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Why Satellite Will Remain Relevant

Philip Harlow, XTAR President & COO, recently participated in the AIAA Space conference on the “Industry Executives” panel and the ICSSC Colloquium on the “Next Generation Broadband Satcom” panel.

While I am quick to remind my colleagues from the satellite industry that satellites are not the end goal – we are simply an infrastructure that facilitates the use of applications and the growth of business – we are nonetheless the leader in opening the pathways to new markets and applications. Fiber and terrestrial always follow where satellite has led: Eastern Europe, Africa, military expeditionary forces, maritime, etc. (Did anyone know they are laying fiber to deep water oil rigs off the coast of Angola?)

The satellite industry has reinvented itself several times during my tenure, and will no doubt do it again when it needs to. High Definition (HD) video was/is expected to grow demand for satellite capacity, and it has. But the counter-pressure is the advent of High Throughput Satellites (HTS). They are lowering the barriers to entry (and the cost), and not just making HD video affordable, but are encouraging the evolution to even higher quality products like 3D and Ultra HD video. Ka-band (that which InMarSat’s Global Xpress will use), was once thought to be unusable to serve corporate and consumer users, but now is the up-and-comer bringing large amounts of bandwidth into play across the world, increasing access and competition, and driving down customer price points.

In the MILSATCOM space, cyber security is seen as a significant vulnerability, and vast quantities of money are being spent on the security of military satellites. XTAR, and its commercial brethren who support DoD must do the same, not just to ensure the security of our most valuable assets, but to assure our primary users that we take the security of their data as seriously as they do. They should be comfortable relying on commercial operators to support their missions across the globe, as we have continually done since Operation Desert Storm. What would be helpful from DoD is a clear understanding of the real threats in this domain, and help in combatting the potential adversaries in this arena.

Satellite will always be, in my opinion, an innovative and imaginative industry. I have always loved what I do for a living. To stay ahead of the curve, we will continue to do what we’ve always done – to work with our closest users, to look ahead at the challenges, and to solve customer problems that are insurmountable by other communications infrastructures. There will always be places where satellite has a distinct advantage over terrestrial communications, namely in mobility, airborne, maritime and expeditionary activities such as oil, gas and mining. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels, but must continue to improve, innovate and, above all, imagine.