The ground segment is ripe for accelerated growth as non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) mega-constellations come online over the next 10 years amid a continued surge in demand for mobility, particularly in aviation and maritime.
“We see growth basically across everything,” Joakim Espeland, co-founder and chief executive of QuadSAT, a manufacturer of drone-based test systems, told Connectivity Business News.
The ground segment is expected grow at a 1.4% compound annual growth rate during the period from 2022-2031, according to Euroconsult’s Ground Segment Market Prospects, 3rd edition report released Thursday.
“Despite delays, NGSO constellation deployment is already counting for most of the growth at this level,” global space and satellite consultant firm Euroconsult said in a release, adding that a decline in video services lowers the total projected growth rate.
NGSO constellations require new flat-panel antennas to track multiple satellites, according to Euroconsult, which predicts that the more costly electronically steered antennas (ESAs) will capture over half the market by 2031.
“Some of the mega-constellations will use the old type of antenna,” Espeland said, especially customers that are willing to use multiple antennas to track multiple satellites.
Additionally, operators recognize the need for improved but cost-effective user terminals. Demand for connectivity depends on the per-user cost of those terminals as well as their capability.
“We’re working with multiple vendors very hard on it,” Jing Li, manager of corporate strategy and market intelligence at SES (EPA:SESG), said during the recent webinar, “Connectivity M&A dynamics and the outlook for consolidation,” hosted by Connectivity Business News and Milbank as part of the Connectivity Business Summit webinar series.
Maritime antenna testing for durability
In maritime, manufacturers are designing antennas for NGSO service.
“You used to have large antennas [only] for geostationary Earth orbit [GEO],” QuadSAT’s Espeland said.
The antennas track and move less frequently when tracking GEO satellites, so there’s not much wear and tear, he said, and equipment manufacturers are touting more expensive antennas as using less energy to move, which increases durability. Durability is particularly important in mobility.
In aviation and even in maritime, it is expensive to replace antennas, even though they are placed in protective housing, known as radomes, which are transparent to radio waves but protect the device from the environment.
Odense, Denmark-based QuadSAT tests maritime antennas as they are validated according to a standard such as the Satellite Operator Minimum Performance Specifications (SOMAP) guidance produced by trade association GVF and five key operators: AsiaSat, Eutelsat (EPA:ETL), Inmarsat, Intelsat and SES.
Maritime antenna performance degrades over time as water accumulates inside the radome, so it’s essential to test them, Espeland said.
“Our maritime customers want to know when it’s time to change the radome,” he said. “It’s a lot cheaper for a ship to buy a new radome than to buy a new antenna.”