Last week GVF and Event Management Partners (EMP) hosted another in the Partnership’s series of High Throughput Satellite (HTS) Roundtables, this time in London. The Roundtable looked at a wide range of issues pertaining to the technology advances supporting, and the massive growth opportunities in the market for, satellite-based broadband solutions.
The Roundtable opened with a welcome and introductory keynote from Chris Baugh, President of Northern Sky Research (NSR) which set the scene for the programme, introducing some of the pertinent issues to be addressed in greater detail during the subsequent two days, including comment that HTS is undoubtedly touching all businesses and applications in the ICT space. It was clear that the launch of HTS capacity by more-and-more satellite operators is correctly regarded as the most significant trend in the industry.
Delving into the history of HTS, Mr Baugh noted that before 2009 most of the satellite industry would use such terms as Ka-band, broadband access, spot beam, and high throughput more-or-less interchangeably. Whilst OK at the time, the recent and sudden quantum leap in capacity has changed the industry and forced an evolution it’s the accuracy of its terminological imperatives. Thus, the industry coined the term High Throughput Satellites – and its abbreviation, HTS – to categorize satellites that use multiple spot beams and have many times more capacity than a traditional satellites launched to geosynchronous, GEO, Earth orbit.
Since, of course, we have also witnessed the development and launch of Medium Earth Orbit HTS, or MEO-HTS. Time will tell what yet further new technology platform entrants we will come to see ahead of us. Mr Baugh added that there is currently a lot of testing of HTS satellites in development. The key geographical areas to watch are Asia and Latin America, with some activity also in Africa.
Much conference comment supported the view that HTS has an important role to play across a wide range of applications, filling gaps not currently well-serviced by traditional satellite, thereby helping the industry to retain a vigorous stance against some whispers of analyst negativity about the industry’s direction.
The conference went on to provide delegates with a wide-reaching overview of what high-throughput satellite operators are currently providing, or planning and preparing to provide, using combinations of C, Ku and Ka-band solutions – underlining the point that HTS does not equal Ka-band alone, but does equal, at its simplest, frequency reuse + multiple spot beams.
A Roundtable session focusing on engineering themes pointed-up the importance of ensuring that the right technology is in place to maximize the benefits of HTS, whether assessed in terms of cost-effectiveness, or best quality and operation. The panel discussed the need to improve operations and maintenance, Network Management Systems, VSAT Systems, and better Spectrum Monitoring.
Discussion pointed to clear agreement that vital questions for HTS are – Who are the customers? What do they want from the technology?
Evidently, major customer groups which have already emerged include the Satellite News Gathering (SNG) community, and emergency responders. Whilst there is firm expectation of a market with the military, comments during the Roundtable suggested not too much movement there, so far. Another prominent market cited in discussion is telecoms and mobile solutions, such as mobile offices. One panellist cited his belief that anyone who is currently a Ku-band customer is a potential Ka-band customer.
Other interesting markets cited by panellists included mobile banking, event management, mobile education, and oil and gas, the latter particularly since the acquisition of Inmarsat’s oil and gas energy division by RigNet. A barrier to widespread energy industry end-user acceptance may be the wholly inaccurate perception that industry operations which depend on communications links will be adversely affected where there is signal attenuation resulting from heavy rainfall in equatorial regions.
Fundamentally, mobility and the mobile applications environment are central to HTS. Most particularly, the commercial and passenger maritime space, and the aeronautical markets – commercial airliners and business jets – are already a major focus of the high-throughput ecosystem.
Regulatory, licensing and financing issues were also addressed during the Roundtable, including an analysis of the differences in the due diligence processes around investment in new (HTS) satellite projects, in contrast to investments in traditional satellite systems.
On the second Roundtable day a Joint Opening Keynote examined the current state-of-play of HTS-related research studies at the European Space Agency and Norwegian Space Centres (NSC). The speakers were Michèle Le Saux and Alberto Ginesi from ESA and Rune Sandbakken from Norway. Both presenters cited extensive collaborative ventures in the HTS arena with European industry.
Whilst the Roundtable programme was heavily discussion focused, all panellists were afforded the opportunity to present some few minutes of opening remarks, some with a limited number of slides to support their remarks. In due course, these slides will be available online on the following web page: www.uk-emp.co.uk/emp-home/current-events/hts-london-roundtable-2013/
The GVF-EMP Conference Partnership looks forward to picking-up on the HTS theme at the next Roundtable, taking place in Washington DC in May 2014. Prior to this, the next GVF-EMP event in London will be Connectivity 2014, 11-12 February, www.uk-emp.co.uk/emp-home/current-events/connectivity-2014/
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