From the West Coast, you can see the future
By Simen K. Frostad
Sometimes, you look back over a year, and you recall a number of things that seemed important or influential for your business and that would shape the coming years. And sometimes, you look back and realise that there was just one event that really made a difference to how you see your future.
For several years now, a very good friend of mine had been trying to induce me to attend the Satellite Innovation Symposium. For one reason or another, I’d always declined, though this year he was particularly persuasive – and so it was that I found myself in Mountain View, California, in the first half of October.
Before I continue, though, I should point out that satellite operators have, historically, been great customers of Bridge Technologies. Our monitoring and analysis solutions are widely deployed within their networks, in headends. But, over time, as headends have become both larger and fewer, we’ve seen a shift in the amount of business from those operators. Inevitably, we at Bridge lost track to a certain extent of what was going on in the satellite industry.
So to say that the Satellite Innovation Symposium was a revelation would perhaps be something of an understatement. It was pretty much an epiphany. There I was, among the good and great of the satellite industry, the majority of those present were C-level executives, from all parts of the satellite ecosystem – and the excitement and enthusiasm in the room were almost tangible.
One of the things that particularly caught my attention was the sheer size of the industry. It’s worth around $300 billion a year. By any standards, that’s huge. No less interesting was that, of that $300 billion, only around $6 billion/year is spent on launches – which, to the outsider, is the most visible part of what the industry does. Approximately $130 billion is spent each year on the ground infrastructure that supports what’s up in the air.
The other thing that particularly caught my attention is that this is an industry that is clearly in investment mode. Why the investment? Because, this is an industry that sees itself as fulfilling a new role in the future.
I was reminded that, at IBC 2017, I’d been somewhat aware of these stirrings in the industry. At IBC 2018, those stirrings had become even more visible, with at least one major operator talking about his company’s need to reinvent itself – not thinking of itself as a satellite company, but as a communications company. Another talked about its ambition to become the Swiss Army knife of transmission.
I also heard one of those acronyms that the industry loves: ATAWADAC – anytime, anywhere, any device, any content. That’s defining the direction in which we’re heading. Not only will OTT consumption overtake traditional content consumption within a couple of years but, because content is now more readily available, we’re consuming more of it – and that’s especially true for live events, with their unique demands in terms of peak loading, minimal latency and so on.
And, judging by the mood at the symposium, that’s music to the ears of satellite operators. It seemed clear to me that being instrumental – the preferred choice, in fact – in delivering media is where the industry sees itself. The future will leverage the innate strength and competitive advantage that satellite networks enjoy in that they can truly offer wide area distribution in a way that traditional telcos can’t. I also sensed a real appetite among those I spoke to for a future where satellite is only part of a solution that will get content and data to where it’s needed – but a vital part – using whatever network technology is appropriate. I found the concept of a “space-based network distribution company” springs to mind.
And, if you add content distribution to the explosion in demand for network capacity when the IoT moves from its current nascent stage to becoming part of the fabric of everyday life – it’s hard to be anything other than hugely positive about the satellite industry’s future.
The reason that the Satellite Innovation Symposium left me as enthused and excited as the delegates obviously were is that, if I’m reading the runes correctly, the satellite industry has become extremely significant to us at Bridge Technologies – again. I’m sensing there will be a huge expansion in their networks – and with that expansion will come the need for the in-depth monitoring and analysis capabilities on which we’ve built our business.
Our Satellite and IP probes are being widely deployed by customers around the world, with many broadcasters enthused by their unique capabilities that help them ensure optimum deliver of content from source to destination. We´ve even had opportunities to specifically target other niche areas such as the offshore Maritime segment with VSAT carrier quality monitoring.
So: not so much a look backward at 2018 but more a look forward to 2019 – a year in which we’re going to be fascinated to watch the satellite industry position itself as the network provider of choice for pretty much any organisation looking to move any kind of data. And: we at Bridge look forward to becoming their monitoring and analytics provider of choice.
With hindsight, I think that being at the Satellite Innovation Symposium was one of the most significant events of 2018 for me. It was a real eye-opener so far as the future of our industry is concerned. I’m so glad I finally accepted that invitation.