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Defence to invest $10 billion in space over next decade

The Federal Government will spend around $10b across four key Defence satellite projects over the next decade, Australasia Satellite Forum 2021 has heard.


During a keynote to ASF 2021 in Sydney, Patrick Del Guidice, director of space systems operations and engagement at Defence’s Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group, said Australian industry involvement in the projects would be crucial.


CASG has a workforce of around 3600 people and is responsible for delivering new projects to Defence. It is currently managing a combined $135b of projects across five domains: Land, maritime, air, cyber and, most recently, space.

“The government will significantly increase its investment in space capabilities. This includes the planning for a network of satellites to provide an independent and sovereign communications network, it includes an enhanced space control program and continued investment in space situational awareness including sensors and tracking systems,” Del Guidice said.

“And Defence will work closely with industry and other government agencies, such as the Australian Space Agency, to advance its capabilities in space,” he added.

The $10b figure comprises $7b in spending directly in the space domain on new satellites and control infrastructure and a further $3b on Defence Enterprise capability in the next decade.

The four satellite projects that are in various stages of development are JP9102, which will introduce sovereign-controlled satellite communications in the Indo Pacific; JP9360 covering space domain awareness; JP9380 for navigation, positioning and timing systems; and DEF799 Phase 2, which may introduce launch solutions and various facilities and

ground stations.

Del Guidice said one of the biggest challenges in

delivering the four projects would be around workforce requirements.

“I think it’s important to note that while we can build-up project offices to develop these projects, we’re all competing for the same resources in a very resource challenged environment,” he said.

 INDUSTRY INVOLVEMENT NEEDED: Sharing the stage with Del Guidice was CASG director of satcom SPO, Guna Gounder, who said the four projects presented a major opportunity for the country’s satellite sector given the government’s emphasis on creating sovereign-capability.

“Delivering sovereign Defence space capability means strengthening Australia’s industry in space as well as bolstering partnerships between industry and Defence. Doing so also supports a new commercial and export opportunity, producing a Defence industry that is even more internationally competitive,” Gounder said.

He noted that current industry skills projects are intended to support a long-term technical workforce for the JP9102 sovereign-satellite project as well as future space projects.

The request for tender for the project is now live and Gounder identiϐied a number of prime contractors that are currently ϐinalising their partnering arrangements to participate. These include the Australian arms of Airbus, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

George Wong, Commsday


Industry ready to partner on Defence space projects

Industry has welcomed moves to ramp up the involvement of the Australian satellite sector in future Defence satellite projects.

However, speakers on a roundtable during Australasia Satellite Forum 2021 in Sydney said that a shortage of skilled people was challenging everyone in the growing sector. The Federal Government has indicated that the private sector will play a role –both in manufacturing and the provision of

services – in its plans to invest $10b over the next decade on Defence satellite infrastructure.

Intelsat business development advisor for Asia, David Wilson, said, the commercial sector would always be needed to fill gaps in any Defence satellite coverage as well as to partner on

the introduction of new technologies.

“One area that I think is overlooked is that military tends to be quite conservative in terms of the systems they require,” he said. “Maintaining partnerships with the commercial space operators enables Defence and government to try new technologies and try new capabilities in the space segment in a risk-free environment.”

Inmarsat president for global government, Todd McDonell, noted that Inmarsat had seven new satellites in the pipeline, all of which have military communications capability included in the build.


“We’re saying based on business cases that the demand for capacity, in particular military capacity, which is why they all have Ka on them, is very real,” McDonell said.


Meanwhile, Airbus strategic campaign lead for space, Martin Rowse, argued that COVID-19 had impacted the sector by highlighting the fragility of global supply chains.

As a result, more countries are looking to build sovereign capability, including in satel[1]lite. He said in Australia’s case, the government had gotten the mix of sovereignty and

collaboration with industry right.

“I think it’s all going in the right direction and there’s lots of positive things. I think it’s just making sure that balance between sovereign and collaboration is there, be[1]tween countries and with companies as well. I think bringing those capabilities in, bringing that IP, that transfer of skills is deϐinitely a challenge in Australia,” Rowse said.

He said in Europe, one of the strategies that Airbus had used was trying to make space a much more approachable topic to attract a more diverse range of people and skills. “I think to grow the Australian space industry in a meaningful way to meet the ambitions that have been set out by government, it needs to be wide. It will require technicians and people to maintain and operate that system and we also need a much

wider view of skill. So we need to make sure we don’t just focus on people with degrees and don’t just focus on technicians but on a whole host of different people,” Rowse said.

George Wong. Commsday


Australian small satellite sector holds promise, roundtable hears Inmarsat has backed the Australian satellite sector to grow in key areas including the manufacturing of small satellites.


Speaking on a roundtable at Australasia Satellite Forum 2021 via video from the UK, Inmarsat VP of strategic programs and chair of trade association UKspace, Nick Shave said local launch capability is a promising emerging area for Australia. He said the local satellite industry was already strong in some key sectors.

“I would argue Australia already has a strong base to start from and in some strate[1]gic areas of the satcom eco system. For example, there is already good sovereign capability in satcom management systems and a good local presence. Also ground stations, both in Defence and from commercial operators,” Shave told the event.

“In terms of satellite manufacturing if you’re looking at sovereign-capability for Australia, I would argue that smallsats and perhaps an indigenous launch capability might

be the right place to focus. This is where the true growth markets really are,” he said.

According to the Inmarsat VP, the geo-satellite manufacturing market would be much more of a challenge technically and one that is very hard to scale economically.

He noted there is only a limited market globally of perhaps 10-15 geo-satellites per year.

“Small satellite production will scale and support many more applications, such as ISR, weather monitoring, some parts of PNT and comms. So as I said there are key parts of the ecosystem that Australia already has and it should double down in those areas.”

In terms of Defence and sovereign-capability, he said that the line between government and commercial networks was blurring and commercial operators are already building out their future networks with integrated military features.

“We’re seeing software-defined payloads and all digital satellites, with beam shaping and anti-jam and other military features such as government-grade encryption. I would suggest that the ADF can continue to depend on us for satcom but the real issue is how we integrate across sovereign, milcom and commercial, how do we bring all that together,” Shave said.

Daniel Losada, VP for international sales at Hughes, agreed that being able to bring and manage different traffic types across a common infrastructure, particularly soft[1]ware-deϐined networks, is the future.


“Space assets are not only things that are in space, it’s also everything that exists on the ground that supports the networks. Being able to have a software-deϐined network, not just software-deϐined satellites, and processing things in the cloud, will minimise on infrastructure,” he said. George Wong, Commsday


Australia is not investing enough in space:

Euroconsult Australia is still not investing as much as it should in space on a GDP basis, according to Euroconsult Australia representative director Tim Parsons.

Speaking at Australasia Satellite Forum 2021 in Sydney, Parsons said Australia is investing just 0.02% of its GDP in the space sector. This amounts to a GDP per capita of just US$11.50 ($15.24).

Parsons told the conference: “We are not spending a whole lot on a GDP basis – way, way, way below the proportion of our general economic activity. [Benchmarking] Australia against lots of our peers, we’re still quite low down in per capita spend on space.

“When you think of the billions of dollars that just earth observation – let alone communications and positioning – provide to Australia, we’re probably not investing as much as we need to maintain resilience.”

But Parsons said international markets have taken note of the consistent increases in government expenditure in the sector over the past few years, across both the civil and defence sectors. “This is the picture that our analysts in places like Paris and Montreal have created. And I have to say their

opinion is positive,” he said.

“Their opinion is, ‘Look, you’re taking some thoughtful, measured steps, we can see that you’re going to be investing quite a lot, kicking up around $400m per annum over the next 10 years’.”

Australia’s renewed interest in the space econois coming at the right time, with the global space industry currently undergoing a period of significant disruption triggered by the falling costs of developing and launching satellites and the emergence of mega-constellations including SpaceX’s Starlink, Parsons said.

While global space and satellite manufacturing revenues have been relatively flat over the past five years, “that belies the fact that we’re seeing a massive spike in volume, while the costs of production and manufacture are dropping dramatically.”

“We’re also seeing a dramatic increase in the amount of launches, and yet, we’re also seeing the cost decline,” he added.

Operations revenue has likewise been relatively flat as massive capacity increases keep prices in check. But service revenue has enjoyed a CAGR of 6.4% over the past five years as more players enter the emerging market segment, Parsons said.

“The satellites themselves are also becoming more capable; we’re talking about software deϐined satellites, in other words, more ϐlexible radios, more flexible types of antennas, that can be switched to different services quickly [making them] higher value spacecraft,” he said.

The big themes driving the disruption of the industry are small satellites and the rise of the mega-constellation, Parsons said. Euroconsult estimates that around 13,910 small satellites will be launched worldwide over the next 10 years compared to just 296 between 2011-2020. Nearly half (6,696) will be part of just two megaconstellations Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper constellation.


Parsons said this is expected to trigger a huge spike in the value of satellite manu[1]facturing, reversing the trend of ϐlat growth. “We expect almost a tripling of the value of the segment, thanks to constellations, and also thanks to an increase in average size of the small satellites,” he said.

The trends are also expected to spur commensurate growth in the launch segment as launch providers ramp up activity to meet demand, Parsons added.

One consequence of the launch of the new mega-constellations will be an increase in the proportion of communications smallsats, Parsons said. Euroconsult estimates that between 2011-2020, 39% of smallsats launched were telecom smallsats.


From 2021-2030, this proportion is projected to rise to 60%, with StarLink accounting for 32% of total smallsats launched, Kuiper accounting for 16% and other telecom

smallsats accounting for 12%.

Dylan Bushell-Embling, Commsday


Satellites gaining traction in corporate networking

The emergence of new technologies such as low earth orbit networks and software defined networking is increasingly opening up opportunities for satellite solutions within enterprise networks, opined the members of a panel at Australasia Satellite Forum 2021.


According to the panel, made up of senior executives from Optus, NBN, Telstra, Speedcast, Av-Comm and iDirect, there continues to be some obstacles against corporate adoption of satellite-based platforms but the market is evolving quickly while new capabilities are adding momentum.


Speedcast APAC sales VP Hamish Lee said that there has been a reluctance to use satellite because of the expense and latency. But added: “I think with MEOs coming on, certainly it’s fibre in the sky, it’s fantastic.”


“All of a sudden, satellite brings a whole new way of thinking, cloud, edge computing can work well under MEOs,” Lee said. “Obviously we are going to see that with LEOs coming onboard that bias absolutely will shift. I think the ubiquity of satellite… everywhere, 150Mbps, I think it’s going to shift.”

NBN Fixed wireless and satellite EGM Jason Ashton said the other key technical development for the sector was software-deϐined networking.


“With the advent of technologies like software-deϐined networks, we are able to integrate satellite services into the mainstream corporate wide area network environment,” Ashton said.

“We are also seeing an increasing proliferation of satellite services for things like Internet of Things, disaster recovery, a host of real work applications, including emergency services where satellites really make a difference.”

One challenge and opportunity that the panel identified was the service agility of existing and emerging satellite platforms. While legacy satellite sales models are restrictive and rigid, the panellists highlighted the emergence of flexible subscription

models from space that will give them a leg up against traditional fixed networks.

Optus satellite sales director Nick Miller said: “Flexibility, I think, is quite critical. The capabilities coming onboard provides a different view of what can be achieved in the past".


Miller noted the software-defined capabilities of the upcoming Optus 11 satellite: “These abilities can turn on capacity at a certain point in time and for a certain amount of time. For example, in a construction camp for a mine, they only need the capacity for six months before they put in the wireless link or fibre cable.”

At the same time, Av-Comm MD Michael Cratt said customer expectations are also becoming more sophisticated with the continual evolution of satellites. “Customers are planning for multi-orbit constellations and balancing their networks between high la[1]tency and low latency and using the right technology mix to get there,” Cratt said.

As such, making satellite services easily consumable for customers is a key objective, added Telstra Enterprise satellite sales head Sandeep Kumar.

“If we can give them capability to actually deploy satellite easily… we are doing our part to make things simple, standard installs, working with the existing network, whether it’s an IP VPN network or SD-WAN,” Kumar said.

“If they just feel it is part of their network, it’s not a separate technology that may not work with it, that’s the key to success I think.”

Seamless integration of satellite services into the corporate WAN is also the focus at hardware vendor ST Engineering iDirect. “What we are seeing is… a lot of people want to do a lot of things but instead of having multiple equipment, they want a multi-service platform,” said iDirect regional sales director Pacific Richard Walshe. “What we are doing is make it as much as we can fit the application, but also make it invisible. The way we do that is by following all the standards, the telco standards, 3GPP, 5GPPP, ETSI... so the hub is not just a standalone box in a teleport, it’s part of the full telco ecosystem.” Tony Chan, Commsday


Emerging LEOs will face major challenges in the Pacific market

While the arrival of low Earth orbit constellations promises to bring about a new competitive connectivity option for Pacific Island nations, it will take major localisation ef[1]forts to make the services work, said a panel of industry experts at the Australasia Satellite Forum 2021.


Speakers from Delta Systems International, Satsol and WanTok Vanuatu acknowledged the capabilities of upcoming constellations like Starlink and OneWeb, but agreed that their current proposed business model from the constellation operators won’t work in the region.

"All these LEO solutions are sort of aimed at the first world… where everyone’s got a credit card, debit card, and it arrives in the mail, and you put it in your house, it sort of finds where the satellites are in the world and every month, it gets taken out of your credit cards or whatever.”

“But in a place like this, no one’s got a bank account, no one’s got a credit card, so the single user solution doesn’t work in the Pacific,” said SATSOL CEO Anthony Ferris from the Solomon Islands. “So I believe you have to develop single village solutions, so a middleman comes in, puts in a single solution for the village and they connect to that particular solution… and for billing, you use an e-wallet.”

Delta Systems International MD Andrew Johnson agreed. “You’ve got to find a different business model if you are going to use the technology in places like the Pacific, which isn’t to say it can’t be applied, you just have to find a different way to do it,” Johnson said. “What is really comes down is probably the LEOsat ground terminal is more like a node, a concentrator, whether that is to provide a wi-fi solution… or an IPTV solution… or GSM.. or just a messaging platform.. there’s a number of ways of doing it.”

That said, Johnson warned that the global coverage and ease of access from the LEOs now present a regulatory quagmire for the region. “We’ve got to be careful, in the same way that Amazon wiped out bookshops and smaller retailers by changing the business model, that you don’t end up with smaller telcos getting impacted by the fact that global operators, global telcos, can offer service,” he said. “If all those LEOsats communicate straight to the cloud, do you actually then need the normal core functions done on a national basis… It’s going to be a massive regulatory issue for the whole Pacific as suddenly telco become fully global.”

Despite the growing attention being bestowed on LEOs, the satellite sector itself has so far failed to win the mindset of Pacific nations governments and the aid agencies that are supporting infrastructure builds in the region, the speakers added.

“A lot of money has been put into the Pacific by the different aid agencies, by government entities, but it hasn’t really ϐiltered down the average person… If you look at cables being put in, but does that mean availability becomes greater? Is bandwidth cheaper?” Johnson added. “I believe that… more money was spent by the aid agencies on satellites than submarine cables would have made more difference to the average person’s life.”

For Wantok Vanuatu CEO Justin Kaitapu, projects that go beyond the coverage of submarine cables are the perfect candidates for aid funding for satellite. “I think there is a need to assist, from organisations like the APB, the World Bank, in regards to satellite services… The Pacific is doing a lot of work on connecting together main islands, but it is still not there yet.” Tony Chan, Commsday


LEOsats could be ‘game changer’ for Australia: minister Coulton

Regional communications minister Mark Coulton has said the federal government is closely watching the influx of LEOsat constellations that have the ability to deliver broadband services over massive geographic footprints.

Coulton told Australasia Satellite Forum 2021 that LEOsats: “could really be a game changer for many regional Australians,

potentially enabling applications such as video conferencing that are data intensive and require near real-time responsiveness.”

“There are many low Earth satellite constellations being proposed and are developed by a range of players. I'm sure

we will be watching with great interest to see how these offerings evolve and the role they can play in meeting the telecommunications needs of Australians.”

Coulton said satellite communications have the potential to substantially improve the lives of people living in regional and remote areas.

“Given Australia's large land mass and sparse population density, satellite plays a role in delivering wide-ranging access to services such as television and broadband, and will play a key role into the future as well,” he said.


"Perhaps [this will mean] delivering voice services - depending on the outcome of our voice services trials - perhaps helping to support new broadband applications and IoT devices."

He urged the industry to participate in the public consultation process for the review, which will commence soon.

As previously reported in CommsDay, Coulton earlier this month appointed former National Party frontbencher Luke Hartsuyker to chair the review, which is required to be conducted every three years.

The review is expected to report its findings and recommendations by the end of the year.

Coulton also highlighted satellites' potential as providers of connectivity for IoT networks, which could benefit the agricultural and mining sectors and other regional and remote businesses.

NBN Co is already developing an enhanced IoT product as part of the expansion of its business satellite service. Through this expansion, NBN Co plans to offer coverage Australia-wide from 29 July.

“The [IoT] service will deliver speeds of up to two megabits per second upload and download, primarily targets remote and regional applications in sectors such as agriculture, mining and resources, forestry, utilities and transport,” Coulton said.

Coulton also revealed that NBN Co's Sky Muster Plus service - which offers unmetered access to all internet content apart from video streaming and VPN traffic - is in practice providing unmetered data for 70% of all data use among the subscribers to the service. Dylan Bushell-Embling, Commsday


Australia could help drive next wave of satellite innovations

The next wave of innovations in satellite manufacturing and servicing promises to transform the capabilities of spacecraft and ground stations, and technologies developed in Australia could be at the forefront.


Thales ANZ, Maxar and SpaceLogistics used a panel discussion at the Australasia Satellite Forum 2021 to share details of some of their cutting-edge commercial projects.

Thales ANZ director of space Matt Dawson spoke about the company's collaboration with SmartSat CRC to develop technologies for high-speed laser communications between ground terminals and LEOsats.


The project, being developed in conjunction with the Universities of Western Australia and South Australia Goonhilly and the Defence Science and Technology Group, will focus on communications with smaller LEOsats with low power capabilities.


“The project is really looking at some of the challenges of coherent free-space communication and the impacts of turbulence as these beams pass through our atmosphere,” Dawson said.

If these challenges can be solved, the benefits in terms of the communications capabilities of the satellites will be signiϐicant, he said. “The bandwidth that you can get through free space optics is fibre optic-like - literally gigabits per second.”

Dawson said the company is driving the development of free-space optical communications in Australia with an eye to potentially manufacturing the terminals here to contribute to building the local space industry.

Thales is utilising free space optics in the development of the Lightspeed LEOsat constellation it is building for Canada's Telesat. This will use an optical inter-satellite link technology to allow satellites to communicate with each other in space using laser beams.

We'll be making use of the fact that light travels faster in free space than it does through glass fibre optic cables. And so operators are able to get data from one side of the planet to the other quicker than through terrestrial means,” Dawson said.

Thales' Innovation Cluster division is also looking at LEO constellations for providing 5G directly to handsets, he added.


In Australia, Thales ANZ is also working with Western Sydney University on a new sensor technology that promises to vastly outperform the sensing technologies traditionally used in satellites.

“The inspiration for this sensor is the human eye, which notices changes occurring in the peripheral field of view more than static events. So this new sensor processes only changes in intensity at a pixel level,” he said.

“In this way, the sensor is able to reduce significantly its bandwidth, in terms of the data that needs to be transmitted down to ground, and also it has a huge dynamic range.”

SOLAR ELECTRIC PROPULSION: Meanwhile Maxar SVP of space capture Robert Curbeam said new propulsion methods are also transforming the capabilities of the space sector. One innovation Maxar is making heavy use of is solar electric propulsion.

“We are the leading company as far as use of solar electric propulsion and the reason we ϐind it so favourable is because we use about 80% less propellant in our missions when we use solar propulsion versus chemical propulsion,” he said.

Maxar's solar propulsion system, built into its 1300-class satellite bus, will be use in NASA's Psyche mission to a metal asteroid orbiting the Sun between Mars and Jupiter.

“The propulsion system... will be the first solar electric propulsion system to operate in deep space, and is a 4.5kW solar electric propulsion system,” Curbeam said. By contrast, the system the company is providing for the NASA Gateway lunar orbiting space station will produce a total of over 60kW of power, making it one of the most powerful satellites ever built, he said.

The 1300 satellite bus will also be employed in a mission to assemble a Ka band antenna in space as part of the company's robotic servicing and assembly missions.

Space-based assembly has the potential to drive new capabilities across the sector.

Panelist Joseph Anderson, VP of operations and business development for Northrop Grumman subsidiary SpaceLogistics, said his company aims to be able to offer in-orbit assembly and manufacturing by as early as 2030.

“With in-orbit manufacturing, we really overcome the tyranny of the launch vehicle. The spacecraft we build today, [around] 80% to 90% of the mass of those spacecraft are there to support the violent launch environment. And it's constrained by the size of the fairing for the launch vehicle,” he said.

“If we can remove those constraints by doing, actually, in-orbit manufacturing of the structure in assembly in orbit, we can make a tremendous difference in both the capabilities and the economics of space.”


SpaceLogistics already provides in-orbit life extension services for satellites approaching their end of life. The company's mission extension vehicles can be docked with satellites - even those that were never designed to be docked with another

vehicle - to provide manoeuvring and pointing control for up to 15 years.

Anderson said the company's mission extension vehicle is compatible with 80% of GEO satellites in orbit.


From 2024, SpaceLogistics plans to launch robotic satellite servicing capabilities, with a mission robotic vehicle to provide in-orbit, augmentation, inspection and repair capabilities. Anderson said the company anticipates that by 2025, every new satellite to be launched into orbit will be designed to support in-orbit servicing, extending the range of capabilities the company will be able to offer.

"We're looking at brand new capabilities for satellites that are prepared for servicing, with interfaces like refuelling interfaces, or a power and data port where you can replace failed components or add new capabilities as the markets evolve,” he said. Dylan Bushell-Embling, Commsday


ASA head flags imminent release of earth observation roadmap

The Australian Space Agency will release its next priority area roadmap - exploring the opportunities for industry in the earth observation domain - very soon, according to ASA head Enrico Palermo.

During a keynote presentation at Australasia Satellite Forum 2021, Palermo said the roadmap will lay out the potential for missions led by the agency with the goal of improving the lives of all Australians.

“The roadmap is built upon decades and decades of Australia being a very strong international player in the EO data utilisation area, but also the calibration validation research area,” he said. “We think there is an opportunity to meet our unique needs as a country, but also make very valuable contributions to global observing systems.”


Australia has unique needs around bushϐire monitoring, observing eucalyptus forests prone to bushϐires and monitoring Australian waterways to maintain water quality, Palermo noted. "These are just some key examples you'll see us focused on in the roadmap," he said.

The ASA plans to publish a roadmap for each of the government's seven civil space priority areas: earth observation; positioning, navigation and timing; space situational awareness; leapfrog R&D; robotics and automation; access to space; and communications technologies and services.

The first of these, the communications technologies roadmap, was released in December.

Palermo said that roadmap identiϐied four focus areas where Australia has potential competitive strengths: LEOsat services; optical ground stations; satellite communication network management tools; and quantum enabled communications.

The agency has also developed the space manufacturing roadmap in support of the Federal Government's $1.5b modern manufacturing strategy, Palermo said.

“This roadmap really sets a plan for industry and government to work together towards a common vision for manufacturing in the space sector,” the ASA head said.

“The vision is in support of a globally recognised Australian space sector, with the capability, capacity and expertise for sovereign delivery; that is, to locally design, develop, manufacture and deploy specialised products and services in space, and eventually export them overseas.”  Dylan Bushell-Embling, Commsday


Space and satellite to be a $1tr industry by 2029

The global space and satellite market is set to balloon into a trillion-dollar industry by 2029, according to NSR research director Jose Del Rosario.


Speaking at Australasia Satellite Forum 2021 on Tuesday, Del Rosario said satellite communications are expected to make up around 45% of the market by this time.

The largest addressable markets include broadband access, cellular backhaul and aeronautical and land mobile communications, he said.

“For broadband access, there's a big addressable market. We're looking at 435.5m potential active subscribers,” Del Rosario said, more than half of which are in Asia Pacific.

The satellite market is currently serving only around 0.66% of global communications needs, and there are significant challenges to overcome before that can be increased. “In our viewpoint, it's service availability, service affordability, value chain, and distribution challenges. But we think that these can be - and are - being addressed,” Del Rosario said.

HTS GROWTH: The strong growth is expected to be driven by the deployment of the new breed of high throughput satellites, which are set to replace fixed satellite services as the dominant platform for satellite broadband delivery, NSR predicts. One reason for this is the dramatically lower cost per Gbps to launch HTS capacity, Del Rosario said.

“In 1987 it cost between $100 to close to $1000 per Gbps to launch that capacity. By 2017 that had come down because of HTS, MEO, and eventually LEO. And going forward, as technology really transforms on the HTS side, we're approaching less than a dollar per Gbps to get into space,” he said.

Likewise, NSR research found that in 2019, around 500Gbps of cellular backhaul traffic was supported by satellite. While this is massive from an industry perspective, it's a drop in the bucket compared to the latent demand that needs to be addressed even today. Based on this demand, NSR estimates a total opportunity of 22Tbps.

In 2019, the majority of satellite cellular backhaul traffic was 2G, with 3G and 4G only starting to come into the fold, Del Rosario said.


“Going forward by 2029, we believe that the biggest G to support satellite traffic is going to be 4G. We’d love to have 5G, but the way we're seeing things today, developments and the evolution in terms of the ecosystem, partnering with the right institutions, opening up 5G frequencies for country basis, won't be as fast as we had hoped,” he said.

“But we believe that 5G will have a role. It's just that we believe [that with] the 4G initiatives today, the metal is being cut and deployments are being made, and scaling up those 4G networks would lead to the domination of 4G as the preferred platform by 2029.”


In terms of capacity, NSR estimated a total capacity in 2019 of 174.2Gbps for data traffic.


“That's healthy, again from an industry standpoint. But when we look at terrestrial capabilities estimated in reports by Ericsson, GSMA, Cisco, 174.2Gbps is a trickle. It's a drop in the bucket. The good news once again, is that within the next 10 years, we believe that data traffic on satellite will increase by 34 times.”


Meanwhile NSR is also predicting growth in both the in-ϐlight and land mobile sectors. The company expects the number of aircraft served by satellite connectivity to grow from 50,000 units in 2020 to more than 100,000 by 2029, which may be a conservative estimate if business jets are taken into account, Del Rosario said. Dylan Bushell-Embling, Commsday


Satellite operators see APAC opportunities in government, telecoms

Satellite operators see opportunities in APAC governments' digital transformation programs, the growing penetration of cloud services and efforts to deliver universal comms services to remote communities -- with COVID-19 giving added impetus to those efforts.

“We're going to see some real growth, some real hot opportunities out of defence and also the carrier and telecoms industry,” SES Networks director John Turnbull told Australasia Satellite Forum 2021.

Defence and government are engaged in “a fairly significant digital transformation,” particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, with cloud as a key enabler.

He added: “These type of digital transformations are going to require a huge amount of bandwidth and by its nature it can't all be terrestrial… so that will call on capacity from your GEO providers, your MEO providers and your LEO providers.”


COVID-19 had also led to a lot of growth in the telco sector, he added.

Internet usage doubled over the last year, and the use of digital applications such as Zoom has tripled, he said.

Turnbull added: “We know that the governments are going to spend around US$2 trillion over the next decade on universal service funds... and 4G deployments to rural and remote communities to ensure that they can track and keep control of what it is they're doing in their own nations.”

Intelsat's Robert Suber noted a "substantial amount of momentum" from governments in the region seeking to provide connectivity in rural or unconnected areas.

The Intelsat managing sales director, Oceania, told the conference: “What we're seeing is that the governments are prepared to invest to ensure that there is some kind of economic inclusion of those people which have suffered during the COVID period, but had also been forgotten for the longest period of time.”


That's reflected in projects like community wi-fi and cellular backhaul initiatives: “all of those items are happening not only in South-East Asia or the Philippines, but al[1]so across the Paciϐic, and even in New Zealand they're wrestling with the fact of how do you deal with the last 2% which remain unconnected?”

Cloud is another area of growth for Intelsat, and Suber noted that the company is "teaming up" with hyperscalers like Amazon and Microsoft.

Managed services is also growing, he said, as well as "comms on the move": "When it comes to connecting trucks, buses, trains, heavy machinery, we see all of that as great opportunities for our space in the near future."

OneWeb regional director enterprise sales APAC David Thorn agreed with other panelists and added: “I think in every facet of our working lives and our social lives, there's more and more of a greater dependence on, having access to high speed and reliable internet services. So that's anything from an EFTPOS terminal in a remote location, right the way through to remote medicine.”

The defence, emergency services, aviation and maritime markets are “growing exponentially,” he said, with the combination of LEO, GEO and terrestrial based services to provide good connectivity “is going to be fantastic for the economy, not just here in Australia, but throughout the region.”

Within Australia, Optus sees opportunities in government and broadcast, the telco's head of satellite and space systems, Nick Leake, told the event.

Leake said that Optus 11 will give the telco a "broader polygon" covering Antarctica and the Pacific islands: “The services that we provide out of McMurdo Sound are expanding; we will be able to put a number of spot beams over that region that will cover up to six of the Antarctic bases that are desperate for connectivity.”

The move to software-defined capabilities is expanding opportunities for operators he said, citing the example of regional broadcasters: “You can shape a beam around

their broadcast area, which means that they can deliver specific content to their viewers. And more importantly, they can deliver local advertising to those viewers instead

of watching something in Alice Springs and there's an advert for something in Broome.”

The combination of changing technologies within the spacecraft and the virtualization of the ground segment means that: “if you're looking at alternative media services, if you're looking at VAST, if you're looking at things like hosted payloads for bushfire detection, for the SBAS that Geoscience is looking at to basically improve the accuracy of our GPS locations if you're looking at other types of optical payloads, Optus have got spacecraft that are being launched and that can actually provide those services to the bush.”

This "growth in capability" is driven "fundamentally by government", to the extent that Optus believes there is an argument for a "gov sat" alongside NBN's current delivery of internet services and Optus' delivery of video services. OVERSUPPLY?: The panelists uniformly rejected that there was a risk of oversupply of satellite capacity, in the long-term at least. Leake said: “All industries are bandwidth hungry... it's like submarine cable systems, you upgrade a system or you drop a new cable in, and then you've always got more supply than demand.” However, given the capacity needs of internet applications, video and government, “demand will catch up with that.” Similarly, OneWeb's Thorn said that any over supply would be in the short, short term. Rohan Pearce, Commsday


Optus satellite head warns of skills shortage

A skills shortage in Australia is a pressing issue for the local space sector, according to Optus’ Nick Leake.


“We simply don't have the education and training programs to sustain our businesses going forward as an Australian based company,” the Optus head of satellite and space systems said.

“The Space Agency has got a mandate for 20,000 new jobs in the industry, but we haven't got the training and pathway programs in place,” he told Australasia Satellite Forum 2021. Those pathways need to start early in Year 10 and 11, he said.


Optus has an active graduate program, Leake noted. However, he added: “We take one or two grads each year and we develop them into orbital dynamics or RF design capability. But it's the next level down. It's those technicians, it's those network engineers.”


“We've got this massive gap in education in our industry,” Leake said. “Everybody is suffering at the moment trying to bring on people, to be able to basically run our networks, design our networks, build our networks. And that starts at a very early age, and we just haven't got it right.”

Although the SmartSat CRC has its Education and Training College that aims to graduate 73 PhD students, Leake argued: “That's dealing with the graduates. We need the people with the nuts and bolts, the spanners, the screwdrivers that can fix networks, can design networks and can build networks.”

There's a “massive gap in Australian industry, for qualiϐied satellite engineering, from flying spacecraft, to designing spacecraft, to designing networks to building networks, and then operationally managing networks.”

Leake it was a "big task" for government to start driving that kind of education and encouraging more young Australians into the industry, he said.

Leake said: “They will be the engineers of the future. They will be the managers in the future. And we need to start thinking about that type of pathway in our education area for this industry.” Rohan Pearce, Commsday