Satellite industry growth expected to continue

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The satellite industry saw a banner year in 2009, and is expecting even more success in future years.

The reason: Satellites provide services that an increasing number of people around the globe want – Direct TV, cell phones, broadband Internet services.

The discussion was part of a four-person panel about emerging innovation in the satellite industry.

New American company OB3, which stands for the “Other 3 Billion,” illustrates the opportunities and challenges of satellite program. The company plans to launch its first eight satellites by 2012, and will grow their platform to 20 by 2015.

The company is building smaller, more nimble satellites to provide broadband Internet services to emerging markets in Africa, said Brian Holz, executive vice president.

“There was a great deal of indication that the emerging markets were going to miss out on the Internet economy,” he said. “Fiber networks were too expensive, too hard to do. We’re meeting a need.”

That need has received investment from some of the world’s largest Internet industries: Google is an investor, so is Liberty Global Group, the world’s largest cable network.

OB3 will have financing nailed down in the next 60 days, he said.

Their success has been mirrored by more mature satellite companies. Most of those companies are European.

Panelist Colin Paynter, head of business growth for British-based Astrium Services, said Europe was ahead of Americans in the satellite industry.

“We have reformed the procurement process to make it easier to get government business,” he said. “We’re positioned to continue the growth over the next five years.”

There is opportunity for growth in the U.S. sector of business, said John Celli, president of Loral Space Services.

“This new budget will create new outsourcing opportunities for companies worldwide,” he said. “And it makes sense. The government will save money by using private companies, and will be able to focus more on innovation.”