“Direct-to-device” communication in the context of satellite technology is a significant and evolving topic with a potentially substantial market impact. This communication approach involves sending data, content, or services directly to user devices, such as smartphones, without the need for intermediary ground-based infrastructure or additional user equipment. Here are some key points to consider regarding direct-to-device satellite communication:

  1. Market Potential: The direct-to-device satellite communication market holds immense potential, with estimates of its value reaching up to $100 billion. This potential is driven by various factors, including the growing demand for connectivity in remote or underserved areas, disaster response and recovery efforts, IoT applications, and more.
  2. Low Earth Orbit (LEO) Satellites: The rise of LEO satellite constellations, such as SpaceX and OneWeb, is a driving force behind the concept of direct-to-device communication. LEO satellites operate at lower altitudes, reducing latency and enabling direct communication with user devices.
  3. Reduced Latency: Direct-to-device communication via LEO satellites can significantly reduce latency compared to traditional geostationary satellites. This low-latency connectivity is essential for applications like online gaming, video conferencing, and real-time IoT data transmission.
  4. Global Coverage: Direct-to-device satellite networks aim to provide global coverage, extending connectivity to remote and rural areas that lack terrestrial infrastructure. This has the potential to bridge the digital divide and bring the benefits of the internet to underserved populations.
  5. Challenges: While direct-to-device satellite communication offers numerous advantages, it also comes with challenges. These include regulatory issues, spectrum management, satellite constellation deployment, cost-effectiveness, and competition with existing terrestrial networks.
  6. Emerging Applications: Beyond traditional internet access, direct-to-device satellite communication can support a wide range of applications, including disaster management, environmental monitoring, precision agriculture, and autonomous vehicles.
  7. Economic Impact: The success of direct-to-device satellite communication could have a substantial economic impact, fostering innovation, creating job opportunities, and stimulating economic growth in various sectors.

Therefore, direct-to-device satellite communication represents a significant shift in how we think about connectivity, with the potential to reshape industries, bridge connectivity gaps, and create new opportunities for businesses and individuals. However, its success depends on addressing technical, regulatory, and economic challenges while capitalizing on the advantages it offers in terms of global coverage and low latency.

The global satellite services market is poised for growth in the coming years, with expectations of its value increasing from $107 billion in 2022 to $123 billion by 2032, according to projections by Euroconsult. Key insights from this forecast include:

  1. Data Services Surge: Data services revenues are expected to experience significant growth, nearly tripling from $19 billion in 2022 to $53 billion in 2032. This surge is indicative of the increasing demand for data connectivity, driven by applications like IoT, data analytics, and global internet access.
  2. Video Demand Shift: In contrast, Euroconsult foresees a slight dip in video demand, with revenues decreasing by about 20 percent from $88 billion in 2022 to $70 billion in 2032. This shift may be attributed to changing consumer preferences, including the rise of streaming services and on-demand content.
  3. Competition and Ecosystem Changes: Despite the overall optimism, the satellite services market is expected to face turbulence due to intense competition and a rapidly evolving ecosystem. The dynamics of the industry are shifting, with the emergence of new satellite constellations and technologies, challenging the established players.
  4. Insurance Impact: Recent anomalies in geostationary orbit, such as issues with satellites like Arcturus, Inmarsat 6 F2, and Viasat-3 Americas, are expected to impact the insurance market. These incidents have raised concerns and could lead to higher insurance costs for satellite operators.

In summary, the satellite services market is poised for growth, driven by increasing demand for data connectivity services. However, the industry faces challenges, including competition, ecosystem changes, and insurance concerns, which could impact its trajectory in the coming years. Nonetheless, satellite technology continues to play a crucial role in global connectivity and data transmission.

Comtech Telecommunications has unveiled its BRIDGE solutions, aimed at providing government and commercial customers with rapidly deployable communications networks that can be established “in a matter of hours.” BRIDGE, which stands for blended, resilient, integrated, digital, global, end-to-end, offers portable, adaptable, and full-service communications networks. These networks are designed to address gaps in both satellite and terrestrial infrastructure, catering to the urgent needs of emergency service providers, remote communities, military operators, and maritime customers.

Comtech’s BRIDGE solutions are described as “infrastructure, cloud, and application agnostic,” which means they are versatile and can adapt to evolving demands, whether from government or commercial sectors. This agility and adaptability make them valuable tools for ensuring reliable and resilient communication networks, particularly in critical and time-sensitive situations.

Comtech Telecommunications is currently undergoing a significant transformation, marked by its introduction of BRIDGE solutions. This shift signifies a change in the company’s approach, as it leverages its extensive portfolio of acquired communications technology businesses to become a connecting force between previously independent ecosystems that are now converging.

One notable example of this convergence is the development of hybrid networks that incorporate satellites in various orbits, highlighting the evolving nature of the satellite industry. Additionally, Comtech is focused on the convergence of satellite and terrestrial networks, recognizing the growing interplay between these two communication mediums. Geospatial and satellite communications networks are also expected to converge further in the future.

The ultimate goal for Comtech is to enable the seamless flow of information to the edge of these networks, ensuring that insights are readily available and actionable with minimal latency. This approach reflects the company’s commitment to providing agile and versatile solutions for a rapidly evolving and interconnected world.

Ken Peterman, who assumed the role of President and CEO of Comtech Telecommunications a little over a year ago, took charge at a time when the company consisted of 14 separate businesses, each operating independently with its own tools, processes, and systems. Since then, a significant transformation has taken place within Comtech, with the company merging these siloed business units.

This restructuring has yielded several key benefits. First and foremost, it has led to substantial cost reductions and increased operational efficiency, as shared resources and synergies can be leveraged across the organization. Additionally, the consolidation of these businesses has enabled greater collaboration among different units within Comtech, fostering a more cohesive and integrated approach to delivering solutions and services.

The move toward a more unified and collaborative organizational structure positions Comtech to better address the evolving needs of its customers and to respond to the ongoing convergence of various technology ecosystems.

Comtech’s Evoke innovation foundry, established in 2022, serves as a catalyst for collaboration and innovation within the company. Comprising some of the company’s most innovative engineers, Evoke is tasked with identifying ways to integrate Comtech’s diverse technologies and capabilities to create new subsystems and systems that address customer challenges and provide comprehensive value propositions.

Through collaborative workshops held at Evoke, Comtech teams identify specific customer challenges and leverage their collective technologies to devise solutions that enhance customer experiences and improve financial performance. These workshops often result in pilot projects that allow customers to empirically assess the benefits of the proposed solutions.

Ultimately, Comtech aims to tailor BRIDGE solutions on a customer-by-customer basis, reflecting its commitment to delivering customized and effective communication networks that meet the unique needs of each client. This innovative approach positions Comtech as a dynamic player in the evolving landscape of satellite and terrestrial communication.

SpaceChain, a Singapore-based startup known for its blockchain nodes in orbit, is launching a service that combines artificial intelligence (AI) with Earth imagery data. The service, called I-Sat and developed by SpaceChain’s U.S.-based subsidiary SC Solutions, aims to simplify the process of extracting valuable insights from Earth observation data using AI.

I-Sat utilizes natural language processing technology, similar to OpenAI’s ChatGPT, to generate answers to questions posed by users. What sets it apart is its integration of real-time data analytics, enhancing the accuracy and relevance of the answers provided.

Through the application of AI to satellite imagery, I-Sat was able to offer customers valuable insights into vegetation health and soil moisture levels, along with recommendations for enhancing plant health and productivity.

SpaceChain is actively seeking to expand its ecosystem by inviting Earth-imagery providers and application developers to join its platform. The company plans to facilitate payments to these vendors using its blockchain technology, creating a seamless and transparent transaction process. This initiative underscores SpaceChain’s commitment to leveraging blockchain and AI technologies to make Earth observation data more accessible and valuable for a wide range of applications.

SC Solutions, in its efforts to showcase the capabilities of I-Sat, conducted pilot projects centered around paper, pulp, and sugarcane production in Brazil.

For sugarcane plants, the project utilized a combination of optical imagery, synthetic aperture radar imagery, and open-source climate data. These data sources were integrated into a machine-learning model, enabling the accurate prediction of crop yields.

Mining is identified as another promising application for I-Sat, underlining the versatility and potential impact of this technology in various industries and sectors. By harnessing AI and Earth imagery data, I-Sat has the potential to provide actionable insights and recommendations that can lead to more efficient and sustainable operations across a range of domains.

Before shifting its focus to Earth observation and AI, SpaceChain established blockchain payloads in space. It currently operates seven SpaceChain nodes on satellites and the International Space Station, which process, transmit, and store data securely in space.

To develop I-Sat, SC Solutions leveraged partnerships and resources from industry leaders. The company joined Nvidia’s Inception Program and Google for Startups, which provide valuable support and resources to emerging businesses. Additionally, SC Solutions is actively collaborating with satellite imagery providers to enhance its offerings.

The goal of the platform is to simplify access to Earth observation data, making it more accessible to a wider range of users. By adding a layer of analytics and combining data from multiple providers, SpaceChain aims to provide users with valuable insights and explanations.

The generative AI tool used in I-Sat allows for natural language interaction with the platform. Users can pose questions or request information, and the platform’s language model will analyze the query and provide accurate answers along with explanations. This approach enhances the usability and accessibility of Earth observation data, making it a powerful tool for various applications and industries.

The Space Development Agency (SDA) is planning to launch 72 data-transport satellites in 2026, which will be part of the Tranche 2 Transport Layer Beta portion of a United States military mesh network. According to Frank Turner, SDA’s technical director, these satellites will have new and advanced capabilities, including direct-to-weapon communications. This represents a significant step forward in the development of military satellite technology.

The Tranche 2 Beta satellite order worth $1.5 billion was split between Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, both of which had previously been awarded contracts for Tranche 1 Transport Layer satellites. SDA, an organization under the U.S. Space Force, is working on creating a mesh network of military satellites in low Earth orbit known as the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture. This network includes both a data transport layer and a missile-tracking sensor layer.

During the contract award process for Tranche 2 Beta, SDA received six bids. Turner mentioned that the agency would have preferred to involve more vendors, but the complexity of the mission and the specialized requirements, such as the need for advanced radios and waveforms for military tactical communications, limited their options. As a result, the selection of experienced Department of Defense (DoD) contractors was necessary.

SDA has expressed a desire to collaborate with a broader base of prime contractors and avoid favoring incumbents. However, due to the unique and complex nature of the payloads in Tranche 2 Beta, only a few companies in the industry possess the capabilities to meet these specific mission requirements.

The Tranche 2 Transport Layer Beta satellites are designed to integrate with radios using Ultra High Frequency (UHF) and S-band frequencies, which are essential for military and intelligence operations in the field. Additionally, each satellite is equipped with an Integrated Broadcast Service (IBS) payload. IBS is a legacy Department of Defense (DoD) network used to transmit tactical and strategic intelligence as well as targeting data from various sources. Typically, IBS payloads operate from geosynchronous satellites like the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS), which was developed by Lockheed Martin.

However, the challenge for the Transport Layer, according to Frank Turner of SDA, is to provide the same IBS service from low Earth orbit, which has never been attempted before. This is a complex task that involves developing the necessary technology and infrastructure to facilitate these communications from satellites in low Earth orbit, rather than the traditional geosynchronous orbit. Turner emphasized that this is a significant and challenging endeavor.

The primary goal of these capabilities is to fulfill the requirements and requests of the warfighter. They are looking for direct-to-weapon connectivity that can enable real-time engagements and communication with various assets in the field.

Furthermore, the Beta satellites will be tasked with establishing what Turner described as “extremely difficult” contacts with aircraft and missiles in flight. This indicates that the mission involves not only providing data connectivity but also facilitating real-time, dynamic communication and coordination with moving targets in the sky, adding an additional layer of complexity to the mission.

The Space Development Agency (SDA) is taking a commercial-like approach to build the Department of Defense’s (DoD) mesh network. This approach involves collaborating with a broad array of suppliers specializing in small satellites and laser communications terminals. SDA aims to create a flexible and diverse ecosystem of partners to meet its evolving satellite communication needs.

Frank Turner explained that the decision to choose two incumbent providers for Tranche 2 Beta was not taken lightly and was the result of extensive deliberation. SDA’s preference is to expand its supplier base and work with a wider range of contractors in the future.

SDA is actively engaging in discussions with military leaders to determine the necessary capabilities for Tranche 3 of the Transport Layer. This indicates the agency’s commitment to continually adapting and enhancing its satellite network to meet evolving defense requirements.

Currently, SDA is preparing for the launch of its second batch of Tranche 0 satellites and plans to commence launching 126 Tranche 1 satellites in September 2024. These Tranche 1 satellites will be equipped with inter-satellite optical links and are considered the infrastructure of the network. Tranche 2, which follows, will enable the network to support advanced communications capabilities, marking a significant milestone in SDA’s mission to create a robust and effective satellite communication system for the DoD.