Satellite industry leaders gathered in Silicon Valley earlier this month to discuss the growing SmallSat industry – which now accounts for a whopping 97% of all satellites launched. Over three days of informative sessions, four distinct trends emerged that highlight the changing nature of the market.
A crowded field continues to grow. Excitement continues to build in this space with a number of venture capital firms and others investing a lot of money into the SmallSat market. As the number of SmallSat constellation players keeps growing, the ‘race to the bottom’ keeps getting fiercer for new satellite launch providers.
The changing role of SmallSats. I participated in a panel session titled, “The SmallSat Possibilities for Ubiquitous and Reliable Global Connectivity,” where it was noted that SmallSats can be used to immediately fill important coverage gaps for mobility and cellular backhaul applications. SmallSats in GEO and LEO also fuel the need for seamless hybrid connectivity options for high availability networks independent of frequency, orbit etc.
Cloud is critical. The move to the cloud was another hot topic across multiple panels. As equipment manufacturers look to retool software in order to leverage the benefits of the cloud, this shift is critical to maintain growth. The continued development in supporting ‘gateway as a service’ was discussed to reduce the footprint of gateways and increase their cost effectiveness.
Software-defined standards. Among the military and defense sectors using SmallSats for national security, the conversation focused on a need for software-defined modems and radios to enable interoperability between different operators.
The strong attendance at the SmallSat Symposium -- nearly a thousand people in between in-person and virtual options – is an indicator that this expanding market is of strategic importance to the future of the overall satellite industry.