Satellite communication plays a crucial role in modern communications, with nearly every industry reliant on satellite technology in some way. Satellite communication helps us save lives in emergencies, defend our nations, and provide critical information about how to protect against climate change.
The satellite communication also provides economical solutions to connect the unconnected, with satellite internet provision allowing us to reach previously impervious areas. What’s next for the satellite communication industry? Let’s discuss the four hottest SATCOM trends for 2020.
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 a 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 communication (driven by the new space race) have provided traction for the growth of the industry.
in telecommunications, the use of artificial satellites to provide communication links between various points on Earth. Satellite communications play a vital role in the global telecommunications system. Approximately 2,000 artificial satellites orbiting Earth relay analog and digital signals carrying voice, video, and data to and from one or many locations worldwide Satellite communication has two main components:
the ground segment, which consists of fixed or mobile transmission, reception, and ancillary equipment, and the space segment, which primarily is the satellite itself. A typical satellite link involves the transmission or uplinking of a signal from an Earth station to a satellite.
The satellite then receives and amplifies the signal and retransmits it back to Earth, where it is received and re-amplified by Earth stations and terminals. Satellite receivers on the ground include direct-to-home (DTH) satellite equipment, mobile reception equipment in aircraft, satellite telephones, and handheld devices.
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.
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.
This year, consumers will experience a new dawn in the satellite communication 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 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 Circus, One Web, and Facebook Athena) have begun launching their satellites for satellite communication, 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 internet satellite communication.
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.
In 2020, Geospatial World Forum will hold a session on how 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 gaps, climate action, social entrepreneurship, and much more.