ionospheric attenuation.  This technology is reaching its theoretical limits.
    • Laser SatCom:  Lasers will increase datarates perhaps 100X over radio.  But, only the blue-green frequencies penetrate water (clouds) reliably, they have much smaller ‘footprints’ than radio, and transmitters must track the fast-moving satellites.  Those problems are being solved, meaning this technology has a future in commercial SatCom.
    • Terrestrial Fiber Optic:  As a contrast to SatCom, this report also analyses fiber optic cables laid primarily under oceans.  The costs are higher than radio SatCom but less than the emerging space lasers.  Latency, the transmission time over distance, is shorter than with satellites.  It’s a viable alternative that satellite operators need to understand
    • Microsats/Nanosats:  Very small satellites are launched on single boosters and deployed from racks of a dozen or more.  They’re essentially expendable and, while limited in individual capacity, easily form large networks.  Such network survivability attracts military development.  But they’re power-limited by their small size (solar cells and batteries) and are also much harder to coordinate in commercial service given the large number of unpredictable and mobile customers.
  • Satellite Services: Fixed services are losing market share to mobile services.  Hardware will continue to shrink, with advances in C-Band, Ka Band, and Ku Band technologies.
    • Fixed:  Historically, the fixed satellite business has been marked by stable growth and profitability due to steadily-increasing demand for a broad range of applications.  One continent will continue to see growth here while the others may not.
    • Mobile:  This service is very sensitive to value, or the datarate delivered compared to cost.  Today, that ratio only supports modest CAGRs a bit under 10%.
    • Sea:  This market is moving toward very small aperture antennas.  That service should grow at just over 10% per year.
    • Terrestrial:  This market is also moving toward very small antennas but is growing faster than the sea market and will see more demand from small consumers, vice commercial consumers.
    • C-Band:  This spectrum faces two major challenges: revenues are declining and there’s a raging international debate over frequency allocations.
    • Ka Band:  If Scenario II proves more accurate, we expect significantly increased growth in this band.
    • Ku Band:  Service in Ku should grow modestly but steadily in Scenario I.

Reasons to buy:
  • This forecast includes two scenarios:  today’s established technology and an alternate future disrupted by emerging capabilities based on very small satellites or even unmanned aerial vehicles in the atmosphere.
  • Without that disruption, we forecast SatCom markets to grow at over 70% CAGR, with an extreme dispersion of growth rates between rising and declining technologies.  It will be a very uncertain market.
  • If the disruptive Scenario II occurs, however, we forecast a CAGR of just under 110% in the second half of our report’s period.  That future could very well kill one of the legacy technologies. Readers will know which path to take and which to avoid, or leave if they’re already on it.
  • Business opportunities are clearly identified in context throughout the report and also consolidated into a separate chapter.
  • Those features are especially useful to business developers, who anticipate consumer demand and, in turn, drive demand for new technologies.
  • Manufacturers need to know the technology possibilities and anticipate demand.  Lead times are so long that waiting for orders guarantees failure by losing contracts to those who read this forecast.
  • Launch system operators will see the major changes coming in time to design the busses, insertion motors, adaptors, etc. necessary to modify their rockets for evolving payloads.