Year in Review 2020
The year 2020 brought a lot of things. Other than moving to working remotely as dictated by COVID-19, SpaceBridge has been on a growth trajectory. In fact, we are hiring more people for key position. As we are looking to fill in the lines with several new open positions.
In terms of technology and products we took the opportunity to review our portfolio. In fact, we revamped our plans for new terminals and service offering. Moreover, we realigned our strategy for new markets beyond our core competencies. As we thought more in the direction of simplifying our customers life from financial investment perspective and also technical. As well as assisting on overall total cost of ownership of new ground segment technologies throughout innovative implementation of creative business structures.
We also see increased demand to expand internet access capacity and quickly deploy new sites, potentially due to global COVID-19 effect on residential and business line. Therefore, we aligned our efforts to assist our customers with these needs as well.
Predictions of the Industry
It is a bit early to predict, but from where we are now the demand will probably remain more or less the same. Especially for legacy wide beam capacity and current HTS, however the market mix is likely to change dramatically. Two prime examples which also impacted across all their related ecosystem are aero and cruises. In fact, they are both typically top satellite bandwidth consumers globally. The global impact of COVID-19 shifts the demand towards community broadband services. Similarly for the disaster recovery /homeland security based services as people have largely moved into working remotely. Therefore, first responders are deployed almost around the clock.
We will likely see spike in classic satellite markets in remote and developing areas. As well as an emergence of new projects involving government and private partnership. However, there will very likely be opportunities in extending terrestrial and cellular services with additional satellite capacity. Demand for bandwidth and connectivity is inevitable and operators know that. Therefore, long terms satellite operator plans are not curtailed or rolled back due to particular events such as COVID-19.
Short term delays may be expected as COVID affects work environments and possibly slows down manufacturing, etc. However, the longer term planning remains unchanged and new services, new Very High Throughput Satellites (VHTS). Moreover, new constellations (MPower and alternate MEO constellations and the slew of LEO constellations) will continue to move forward through 2021 and beyond.
As seen previously, we do not predict a significant change in new satellite opportunities. It will simply be a change in the market mix of where the opportunities would come from. The same is likely for satellite technologies. The trend towards multi-orbit based constellations and services, integration with terrestrial networks and adopting cloud based technologies will continue. It may be reasonable to see some impacts in timelines due to changed financial arena worldwide. One thing Covid-19 has demonstrated is need for bandwidth everywhere.
On the ground, mobile operators are rushing to roll out greater 4G/5G (already covers +90% of NA thanks in part to Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) and tests of 5G over LEO experimental satellites are already showing high bandwidth with <50msec latency which is at par with terrestrial networks. This should do well for satellites future. However, we are in an eternal loop of re-building satellite value propositions in a world in which competitive technologies themselves become more pervasive and mainstream (fiber’s ever expanding footprint, SDN/MEF, Cloud to the EDGE). So, NO it does not mean there is less opportunity. Rather the same opportunities are abound but require better adaption to match consumers ever changing demand.
As we alluded to earlier, we will be launching early next year a series of high-performance remote terminals. They leverage an affordable and high performance computing and processing power. The first phase in introducing this new architecture is to break the barriers of contemporary performance envelopes. As well as leveraging the additional horsepower for value-add applications such as CBH optimization and traffic steering.
The goal is to offer a true MEC modem platform that can be easily integrated into any hybrid satellite/terrestrial infrastructure. As well as has the flexibility to go on and switch between multi-orbit platforms seamlessly. We continue to evolve our Artificial Intelligence (AI) Adaptive Waveform Selection WaveSwitch™ mechanism with wide range of triggers.
On the services front we are planning to launch a new service that offers seamless connectivity. It will be on a pay-by-the-byte basis with no upfront CAPEX. We are actively engaged with several partners for providing the capacity over several regions.
Spacebridge R&D grew considerably as we position ourselves for upcoming challenges. The approach that we take at SpaceBridge is that the technology offers tailored around the customer. We are a powerhouse of core satellite technology in several areas. However, our main strength is leveraging the best available technologies, whether it’s ours or other players, and fusing them together.
When it makes business and technological sense, we will leverage partnerships to bring together the best solution. At the end of the day a lot of it boils to time-to-market. We are more than capable to bring a complete platform solution on our own but in many cases. In fact, it makes more sense to leverage the experience, market reach. As well as manufacturing capabilities of our partners that specialize certain areas.
In fact, we want to remind our customers and potential prospects that as a SATCOM powerhouse, we hold the unique end to end integration capabilities to provide our customers with a holistic end to end ground segment solution. Similarly, we want to remind our customers and potential prospects that as a SATCOM powerhouse. We hold the unique end to end integration capabilities to provide our customers with a holistic end to end ground segment solution.
Indeed, we do believe that all of the new emerging technologies that we just faced as part of Industry 4.0 revolution, with massive increase in processing power, and industrialization, the satellite industry will become more and more a software-defined industry. Therefore, we shall address any market, any vertical, new business models emerged daily to facilitates more deployment over satellites. As well as make it more affordable to everyone, we will see more and more SDN networks with seamless connectivity, deeper use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) mechanisms that will make the all technology more east to adopt and become as an integral part of any new age connectivity needs.
As far as R&D work, much of it can be done remotely regardless. Especially due to the rise of cloud hosted development environment. There’s anecdotical evidence that working from home can enhance development productivity. Since engineer can more easily concentrate on work and have less disruptions than in an office environment. At SpaceBridge there are several development centers that are dispersed across the globe. They are already working virtually as remote offices so there was no impact on connectivity.
For our main office in Montreal, we have implemented policies to maintain both our employees well-being and our productivity and the working environment has the flexibility to provide individuals with the right mix to enable them to maintain both to the maximum. We’re proud to say that we’ve witnessed the true strength and commitment of our teams overcoming the challenges of remote work. As well as actually establishing better communications across the company through this period.
We do not foresee any change in the volume of RFPs that will put out on the market. As much as a shift towards different market mix and different regions. Saying this, many of the RFPs that we have involvement with in are more or less “business as usual” for various VHTS programs with the typical market mix varying from consumer through enterprise to high end mobility.
There are two major drivers today which resulted from the shift to complex, multi-beam, multi-orbit programs. One driver has the exponential complexity involved in managing and orchestrating satellite resources on all levels, and the other has the ability to seamlessly integrate into terrestrial networks leveraging cloud compute and telco standards such as MEF and 3GPP. AI and ML will play crucial role in enabling dynamic service orchestration of the super complex technology and service delivery elements of the new constellations; the other main factor is not strictly technological — it’s basically the ability of technology providers to adopt and adhere to telco standards, interfaces and requirements without exposing all the internal satellite-specific details and proprietary implementations.
Third, disruptive technology should be LEO (and cost effective ground equipment) in that it threatens traditional GEO VSAT customers (ISPs, Mobile Backhaul, enterprise connectivity, etc) and success of LEO can have detrimental ripple effects into the current business model of GEO bound satellite service providers.
In some ways they are, the ever-increasing demand for more ubiquitous bandwidth and services is continuing, and the major operators are still coping with the consolidation consequences that has been going on over the past five years or so. The inherent tension between converging as many services as possible on a single scalable platform while still not locking themselves into single vendor will keep pushing technology providers to expand their offering and may also produce unexpected vendor equipment collaborations. We have already seen this happening with a couple major vendor mergers that are coping with challenges of their own. As said before SpaceBridge is open to any collaborations of any type if there are synergies that can be turned into new or expanded business.
These are exciting times for the satellite industry. We are in a midst of a technological evolution that started last decade and will likely continue well into this one. The market drivers are all more or less the same. They are a mix of the traditional ecosystem and new vertically integrated unicorn players, with the environmental and economic changes that COVID-19 imposed on everyone. However, it did not significantly change the overall technology direction.
The movement toward diverse and complex satellite constellations and convergence with the big telco world will continue to drive all the peripheral technology ecosystem around it. On the user terminal side, the quest for the holy grail ESA terminal is far from over. We will likely see more developments there both in terms of technology and change in the players.
SpaceBridge is excited to be on the cusp of this movement and see ourselves as a major player in pushing the satellite industry forward.
Author David Gelerman is the President and Chief Executive Officer of SpaceBridge.
Adapted from: http://www.satmagazine.com/story.php?number=722657692