Global Satellite Communication New findings


The global satellite communications industry is now entering a new phase of expansion. While growth in fixed satellite services has slowed, broadcast and mobile communications will experience explosive growth over the next ten years. Services and revenues could triple or even quadruple by early in the next century. It is thus a matter of great concern that, on the eve of this renaissance in satellite communications, the U.S. technology base in this field is now at risk. Without changes in U.S. R&D policy, the United States will soon fall behind Japan and be locked in a contest with Europe for second place.

Several countries have introduced or are introducing advanced operational satellite communications systems ahead of the United States, particularly broadcast and mobile systems, and have taken the lead in critical areas of technology. The effects are not readily apparent in today's orders for communications satellites, in which the United States still leads. However, the United States lags in many areas of advanced research and technology development from which commercial applications will derive in the next five to fifteen years.

In the course of its work, the panel encountered a rapidly shifting environment with respect to satellite communications around the world: the market is expanding and diversifying; many new applications are under development; and many different types of technologies and system architectures are emerging, including small satellites in low earth orbit, multi-purpose orbiting megastructures, and highly specialized satellite designs. Concepts in satellite manufacturing based on mass production, akin to making VCRs, exist alongside traditional methods for building one-of-a-kind products. European and Japanese satellite communications technologies are emerging rapidly.

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