Northern Sky Research

The Government & Military Capacity Procurement Paradigm

Dec 6th, 2016 by Brad Grady   More from this Analyst | Profile

Across the military and government markets, conversations are focused around the next-generation of milsatcom systems.  With planning already underway within the UK MoD for a Skynet-6 replacement, at the US DoD for ‘WGS 2.0’, and within other defense organizations around the world there is a common theme that has presented itself – resiliency and redundancy.

Nowhere was that theme more present than at SMi Group’s Global MilSatCom Conference in London this past November.  Throughout the presentations and the panels, from governments and industry, the focus has sharpened to improve current capabilities, deliver next-gen services, and build systems which are “survivable.”  Not just in the historical nuclear and radiation environment, but survivable against cyber-attacks, anti-satellite weapons, and RF-jamming environments.  With government customers saying that they must balance redundancy and resiliency against cost, industry players are continuing to evolve their sales decks to match the latest requirements coming from government.  Armed with their own buzz words – HTS, Non-GEO Capacity, ‘managed services’, and more – the satellite communications industry continues to develop solutions which solve a significant list of government-driven requirements.

This needs vs. wants vs. ‘budget reality’ debate has put Government and military end-users at a cross-road when it comes to planning ‘next gen’ networks: Should they acquire capacity, deliver connectivity, and/or procure a solution?  Throughout the conference, government end-users and industry providers balanced this three-pronged approach.  Ultimately, the answer is ‘all of the above’ when it comes to delivering communications to the remote warfighter, UAV, maritime vessel, or outpost – exploring government needs against the changing backdrop of commercial capabilities continues to be a core ‘lesson learned’ from previous planning cycles.  As the conference reached a conclusion, the major take-way was a greater collaboration between government and industry.

Just as these conversations shape future MILSATCOM programs, the satellite communications industry itself is changing.  As NSR explained in its Satellite Manufacturing and Launch Services, 6th Edition report, the commercial satellite communications industry is changing.  By 2021-2025, “Classical FSS” satellites will no longer be the leading type of satellite launched by commercial operators.  Instead, pure HTS or hybrid HTS (such as EPIC-class satellites) will exceed classical FSS satellite launches.  With lower cost per bit, smaller spot beam construction to support smaller terminals, and some intrinsic anti-jam capabilities these satellites will present a compelling value proposition for the military and government markets.

In looking specifically at Government and Military markets, NSR expects HTS-based offerings in GEO and Non-GEO orbits to see significant growth for demand for commercial operators.  NSR’s Government and Military Satellite Communications, 13th Edition report indicates the demand for HTS-based offerings will grow by nearly 110 Gbps by 2025.  Although FSS capacity will see some net-growth over the next ten years, to the tune of 150 TPEs there is a clear change – HTS capacity is becoming more ubiquitous in orbit, and will be a growing component of the government and military markets.  Moreover, this trend is not something exclusive to government markets. 

Bottom Line

Throughout all NSR’s reports which focus on data-centric markets, we see a steady migration away from FSS capacity to HTS capacity.  Commercial mobility service providers such as Panasonic Avionics Corp or Global Eagle Entertainment are building vast networks of HTS capacity, with FSS providing the ‘global coverage’ component of their coverage map – a model government and military service providers will likely duplicate.  More than conversations with satellite operators, government and military end-users can benefit from discussions with their commercial contemporaries – service providers focusing on the cruise ships, wide body airplanes, or M2M/IoT players – as they look to make the transition from classical wide beam capacity, to emerging HTS spot-beam based network designs.