A report from Quilty Analytics makes difficult reading for those expecting low-cost (sub-$500) antennas which are vital if the likes of Elon Musk are to make in-roads into the mass consumer market.
Quilty’s conclusions are blunt: “The original vision of a low-cost, high-performing electronically steered antenna for commercial markets and consumer applications has not yet been achieved, nor is there persuasive evidence that flat panel antenna (FPA) developers are on the verge of solving the many commercial and technical challenges to attain this objective in the next two years. On the other hand, near-term opportunities do exist for FPA solutions for key premium markets, including in-flight connectivity and defense customers.”
Florida-based Quilty goes further and say that FPAs “at price points that will transform the market’s acceptance of consumer LEO Broadband services remains elusive and, though advances are being made, a breakthrough cannot be assured. If one occurs (at all), it is likely still three-to-five years away from a sub-$500 price point, requiring some further advances and importantly, much higher manufacturing volumes, perhaps initially seeded by operator subsidization of customer premise equipment.”
The study, titled Flat Panel Antennas: The Next Big Thing or an Elusive Unicorn?, admits that the manufacturing sector’s inability to achieve a price breakthrough is disappointing.
“But it is unlikely to have significant adverse impact on satcom installs for GEO, or within key premium LEO/MEO customer segments. On the other hand, it remains an issue that will likely cloud the prospects of emerging consumer LEO broadband efforts for the next three years and possibly longer. The FPA report assesses these factors and potential catalysts that could change the current outlook,” notes the study.