One of the bright spots for the entire defense industry is up in the sky

The latest report on the state of the satellite industry finds global demand for services, especially mobile services for commercial and government users, increasing.

The global satellite industry continued to grow steadily in 2011, supporting the ever-growing need for civilian and government telecommunications. A recently released report on the state of the industry found growth in almost every sector, from services and manufacturing to launch and ground equipment. The one downside reported was the continuing decrease in satellite industry jobs in the United States.

In 2011, the global satellite industry earned $177.3 billion in revenues, which reflected a growth of 5 percent, matching 2010’s growth, according to the Satellite Industry Association’s 2012 State of the Satellite Industry Report. The document noted that overall global telecommunications spending grew by 4.9 percent in 2011, compared to 5.5 percent in 2010.

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Of that percentage, U.S. telecommunications spending grew at a slightly faster rate of 5.8 percent in 2011, compared to the 2.4 percent growth in 2010, which followed a steep decline of 8.2 percent in 2009. Total global space industry spending rose by 4.8 percent, which was slower than the 7.7 percent growth seen in 2010, the report said.

The report also indicated that global launch and infrastructure costs were shrinking as space industry operators have become more efficient. “They’re making more out of the satellites that they’ve built and launched,” Patricia Cooper, president of the SIA, told Defense Systems.

In the last decade, consumer satellite use, in the form of satellite television dishes and satellite radio systems, has increased at a faster rate than government and corporate users, which tends to add equipment incrementally to their networks, Cooper said.

The SIA report also identified three growing trends in satellite use in 2011: mobility, higher spectrum ranges and compression technology. For mobility, more data is being pushed to and from smaller devices and platforms, such as manpack radios, unmanned aerial systems and ships, Cooper said. Many of these systems, especially UASes, are pushing higher data streams to mobile satellite terminals. She noted that deployed military forces have had a major impact over the last decade on individual soldiers’ access to satellite connectivity.

Increased satellite use is also pushing the need for higher spectrum ranges. There is increased interest in commercial and government circles for Ka and X-band systems because they are resistant to interference and to support mobile devices. On the commercial end, there is also a growth of Ka band systems for consumer broadband applications, she said.

Another factor affecting the industry is compression technology for live video streams travelling via satellite. High-definition television on the consumer retail end is creating a demand for more bandwidth for throughput and the creation of new channels to handle it, Cooper said. The increased demand for video is also being pushed by growing government demand for high-fidelity video from governments, she added.

In 2011, the satellite industry achieved the following results:

  • Satellite services: Revenues increased by 6 percent globally from 2010 to 2011, reaching $107.7 billion, driven by the continuing growth of consumer satellite television services.
  • Satellite manufacturing: Reflecting satellites launched in 2011, revenues grew 9 percent worldwide to $11.9 billion, compared with $10.8 billion earned in 2010. U.S. satellite manufacturing increased by 10 percent, from $5.6 billion to $6.2 billion.
  • Satellite launch industry: Revenue from launches in 2011, increased by 10 percent, with U.S. revenues growing from $1.2 billion to $1.9 billion.
  • Satellite ground equipment: Revenues grew by 2 percent over 2010 to reach $52.8 billion. Consumer ground equipment, including satellite TV, satellite broadband, mobile satellite terminals, and GPS devices, made up the majority of these earnings.
  • U.S. satellite industry employment: Fell by 1 percent in the first three quarters of 2011 with a net loss of 2,169 jobs. Job losses slowed compared to 2010, which saw a 2.7 percent drop in U.S. satellite industry employment.

The report found that revenue for mobile satellite services grew by 4 percent, from $2.3 billion in 2010 to $2.4 billion in 2011. One surprise the report found was that in 2011, revenues for mobile telephony services grew faster than mobile data services, with telephony earnings increasing by 11 percent compared to 3 percent for mobile data services. However, the report noted that mobile data services still make up about three quarters of all mobile satellite services revenues.