A detailed roadmap to the multi-billion dollar global military satellite communications industry
A research report by Euroconsult, the leading global consulting firm specialising in space markets, provides a comprehensive analysis of the how and why of the military’s usage of satellite communications, which saw tremendous growth over the past 15 years. Satellite capacity usage by the U.S. DoD has increased fivefold over 2000-2012 to over 10GHz, primarily driven by the two large conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The report, Military Satellite Communications, covers one of the commercial satellite operators’ key markets. Commercial satellites supply approximately 70 per cent of the capacity now used for military satellite communications worldwide.
Beyond operators, the increasing use of satellite communications has nurtured an entire ecosystem of players along the Milsatcom value chain including satellite service providers, terminal and antenna manufacturers, satellite manufacturers, and system integrators, transforming military satellite communications into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Yet the open research available on the subject still remained limited. This has incited Euroconsult to launch a long-term, global and bottom-up assessment of this complex market.
“I wanted to look under the hood of this market to see what really drives or limits demand for satellite capacity – the kilobytes, the UAV flight-hours, the days of sailing – and to inventory user equipment as precisely as open sources would allow,” said Stéphane Chenard, Senior Associate Consultant at Euroconsult and principal author of the study. “We felt that the Milsatcom sector was at a turning point as more than a decade of war winds down, it was time to take stock and map out what the future could really be like.”
Interesting findings include:
- Close to 20,000 VSAT terminals are in global military inventories. This comes on top of over 300,000 UHF and L-band radios used for tactical communications that make use of satellite links.
- About half of the approximately 10,000 military vessels longer than 11 meters, which more or less continuously sail the world’s seas, have yet to be outfitted with satellite communications.
- Bandwidth usage per deployed U.S. soldier has increased by more than 150% over the past decade, and bandwidth requirement per terminal are continuing to grow.
- Over 450 UAVs relay surveillance data over satellite links; this number could almost double in the next decade, but a vigorous debate has broken out on their future role. Hundreds of manned reconnaissance aircraft, however, are proliferating all around the world, fostering a far less visible but potentially major market for satellite equipment and services.
Unlike the drivers of other markets, war doesn’t lend itself to long-range forecasts. Also, peace does not mean no satellite usage. The study reviews past efforts to model future military communications demand, providing data and an innovative tool to help clear this uncertainty.
“It seemed to make little sense to produce a static demand forecast in a market where end users themselves may not know which plane they’ll jump from next week. We are excited to release a flexible, interactive Forecasting Tool which we believe is the first of its kind to be publicly available. This will enable our customers to access game conflict scenarios, measuring the impacts on future satellite capacity requirement,” said Richard Roithner, Director of Satcom at Euroconsult.
Taking into account all key trends, drivers and limitations of military satellite communications, Euroconsult’s Forecast Tool allows users to see the impacts of hundreds of scenarios by selecting the number, nature and possible time of conflicts for land, air and sea, simulating capacity (GHz) and throughput (Gbps) requirements by frequency band, military segment, and commercial vs. proprietary systems.