Home Asia-Pacific II 2007 Communications satellites – going further in Asia-Pacific

Communications satellites – going further in Asia-Pacific

by david.nunes
Perry MeltonIssue:Asia-Pacific II 2007
Article no.:9
Topic:Communications satellites – going further in Asia-Pacific
Author:Perry Melton
Title:Vice President Sales & Marketing
PDF size:248KB

About author

Perry Melton is Vice President for Sales and Marketing at Inmarsat. Prior to this role, Mr Melton was responsible for corporate strategy, leading the business planning for Inmarsat’s next-generation satellites. He was also Head of Inmarsat’s Procurement and Contracts function. Mr Melton has over 20 years’ experience in sales and marketing, business planning, commercial contracts, finance and project management in the telecommunications, space and information systems industries. Prior to Inmarsat, Mr Melton worked for Lockheed Martin Corporation, USA, in finance and contracts for commercial and government space and information systems programmes. Mr Melton received his BA in English Literature from the University of Notre Dame.

Article abstract

Internet penetration in the Asia-Pacific region ranges from 65 per cent in Korea to less than one per cent in countries such as Bangladesh. Today, a great number of companies with operations spread across the region have opted to use satellite communications to overcome the lack of land-based communications structure in many parts of the region, especially in rural areas. Satellites complement existing technologies and can extend the reach of terrestrial networks to provide voice and broadband even where there is no terrestrial infrastructure.

Full Article

Asia-Pacific has been an important market for satellite communications since the technology was first developed. Today, the user base reflects the diversity of the region’s industries: from the maritime sector, with its fleets of merchant ships and fishing vessels that rely on ship-to-shore communications; to the airlines, many of which are pioneering new voice and data services for passengers; to a broad range of government and land-based enterprises that rely on connectivity for every location in which they do business. There is no doubt that the market for satellite communications in Asia-Pacific is healthy and growing. One of the key reasons for this is the mix of voice and data connectivity that is currently available across the region. Great strides have been made in telecommunications infrastructures across Asia, on the back of significant investment. Yet there remain large rural areas that have very limited coverage. China, for instance, might boast the world’s highest number of cellular subscribers but it has yet to license 3G and it will be some time before the major Chinese cities are fully covered, let alone the rural and coastal areas. According to statistics from the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, Internet penetration ranges from below one per cent in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and Laos, to above 65 per cent in countries such as Australia and the Republic of Korea. Many parts of Asia-Pacific remain under-served given the region’s limited communications infrastructure and low levels of coverage. This is an important point, since the growing reliance on voice and high-speed communications in Asia is not restricted just to the banks and financial houses of Beijing or Hong Kong. There is a lot of economic activity going on outside of major urban areas, and many businesses located in areas that lack a reliable terrestrial telecoms infrastructure are demanding access to communications. Companies in rural or remote areas rely on connectivity as much, if not more, than their urban equivalents. In China alone, we estimate that there are more than 185,000 employees situated in areas not covered by terrestrial networks, particularly in the country’s rural western provinces, who want to use mobile-enabled laptops. These workers constitute a significant proportion of manpower, for whom denial of mobile data services could be a potential drag on growth rates. For those businesses operating in urban areas that are covered, the increasing reliance on voice and data connectivity can cause frustration when travelling to rural areas or out of the country, leaving workers unable to access the standard services on which they rely. China has many steel, transport and energy operations in Africa and South America that need seamless voice and broadband data coverage across entire countries and continents. A further significant driver is the increasing reliance on broadband connectivity. Broadband has provided a new impetus to the possibilities offered by the Internet, turning it into an extremely powerful and fast communications tool for both consumers and business. It can be used to support healthcare and welfare programmes, deliver e-learning resources and help governments keep in touch with their citizens. The market-led roll-out of broadband services in Asia-Pacific has, for obvious reasons, focused on the larger urban and metropolitan areas, where investing in the deployment of DSL and cable solutions is readily justified by the return on investment and the accessible markets in these densely populated areas. The Republic of Korea, for instance, led the world in broadband penetration in 2004 according to ITU data. In Korea, high-speed lines serve more than a quarter of the population, but the story is very different in other parts of Asia-Pacific. The market in rural and remote areas is often neglected because deployment costs in these regions are substantially higher and the accessible market is smaller. Still, broadband is a key enabling technology for the development and diversification of rural economies; it provides the high-quality communications links that are necessary for true integration into the wider economy. By failing to ensure access to broadband services, rural areas are isolated from, rather than integrated into, the knowledge-based economy. The disparity between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ of data access have created a digital divide, and connecting under-developed regions is one of the biggest challenges facing the global communications industry. The answer to the problem of providing service to those based in areas without a suitable terrestrial network, or anyone travelling into those areas, is satellite communications. Satellites are a natural complement to existing technologies, extending the reach of terrestrial networks to ensure that voice and broadband data is available to everyone anywhere in the Asia-Pacific region. Furthermore, satellite technology is available now; the investment has already been made, satellites are in orbit, and the capacity can be deployed on demand. Not surprisingly, China, recognised as one of the world’s most significant markets and fastest-growing economies, is a country in which the deployment of satellite communications is expanding. The value of cultivating domestic partners and contacts in China to manage the distribution of satellite services throughout this important economy cannot be overestimated, neither can the need for senior management to visit the country regularly and meet senior executives from partners and key users. While China is a major communications market – alongside other established markets such as Japan and the Republic of Korea – there are many other growing economies in Asia-Pacific that need satellite communications. We have seen an upsurge of usage for our mobile broadband service in Indonesia and Mongolia, as well as in countries such as Malaysia, the oil, forestry and commodity sectors of which are driving the demand for better connectivity with key neighbouring and global markets. The growth in the user base for satellite communications services is coming from both existing and new sectors. For instance, in the fast-paced world of the media industry, broadband data communications via satellite is an established method for delivering both live and recorded video reports. Mobile satellite terminals are as much a part of the standard kit used by news crews as a camera or a microphone. Emergency services and first responders are also established users of satellite communications, and there continues to be high demand from energy and construction sectors. New users of satellite communications are coming from the utilities, finance, insurance and pharmaceuticals sectors, from industries in general with mobile employees – maintenance, engineers, salespeople and the like – and from other sectors the global operations of which are increasingly taking them into areas with little or no existing telecoms infrastructure. The demand for satellite communications in Asia-Pacific shows no signs of diminishing; as new communications services are deployed in metropolitan areas, the need to connect rural or remote areas increases. The most effective way to bring satellite services to the region is to work with the best distribution partners across the region – partners who understand their customers and provide the satellite operators with vital support on the ground. It is also essential to keep innovating and develop continuously new services that meet the specific needs of users in Asia-Pacific.

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