Flying high The satellite sector is awash with investment money, with a new generation of high-throughput spacecraft poised for launch over the next two years. But is there a bubble in the making? Geoff Long talks to some leading industry figures to find out
ndy Start, president of Inmarsat's global government business, summed up the thoughts of many when he suggested that there's never been a more exciting time to be in satcomms. Speaking at the Australasia Satellite Forum in Sydney, he described “something of a renaissance in the industry.” Hyperbole aside, there is evidence that the sector is about to enter a new phase, with a number of highthroughput launches set to redefine what satellite can offer in terms of capacity and price. Inmarsat has already commenced the launch of its next generation service Global Xpress, which promises mobile broadband download speeds of up to 50Mbps. However, it won't be alone. The likes of Intelsat, Thailand's iPSTAR, Optus, SES, NewSat and newcomers Kacific Broadband and O3b are all in various stages of launching new satellites and services that they believe will shake up the capability available in the Asia Pacific region.
“In terms of what that means for the customer, it's starting to make a real transformational change in terms of how much capacity people can have and at what price. How much mobility they can have with how much weight,” says Start. “The high-throughput satellites are starting to make it possible to have very, very high data rates into really quite small terminals. That's going to really transform the accessibility of the industry.”
Start notes that the first of the satellites forming Inmarsat's Global Xpress network was launched last December, with global coverage expected by the end of 2014. It's part of a US$1.6 billion programme and, according to Inmarsat, marks the first time a commercial operator has utilised Ka-band radio frequencies to deliver a global satellite service. The first spacecraft currently sits over the Indian Ocean re-