Future of Satellites, Broadband, Communications and Smartphones

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Client event for SSL (Loral) in San Francisco on satellite industry trends in manufacturing, servicing, launch, space communications, mobile phone networks, broadband, mobile internet, video on demand, video streaming and the future of the internet.

Global online bandwidth forecasts and impact of high definition TV on satellite bandwidth demand.  Commercialisation of space.  New satellite technologies and capacity forecasts.  Future of geosynchronous satellites and low orbit satellites - in meeting demand in mature markets and emerging economies / Africa, Asia and Latin America.

EXPECT: 15-20% revenue growth a year on satellites and associated services.  Half of all 110 launches a year will be commercial - our world is hungry for more data.  Satellite TV - by 2006 we were seeing around 88 million watching, by 2010 it was 100 million.  Satellite radio also booming alone with mobile date connections. Satellite industry being led by US, Europe, China.

A recent accident in the Middle East with cut cable led to 70% loss of data transmission in countries like Egypt.  In 2007 alone there were over 50 repairs of transatlantic cables and all cables are vulnerable to accident or sabotage.  Satellites are more secure. However, satellites are also vulnerable, 36,000 miles above the earth's surface - geosynchronous orbit.  If satellites are too high or low in orbit, and if fuel on board is too low to reposition, troubles follow.  In addition there are 24,000 pieces of junk in similar orbits - so satellites remain vulnerable from this too.

Over 1 billion children are alive today - most of whom will be linked digitally in the next few years.  Over 450 million adults in Africa and 300 million in China will move to cities where they will expect digital to serve them.

Expect major innovations in new forms of local and regional wireless networks to cover low population areas including next-generation mobile eg 4G.

One of the challenges of satellite communications is latency - delays caused by distance and switching.  While this hardly matters with web surfing or broadcasts, it does become significant where fast interaction is required between users who are only - say - 3,000 miles away as a plane flies, but over 70,000 miles distant if you bounce a signal via satellite. It really matters - say - for surgeons controlling robot operating instruments during a brain operation in another nation, and is irritating in videoconferences.

Military bandwidth has been growing at 25-30% in times of conflict, but global business users are using bandwidth with growth rates of 30-40% a year.

But all bandwidth use will be dominated by YouTube - 10-20% of all bandwidth in some nations.  BBC Iplayer alone consumers 40% of all UK bandwidth.

A single 2 hour video watched online is equivalent to downloading over 200,000 emails and attachments.

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