Having just returned from Satellite 2016, the Symposium and Show for the satellite industry held annually at the Gaylord Convention centre in Washington DC, I am pleased to present a first-hand “state of the industry” update. The Symposium and Show are relatively small when compared to, for example, the Monaco Yacht Show and also, being rather dominated by men in grey suits, they’re surprisingly colourless in comparison to the lively yachts shows which we know and love!
However, there was plenty going on, with representations from ALL the major players and CEOs, CFOs and CTOs all present and sitting on one panel or another. The Symposium, which consists of a series of panel discussions, runs in parallel with the Show.
Arriving early on the first morning, I settled in for the opening 2 hours session entitled “In case you missed it, everything has changed!”. On the panel were CEOs from the five major satellite companies which own and manage a large proportion of the satellites up above us. These companies are SES, Intelsat, Telesat, Inmarsat and Eutelsat. They all have a significant number of spacecraft orbiting the earth, and also have invested heavily in the new galaxies of satellites preparing to be launched.
I was a little shocked and disappointed at their answer to the first question they were asked which was, “What do you think the biggest growth area will be in 2016?” The reply – “broadband”! As this is the main reason they are making these huge investments in new satellites, I wondered whether this simplistic answer was due to the early hour of the day and a lack of caffeine! However, they did eventually expand on this general statement and were all in agreement that broadband in the aircraft cabin is going to be the biggest growth area within the next few months/years.
Sadly, and despite the promising title of the session, they didn’t light my “new innovations” fire by telling me anything I didn’t already know. All in all, it was a bit of a love-in, with them all agreeing on the most obvious activities they are pursuing. I had hoped to hear some evolutionary if not revolutionary new ideas.
The two most interesting technologies mentioned by Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat, were the new Kymeta flat panel satellite antenna, which has been mentioned frequently in this column, and the need for satellite companies to integrate with the new 5G terrestrial connectivity. We at e3 are already heavily involved with both of these concepts, so I was pleased to have our strategy endorsed by the major players in the satellite industry.
The first working Kymeta panels on a car and a boat at Satellite 2016
On the second evening of the Show, Kymeta hosted a splendid high-profile party in order to launch publicly their first working satellite panels, one of which was installed in the roof of a Toyota car and the other on the 40m river boat which was chartered specifically for the event. The setting was ideal, with the usually grey River Potomac river bathed in evening sunshine, and the temperature a very unseasonable 27 º C.
The panel installed on board was tracking Intelsat’s Galaxy 17 satellite. The system was streaming 8 TV channels, which were shown on a single screen in 8 windows simultaneously, and they also held live Skype sessions with the car at the same time.
Having been closely involved with the Kymeta project for the last 30 months, it was fantastic to witness all this all working “live” for the first time.
The single panel was transmitting at 4Mbps up and receiving at 12Mbps down.
The Toyota car had been on a 10,000 mile drive around the USA over the previous few weeks visiting satellite companies, Google, service providers, cruise lines, universities, etc., and each had been invited to affix a sticker to the car and sign it. The car visited Florida and, if you look carefully, you’ll see our e3 logo, duly signed by our guys in Fort Lauderdale!
Apparently, the Connected Car team from Kymeta had had a great road trip, running Skype sessions and Netflix in the car whilst on the move.
There are already plans afoot to replicate this demonstration on a yacht at the Monaco Yacht Show in September with multiple panels and much higher bandwidth.
How the satellite industry has to adapt to the changes in media habits such as Streaming, OTT and Bandwidth on Demand.
During the Symposium, there was an interesting session which covered the rapidly evolving changes of the media consumers (i.e. us), and the response required by the satellite industry in order to address these changes. The session was run by Jimmy Schaeffler, chairman and CSO of The Carmel Group.
Some of the trends he pointed out are fairly obvious, but useful to list as it shows the scale of the changes to come.
Firstly, migration to mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and wearable technologies is steadily increasing, the demands for mobile applications are growing, and this trend will continue. Interestingly, he stated that “smartphones are still in their earliest stage of development.” The bandwidth demand by iPhones, iPads, smart watches, etc. will increase the need for better bandwidth distribution.
Secondly, he pointed out that we are migrating to streaming broadband. According to a study conducted jointly by Ericsson and Consumer Labs regarding viewer TV and media habits in 2014, consumers are already watching equal amounts of scheduled TV and streamed on-demand video each week. As we know, this trend is going to increase indefinitely.
Thirdly Data Analytics, the collection and analysis of data surrounding consumer and audience habits, is a key factor in helping to create what the consumer wants. Amazon are key exponents of this trend (just think how often you see “you may also be interested in…” on their website), and Schaeffler also pointed out Netflix’s “House of Cards” series, in which the company turned away from traditional aspects of analysis and instead made use of data it had collected regarding what the consumer wanted to see and how Netflix’s audience of on-demand viewers would prefer to watch it. With that data, the company built and released this hugely successful TV drama.
The Internet of Things (IOT) is set to connect everything and everyone to the Internet through sensors and embedded processors in every device such as smart watches, your fridge and oven. As the network of devices grow and seeks to collect and exchange data, satellite will most certainly have a role in enabling that conversation.
Clearly Connectivity, and in particular satellite connectivity, will play a big part as cars, airplanes, and inanimate objects everywhere begin to link up to the Internet. With devices rapidly proliferating across the globe, especially in third world countries, the demand for bandwidth will rise as each individual device requires more bandwidth for new platforms and higher definition content.
As consumers, most of us have multiple devices now, and each device will become more powerful. We will see more and more computer, power and storage in one small unit, increasing the need for bandwidth capacity in coming years.
So, clearly the scale of what is required of the satellite industry is vast. Stephen Spengler, CEO of Intelsat, commented at the inaugural CEO session that the only way to fulfil demand in the years to come is for satellite connectivity to work in conjunction with terrestrial 5G connectivity – something we’re already providing with our HYBRID communication solution here at e3 Systems!
Roger Horner of e3 Systems
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