2020 Satellite Communication (SATCOM) Trends
Editorial note – March 22, 2020: The information was accurate to the best of our knowledge as of February 5, 2020. As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to impact business around the world, some of the following trends, events, and business activities (such as Starlink’s launch plans) may need to be reassessed.
Satellites play a crucial role in modern communications, with nearly every industry reliant on satellite technology in some way. Satellites help us save lives in emergencies, defend our nations, and provide critical information about how to protect against climate change.
Satellites also provide economical solutions to connect the unconnected, with satellite internet provision allowing us to reach previously impervious areas. What’s next for the satellite communications industry? Let’s discuss the four hottest SATCOM trends for 2020.
1.LEO satellites and the new space race
This year, consumers will experience a new dawn in the satellite communications industry, with global companies scrambling to be the first provider to offer a global high-speed, low cost, low-latency internet service.
Already being tested in planes by the US air force, private US spaceflight company ‘Starlink’ is primed to begin offering its own satellite internet service to the general population in 2020. The company began the Starlink mission by launching a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 60 satellites in May 2019. By October, CEO Elon Musk was able to use the system to send its first tweet.
Musk has said SpaceX will need at least 400 Starlink satellites in orbit for ‘minor’ broadband coverage, and 800 satellites in our skies for ‘moderate’ coverage. As of January 2020, the company has deployed 242 satellites, with launches originally planned as often as every three weeks throughout the year.
Several other well-funded organizations (including Iridium Cirtus, One Web, and Facebook Athena) have begun launching their own satellites, with more scheduled as of early 2020. These Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are much smaller and orbit much closer to our planet than traditional geostationary satellites, which dramatically reduces the lag traditionally associated with satellite internet.
As one LEO satellite can’t cover as large a radius as a geostationary satellite, these are launched in clusters known as constellations which communicate with each other as a network. This approach has been tried before in the 1990s and is again rising in popularity as entry costs fall and companies race to be the first to perfect the process and provide reliable satellite internet provision for a mass audience. 2020 may well be the year in which a clear victor emerges.
The population of SmallSats (a small satellite weighing in at under 500kg) is currently exploding, with the global market set to expand at a rapid pace in 2020 and over the decade to come.
An increase in both government funding and private support combined with steadily growing demand for research and development satellites are some of the factors responsible for SmallSat’s increase in popularity, along with a rapid shift in the need for low-earth orbit services to create satellite internet provision.
Manufacturing and assembling techniques for SmallSats have developed rapidly in recent years, with developing and operational costs also being reduced as production increases. In North America, increased use of satellite imaging, demand for satellite surveillance in the defense sector, and a general increase in awareness about the potential for satellite communications (driven by the new space race), have provided traction for the growth of the industry.
According to recent data, North America holds more than 55% of the market value share and is expected to grow at a significant CAGR of 13.1% by the end of 2028.
3.The Internet of Things (IoT)
IoT is a collective name for the billions of physical devices around the world that now connect to the internet and share data between them. From something as small as a button to something as large as an airplane, cheap computer chips and wireless internet connection have allowed us to turn anything into a part of the IoT.
Connecting these different objects and putting sensors in them adds a level of intelligence to otherwise inanimate devices, allowing them to communicate in real-time without input from a human being. In this way, IoT makes the world around us more intelligent and responsive by merging the physical with the digital.
From connecting our smart TV and phone to automating production lines, IoT has infiltrated consumer markets and industrial production worldwide and is set to grow exponentially in 2020 and beyond.
IoT is now integral to the SATCOM industry, with around 2.7 million devices now serviced by satellite (including those in infrastructure, environmental monitoring, the military, shipping, and aviation). The number of devices is expected to increase to around 24 million across the globe by 2024, with the market for space IoT primed to increase eightfold from $250 million to $4 billion in 2030.
Excitingly, the market for space IoT solutions will soon reach commercialization, with a wide range of existing SATCOM technologies available that can easily be designed to support IoT from space – from broadband and narrowband networks to broadcast capabilities.
Due to the maturity of the market, space IoT services do not need significant investments in comparison to broadband connectivity as we have seen with OneWeb, Space X, and Amazon. Based on low-cost hardware and connectivity, IoT solutions fit well with SmallSats and LEO satellites, both of which are set to increase in popularity this year.
4.Addressing climate change
Satellite measurements and images of Earth’s temperature, greenhouse gas emissions, sea levels, atmospheric gases, dwindling ice, and forest cover have become vital in the battle against climate change, helping us understand our current position and what the future might hold for our planet.
Satellite data provides authoritative information about more than half of the 50 crucial climate change variables. These insights include satellite radar altimetry, which measures distance between a satellite and the earth’s surface and gives us precise information about sea levels.
Atmospheric chemical composition and greenhouses gases like methane are also measured using satellites. Currently, there are around 162 satellites in-orbit that measure the various indicators related to climate change. New generation satellites have enhanced optical and temporal resolutions that have improved weather forecasting, climate modelling, and the ability to obtain real-time details. Within the next five years, many new satellite missions will be launched, including Eumetsat’s second-generation polar-orbiting satellites, third generation Meteosats, and Chinese satellites.
In 2020, Geospatial World Forum will hold a session on the ways in which geospatial and 5G can be combined to help realize sustainable development goals.
Some of the key themes that will be discussed include leveraging 4IR technologies for informed decision making, geospatial information for addressing data gap, climate action, social entrepreneurship, and much more.
About Link Consulting Services
Link Consulting Services is a global staffing and recruitment consulting organization specializing in High-Tech, SATCOM, Mobile Communications, and Tech Sales. The company is among the select few to earn ClearlyRated’s coveted 2019 Best of Staffing® Client and Talent Awards. Since 2005, internal Consultants have placed more than 10,000 highly skilled technology and business leaders in Fortune 500 and industry-leading organizations around the world, leveraging Link Consulting Services’ proprietary Recruitment as a Service model and more than 50 years of combined management experience in the recruitment industry. CEO and Founder Natalia Sans serves on the Forbes Los Angeles Business Council. Learn more at www.link-cs.com.