Tue. Sep 26th, 2023
TAMPA, Fla: SpaceX Broadband Transformation Impacts Satellite Communications Market

Executives from legacy operators have acknowledged the significant impact of SpaceX’s broadband service, Starlink, on the satellite communications market. According to Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg, Starlink has revolutionized customer expectations in terms of user terminals, their appearance, cost, and ease of setup. Additionally, Starlink’s popularity has driven down the expected cost of connectivity and increased demand for ubiquitous coverage, leading to a shift away from long-term contract commitments.

Goldberg also emphasized the need for increased competition in the market, a space that Canadian geostationary operator Telesat aims to occupy by 2027 with its recently funded plans for a LEO constellation. Eutelsat CEO Eva Berneke highlighted SpaceX’s innovation in industrializing and reducing launch costs while stressing the need for satellite operators to adapt to similar transformations in satellite connectivity.

Eutelsat has been pursuing the acquisition of OneWeb’s LEO network to meet the growing demand for lower latency connectivity from space. Berneke also noted that satellite connectivity is not a “winner takes all” market due to the requirement for sovereign and redundant networks. However, she believes that despite an increasing rush to develop other satellite broadband constellations in non-geostationary orbits (NGSO), there will not be tens or twenties of such networks due to the finite spectrum resource and priority distribution to first movers.

Ruy Pinto, CEO of SES, warned of the pricing pressure faced by operators as capacity floods the market to meet the increasing demand for connectivity. To address this challenge, SES prioritizes regions where it can offer differentiated services, such as specialized government partnerships. Similarly, Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg sees opportunities in heterogeneous fleets in geostationary orbit (GEO) and NGSO.

Dankberg emphasized the importance of releasing more information on spectrum footprints and other details to aid operators and countries in making informed decisions about resource sharing in NGSO. In light of the growing number of satellites in NGSO, space sustainability has become a crucial concern for all satellite operators. Berneke called for collaboration within the industry to revise operational practices and spectrum sharing rather than waiting for regulators to intervene.