Globalsat Group CEO J. Alberto Palacios talks about LeoSat, Iridium NEXT, new markets and other topics in an interview with Latam Satelital
In an interview with the specialized magazine Latam Satelital, J. Alberto Palacios spoke about the recent Globalsat Group agreement with LeoSat, the renewal of the Iridium constellation, new markets, state operators, regulation and other issues.
LS: You recently signed an agreement with LeoSat to market the satellite network in the region. How important is this agreement to the Globalsat Group and how will it impact the current position of the company in the market?
JAP: It is a very interesting time for the satellite industry, there are many projects that promise to bring high speed Internet anywhere, even Google and Facebook have shown interest in the subject. We have been following them closely and our diagnosis is that most of these projects are not sustainable.
The LeoSat project is different, because besides being innovative in several aspects, there is historical background in its favor which provides both technical and commercial credibility. Our early involvement allows us to participate in the definition of how to generate the best model, contributing our particular experience in emerging economies. Our global agreement with LeoSat also allows us to create the "Globalsat LEO Network", the brand under we will generate exclusive solutions for our customers. These conditions remark a new vision in the relationship between mobile satellite service providers and constellation owners.
LS: According to LeoSat, the 108 satellite constellation will combine the speed of optical fiber with the ubiquity of satellite. Will this new constellation represent direct competition for terrestrial technologies?
JAP: There will be scenarios where LeoSat will be able to compete with terrestrial, including fiber optics, thanks to its low-orbit HTS satellites and its inter-satellite laser connectivity which will reduce latency to ranges only seen today in terrestrial communications. At Globalsat Group our vision will be to focus on creating disruptive solutions together with LeoSat, not possible through other current constellations.
LeoSat has the additional advantage that the manufacturer of its satellites, Thales Alenia Space, will use the assembly lines it is currently using for Iridium NEXT. Thus the recent successful launch of the first 10 NEXT satellites is also a validation of the model chosen by LeoSat.
LS: The deployment of the new Iridium NEXT constellation is beginning. How do you evaluate this new constellation? How does it affect the services currently offered by Globalsat Group?
JAP: Iridium has done an incredible job keeping its original constellation operating for twice as long as it was initially designed for, but the satellite environment is harsh and there are unavoidable physical limits. Replacement arrives just in time for the system to continue to operate satisfactorily and consolidate the trust thousands of our mission-critical users have in the Iridium constellation.
We are very pleased with the successful SpaceX launch of the first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites. This increases confidence in the industry, and because this is an industry of large investments and long terms, the result is very positive for all actors. We began working together in the late 1990s, and the January 14 launch milestone renews and confirms our trust in Iridium as a business partner.
The new constellation will also create new opportunities. In the '90s communication expectations were quite different from those of the 21st century. Iridium NEXT will allow new data services, enabling improvements in ubiquitous messaging and global tracking. Functionalities which are available today but with the inconvenience of smaller bandwidth or large and expensive equipment will become more accessible, faster and more convenient.
LS: These and other new satellite constellations expand and improve the services offered from Space. Do you consider that this can open up new markets for satellite services?
JAP: The markets which can be currently served by satellite communications are quite clear. however, new constellations with innovative services will help create new markets not currently available to the satellite industry.
Corporate, government and individuals users seek to keep in touch when they are off terrestrial coverage areas or in situations under which terrestrial services fail. However, there are limits to what can be done today. Mobile satellite communication provide a user experience which is different to the seamless "always connected" day-to-day we have become used to. The technology in new constellations will minimize that difference or will at least make it less noticeable. Also, the new constellations will be important for the development of the global satellite market for the Internet of Things (IoT), where some analysts predict growth of close to 20% per year, higher than the average growth of the industry.
Among the new satellite constellation projects targeted at mass customers, OneWeb is another interesting low-orbit project, which has just received US $ 1.2 billion in investment, mostly from SoftBank, the Japanese group controlling the mobile operator Sprint in the USA. This is a clear vote of confidence from investment groups in new satellite constellations. There is growing a consensus that ubiquitous connectivity is important, that there will be increasing demand for it, and this is good for the entire satellite industry. Also, OneWeb plans to create up to 2000 new jobs.
LS: Mexico recently authorized Globalsat Group for Ka band services on Inmarsat I5. How do you see the regulatory framework in the region for the supply of different types of satellite services?
JAP: Working within the regulatory framework is not just an ethical or altruistic longing, it is a concrete need which is demanded both by each country and by international regulation. Complying with the regulatory framework is necessary in order to provide the necessary market access for different international operators.
In each country the requirements may be slightly different on the technical side, but they are administratively very different. Unlike in Europe, where there is a systematic effort for normative and technological harmonization, Latin America is still heterogeneous in many areas. As a result, by having local physical and legal presence in various countries, Globalsat Group provides more than just market access and and adds significant value to business done with partners such as Inmarsat, Iridium, LeoSat and others to come.