The 3 biggest trends in satellite this year

Imran Malik / SES Networks

As we kick off 2019, a key area of interest for many is what trends the satellite industry will see play out this year, as well as what the key drivers of growth will be for operators and customers alike. Below, we’ve shortlisted three of the most likely developments for the coming 12 months and beyond which will be underpinned in the long run by the innovations in VSAT antenna technology which will help in making satellites mainstream

2019 will be the year of VSAT. Globally, APAC is on track to see the highest growth in new VSAT sites of any region – to more than 1 million by 2027 (7% CAGR). Governments’ increased use of satellite in bridging digital divide for social inclusion will be the foremost driver, as more connectivity programs for citizens in the economically disadvantaged areas are launched. We expect Indonesia to be the largest market, but be sure to keep an eye on developments in India, Taiwan, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. Over the long term, sites devoted to digital inclusion should reach over 350,000 by 2027, growing at 8% CAGR. Beyond social inclusion, enterprises in a number of sectors including banking (e.g. in-house networks by individual banks like Bank BRI in Indonesia), retail, hospitality, energy (as oil price recovers) and mining will also be major growth drivers (Source: NSR VBSM’17, 2018).

The next trend to watch out for is the strong growth in backhaul. There are currently around 22,000 backhaul and trunk sites in APAC, growing to 53,000 sites by 2027. This impressive figure will be greatly overshadowed by growth in satellite backhaul traffic: we expect growth of nearly 20-fold, from a total of 50 Gbps currently to over 950 Gbps by 2027 at 40% CAGR (Source: NSR Wireless backhaul report’12th edition, 2018). This growth will be supported by the new High Throughput Satellites that will be launched for the region.

Mobile networks upgrading is our third key trend: APAC accounts for over 50% of global mobile subscribers, of which half are served by 3G and 4G networks. This figure will approach 95% by 2027. The 2.7 billion mobile subscribers in Asia Pacific (around two-thirds of its population) will grow by a modest 1.8% CAGR through 2025. In absolute terms, however, this means another 500 million subscribers – an enormous figure. 4G will account for more than 50% of those connections by year-end; and China, Australia, South Korea and Japan will continue to lead 4G uptake. (Source: GSMA Mobile Economy APAC,2018). With the massive Chinese interest in 5G technologies it is likely that 5G will become a reality this year in some densely-populated cities, and will need satellites to take it to the edge thereby increasing the total number of subscribers

Mobile broadband connections have risen steadily from 61% in 2017, and may hit 93% by 2025. Additionally, we are likely to see a seven-fold increase in per capita monthly mobile data traffic, from 2.1GB per subscriber to over 15GB (Source: GSMA Mobile Economy APAC,2018).

Part of these broadband connections can only be served by satellite connectivity. With high throughput capacity delivered by satellites such as SES-12 and the satellites in the medium earth orbit O3b constellation, mobile networks in Asia-Pacific will benefit from the high-speed connectivity to achieve operational efficiency. The multi-orbit services provided by SES can also produce similar results in other enterprise segments.

Our constellation of O3b medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites and next generation ultra-high throughput constellation O3b mPOWER will continue to play an increasingly important role as it delivers ultra-resilient managed services to relay low-latency high-speed connectivity to enable the growth of 3G and 4G networks and provide a high-quality customer experience.  

2019’s top trends should leave the industry highly optimistic. Growth fundamentals for satellite will remain strong in the APAC region for the coming 12 months and developments point to sustained growth in the medium-term as well. The question to then bear in mind is how the presence of new game-changing satellite technology can alter consumer behavior.

Imran Malik is vice president of global fixed data at SES Networks

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