The Future of GEO in the Space Industry

As investment patterns have shifted through the Satellite & NewSpace industry, some people have called GEO satellite’s relevance into question. On Episode 10 of The Satellite & NewSpace Matters Podcast we spoke to Gregg Daffner, the CEO of GapSat, about the role of GEO satellites and how that can continue. Gregg is a well-known face in the industry who previously co-founded Asia Broadcast Satellite, before creating an innovative startup in a satellite industry that leases in-orbit satellites to satellite operators. Usually, this is until they can build their own custom satellite, but also provide additional capacity when internal crises occur. Here’s what Gregg told us about the future of GEO:

Non-geostationary satellites are the hot item of the moment. There’s no question that it’s on everyone’s minds. It’s sexy. It’s responsible for generating an enormous amount of interest in our industry. Elon Musk has almost single handedly rekindled excitement for people who are considering a career in space, communications, satellites and so forth. It’s one of the best things that’s happened in well over a decade. Bringing new blood and new interest into the industry is becoming a household discussion topic, and it’s really refreshing; it portends a bright future. I think that a lot of that is hype, though. Hype has a positive effect, but it’s also misled a lot of people as to what the future is going to look like. If you’re realistic, the truth is that for a substantial number of services, geostationary provision and infrastructure is still a much more cost effective way of delivering bits. 

LEO is specifically good for low latency uses and for covering areas that are out of  geostationary satellites’ reach. The furthest northern and southern latitudes, especially the poles, only have patchy service from GEO, but that’s not an issue for LEO and MEO satellites. If you’re a high speed trader on the stock market, there’s no question that you want to be doing something that’s the shortest fibre length and or the shortest stop to a satellite. LEO and MEO can provide that, but for a significant percentage of all the communication that is carried by satellite, that is not the principal driver. LEO is important geographically, and for certain kinds of services, and maybe for supercomputers that can’t have those delays, but for most things it’s a non-issue. 

When it comes to cost efficiency, most users don’t need low latency, but they do need low costs. There are two factors in costing, which is antennas and infrastructure. Antennas are much more expensive, because they have to track speed and movement if you’re doing physical tracking, mechanical steering, etc, and that’s expensive. That’s where having GEO satellites is better. You only need three satellites and three orbital locations to cover the entire world (with the exception of the poles), with overlapping coverage. If you have three of them placed equidistantly around the globe, you can cover the entire Earth, with most locations capable of seeing two satellites. That gives you diversity routing, and removes issues of looking angles, and a blockage of buildings, mountains, trees, etc. To do the same thing with LEO, you need hundreds, maybe even thousands, of satellites, because they’re so close to the Earth. 

The bottom line is that the infrastructure costs of building, launching, controlling and replacing all of those satellites is really high. That’s before you’ve even factored in the costs of potential pollution in space and the potential for unintended consequences like collisions.  From what I can tell, between the additional costs for building, launching and operating a non-GEO system versus a GEO one, the costs are a magnitude greater for less capacity. If you’re looking at broadband, you’re going to be able to get a whole lot more stuff through a geostationary satellite than you can on smaller, lower-orbit satellites. The production of ground equipment like mobile phones and tracking antennas will probably never be as inexpensive as a GEO, because the LEO or MEO antenna would be able to communicate with a GEO satellite as well. 

Satellite has the potential to provide communications where there is no terrestrial alternative. The three areas where that takes place are aeronautical, maritime and remote or rural areas. Anywhere there’s no cables is an area for satellites to step in. In the old days, communication satellites were used primarily for voice communication, and they were placed in the middle of oceans to connect the continents. As cables have been run, people have stopped focussing there for satellites. What was once the ideal location for them has shifted over to land masses, and less over water masses, because that’s where people are communicating and where broadcasters are distributing their signals. 

When you’re talking about aeronautical and maritime, you’re not talking about where people are living and acting, but where they’re travelling. Suddenly, something which was a quaint idea has become a hot idea for the current day. In every part of our lives, the amount of broadband capacity we need access to is increasing, and the same is true for airlines and ships. When you position satellites mid-ocean, roughly 120 degrees apart, those three satellites have ideal coverage for both of those services, while also being able to reach the landmasses on the edges of those waters. Looking to the future, GEO isn’t going anywhere. 

To hear more about Gregg’s work at GapSat and his take on the wider Satellite & NewSpace industry, tune into The Satellite & NewSpace Matters Podcast here

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

Developing New Solutions in the Broadband Space 

On Episode 7 of The Connectivity Matters Podcast we spoke to Peter Vandenengel, the VP Broadband Solutions in North America for SAGEMCOM. He shared his insights on the way tech is developing in the broadband space, including the way companies like SAGEMCOM are developing new solutions to meet a variety of rising needs. Read on to hear what he had to say. 

What do you see as the big technology evolutions within the broadband space?

If you’re looking at it from a home network perspective, there’s obviously WiFi seven just around the corner, which brings great advancements in speed and brings 320 megahertz channels. It also brings multilink operations, which allows you to use all the radios in a given gateway to provide throughput in the home. A lot of the operators are skipping over WiFi six E because it was sort of in between six and seven, so they’re getting ready for Wi-Fi seven instead. That’s the next big thing that we’re going to start seeing in 2024. 

A lot of the operators, whether they’re a cableco or a telco, are looking for speeds above 10 gig. On fibre today you can get up to 10 gig for telco, but now we’re looking at some operators who are developing at 25 gig, and most of them are looking towards 2026-2027 for 50 gig services. The way cycles work means that we have to start planning for that now. That’s what’s coming next from a technology point of view; more speed to the home, and then better ways to use that speed with WiFi seven in the home. 

We’re still feeling challenges throughout the market to deliver current products. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the market with the economy slowing down and a recession looming. I think next year we’ll be hunkered down, then in 2024 we’re going to see the adoption of these new technologies in a big way.

When you’re developing a new solution, what’s your general approach to doing that? 

You have to be open-minded and you have to be a bit of a hunter. I try to go in looking for what the customer wants, even if that means asking them dumb questions. You’re just continually probing and understanding the way the market is thinking. The way the industry typically works for CPE is by coming up with a generic product, then you work with your telecom providers to create a generic platform that doesn’t necessarily meet any one person’s or one company’s needs. From there you can build and customise and adjust as required. Customers will come up with their list of requirements, but you have to make a bit of a bet on what that generic product is at the beginning, so that you have the flexibility to move forward. 

My advice is to make sure you’re networking a lot and asking a lot of questions. I mentioned the word ‘hunter’, and that’s really what you’ve got to do. You have to go out there, sniffing around, to really figure out what people are thinking. In that initial meeting they’ll tell you what they’re thinking, but it might take a couple more meetings to really understand their business and the problems they are trying to solve. It requires a constant curiosity and willingness to get things wrong early, so that you can figure out the right path quickly.  

How would you go about tailoring those solutions for different clients?

That goes back to the goal of doing things efficiently. In the networking space, the margin for hardware isn’t huge, so you have to be very efficient in the way you develop your generic products and maintain your flexibility to adapt it to customers. Obviously we don’t want to shortchange a customer, so if our platform or our reference platform doesn’t meet their needs, we want to make sure that we can adapt it. That means working with a great team of engineers, coming up with designs that could be flexible on the fly, with some modifications that can be changed at the factory. It’s really just about being as open as possible with the team doing the actual development. 

When I take on those customer requirements, I’m digesting it, feeding it to the r&d folks, listening to them on what’s going to work and what’s not going to work and then being the bridge between the development team and the customer. That is never easy, because if a developer is not face to face with a customer, they can say no or just brush you off, because they don’t have to face the wrath of the customer. But for a product manager like me, I’m developing relationships with both sides. I can ask the questions that get engineers thinking in different ways, which could help them find flexible solutions that meet the customer’s needs. 

To learn more about developing new broadband solutions, tune into Episode 7 of The Connectivity Matters Podcast here

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

The Dangers of Unsecured Data

On Episode 11 of The Cyber Security Matters Podcast we spoke to the incredible Dr. Rebecca Wynn about how we can all manage our privacy online. Dr. Wynn is an experienced global CISO and privacy expert, often named as one of the top women in Cyber Security. She has led large security teams in the investment and medical sectors and is currently consulting enterprise clients on their security strategies. 

Can you tell us about the challenges covid posed for the healthcare sector from a security perspective? 

Before covid we had a centralised workforce that was covered by certain policies and protocols within the business. Once people started working remotely, and in some cases in other countries, that situation changed. We were outsourcing our data protection and people didn’t have the same protections at home. People started working in shared spaces with people outside of the organisation. With these new conditions, companies need to look at how they are protecting their sensitive information, as well as that of their clients. 

One thing I did is look at cyber liability insurance. I met with external certification organisations, and we identified the safeguards I could put in place. I took our top 15-20 clients and walked them through our findings, and the majority of them asked me to quickly rebuild their security with a strategic plan, technical plan, and operational plan. It was a long process, and it cost me a lot of sleep, but we’ve helped protect people now. 

When you talk about the changes we’re seeing from covid, we’re still seeing fallout from leaders who didn’t realise the additional residual risks that they were accepting. One thing I do notice consistently, is people not sharing the information that you need to know or telling colleagues what their blast radius is in the organisation. It’s all about managing risk. That’s the one thing I still see from a younger generation, they don’t know how to communicate that risk and things along those lines. CISOs don’t want to be the scapegoat officer, so we need to be more watchful than we were before. 

How do you see the concept and the practical application of privacy evolving in this data-driven society?

One of the biggest problems with data privacy is developing a global set of privacy regulations. There’s so much red tape that you have to get through at the moment because everywhere has different legislation. 

Another challenge is that data is being created but it’s not tagged. Does it have sensitive information in it? We wouldn’t know. If we could tag information with expiration dates and a level of privacy, we could handle it better. If you’re talking about healthcare, you should be able to say ‘it’s printed on this day, and it will absolutely expire in seven years’. The other thing is that once that data is created somewhere, it’s in your environment. Data gets shared through companies’ internal systems, which is a massive problem unless you can embed some sort of privacy key. If you could do that it would act like a GPS signal in your database. You could follow that, expire it or see if the data went to someone who’s not supposed to get it. That’s the kind of thing you need to do if you want to get a handle on privacy. 

One of the scariest things right now is when people are creating avatars and stuff like that. To do that you upload 23 of your pictures, and then your biometrics are out there. People aren’t thinking about where their data goes when they do that. 

It’s really hard to be invisible in the world today. Even if I’m not personally on social media, if someone takes my picture and tags me in it, I’m there anyway. They’re commingling their data with mine, and so on. It’s scary how much of our data is out of our control. 

To hear more about how our data is being used, tune into The Cyber Security Matters Podcast here. 

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

How has VOD changed throughout your time in the industry?

We have been seeing a massive shift from linear to digital consumption over the last few years. On Episode 9 of The Content & Media Matters Podcast we spoke to Julie Mitchelmore, the Vice President of Digital at A+E Networks UK, about how that shift is affecting the industry. Julie’s career began at Sky, where she moved from Presentation Scheduler to Head of On-Demand planning, giving her a depth of insight into our topic. 

How has VOD changed throughout your time in the industry?

It’s like moving from being a mistress to a wife. It’s a bit on the side. VOD was a side to the main event for years, but these days, digital streaming is becoming central to entertainment companies.Customers being able to watch what they want, when they want and where they want is changing how we’re all consuming content. What’s changed is the industry’s flexibility to satisfy those customers where their viewing needs are. 

Having spent your career working within this space, what’s your take on how attitudes have shifted when it comes to going from linear to digital?

It’s been a journey to bring it more into focus. It’s not about this massive shift or big upheaval, it’s really about diversification and making sure that we are hitting the customer touch points, wherever they are. Linear is still incredibly important, and you could argue that it’s having its own reinvention. It’s all about getting content where people are watching. It’s a shift. At the heart of things, you have your brands, your content, and your trusted customer touch points. It’s less about linear turning into digital and digital taking over the world, and more about being in the right places to get your content or brand where it matters.

How do you see the future of the nonlinear space changing?

Is such a big question, isn’t it? It’s the age old question of visits; are there going to be multiple entrances? Are things going to get merged together even more? Platforms like Sky are doing a fantastic job at bringing everything together under one roof for people who don’t want to pay for TV. There are also smaller companies who are forging their own path for those outside of the kind of paid TV industry. That’s a blend of aggregation versus the independent route, which is interesting to see. Discovery is still continuing their partnership with Sky, which I think is setting the tone for the industry. Everyone needs to look at partnerships, because they will be a focus going forwards to help businesses thrive and provide the broadest reach possible for customers. 

What’s your take on linear TV’s place in the industry?

I think this question really summarises what a lot of us have been talking about in the industry. I remember when I was at college, my media teacher said that the music charts were dead. It was changing in a very similar way to how linear is moving. The music industry is more vibrant today than it ever has been, because of the way it’s managed to diversify into the digital space and move from Top of the Pops to Spotify. Music at its core is as popular as ever. We need to find the evolution of making content available in different places and different ways. Linear is having that evolution, but it will always be a place for certain types of content. Whether it’s Love Island or sports, live TV will always have its place for people to come together for those water cooler moments.

To hear more about the changes happening in the Content & Media industry, listen to The Content & Media Matters Podcast here.

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

The Importance of Sustainability in Space

Sustainability is important in industries across the world, and above it. On Episode 9 of The Satellite & NewSpace Matters Podcast we spoke to Luc Piguet, CEO and co-founder of ClearSpace. The company was created to respond to concerns about an increasingly congested space environment. ClearSpace revolutionise how space missions are conducted, and provide institutions and commercial operators with support-free services in orbit, and capture and deorbit obsolete objects threatening space operations. He spoke to us about the importance of their missions and how the industry can move forwards in tackling sustainability. 

Why do you think it’s so important for companies to promote a sustainable space economy?

We have four kids, and my wife realised some time ago that they were seeing problems everywhere. Some of them are teenagers, and they’re asking ‘Why should I study every day when the Earth’s a mess?’ There’s pollution, global warming, plastics in the oceans, wars, pandemics… and it’s only getting worse. We realised that if one generation can make a difference and solve those problems, it’s ours. We were just getting the wrong messages to our kids. We decided that from now on the message is going to be ‘the future’s bright’. We have all the tools to solve those problems, or if we don’t have all of them, we’ll get them. That’s the mindset that we put behind what we do here, and that’s what motivates us.

We’re tackling that depressing narrative by improving sustainability in space. You can model the amount of debris up there in terms of sources of debris and sinks of debris. Sources are all the platforms we send up, so all the rocket bodies and satellites that are sources of fragments, from which smaller debris will naturally multiply in the sinks. You have to consider atmospheric drag when you’re designing and testing the things you’re launching, and depending on the altitude you’ve got to add more or less depending on the level of orbit. It’s obvious that we need to create artificial sinks and stabilise the environment, because when we add more stuff into an environment it’s getting rapidly congested, that is the definition of instability. 

That’s what drove us to get the company started. It’s been years of work looking at what should be done, and figuring out how it can be done. What is the most pragmatic way forward? We don’t care what the solution is, we don’t care if it’s deorbiting. The goal is finding the right solution for it, and working on that. Once we’d built the company and seen traction building, the question for us was how to keep it going. What does it mean to make this environment sustainable? It’s not just removing debris, it’s more than that. It’s any type of service where you reduce, recycle, reuse. A lot of services create a more sustainable environment, but also produce tangible, immediate value for the operators. That’s the sweet spot we want to get started from. 

In a lot of sectors you can do things more cheaply by polluting more. It’s obvious that nobody wants to live in a dump, so one of the reasons that sustainability has become such a big topic is because the next generation doesn’t want to live with what we leave behind. They want to live in a world that is sustainable. That is something that’s understood by investors, banks and all the other actors around the industry. The downside of not promoting sustainability is much bigger than the cost of actually solving it. You can make a calculation between the cost of prevention and cost of recovery. If you prevent it, you pay $1, and if you recover it, the cost is $17. That’s a real incentive for doing it. The problem is, you have to do the prevention before the catastrophe happens, so it looks like you’re going to spend $1 now for something that isn’t happening. In the space industry though, catastrophe is predictable. You can statistically calculate what’s going to happen. It’s really important to give this level of clarity to where we’re going to be in a few years from now if we don’t take sustainability seriously. It’s just logical. 

How are you improving sustainability in your current projects?

We’re working on a life extension mission. In ClearSpace One, the objective was to do in-orbit servicing and space debris removal. It’s in the interest of any operator in the geostationary ring, to have servicing in orbit. There’s obviously short term needs that have a limited timeframe, but once the capability is built, there’s so many other things that can be done. The capacity of intervention is a normal thing to have in any industry. We’re building the future with the next phase of the space industry. We were convinced from the start that the only way to create a good product is to do it with your customers. We knew that something needed to be done about space debris, but we didn’t want it to be anything that the operators wouldn’t want to buy. Very early on, we started talking with all the operators we could as soon as possible, and maintained a great relationship with them. That gave us a perspective on what their challenges and concerns are. Where are the opportunities for our service to improve their lives? You have to do something that makes sense and naturally fits into the industry.

To find out more about sustainability in the space industry, tune into Episode 9 of The Satellite & NewSpace Podcast here

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.     

Leading and Motivating Teams in the Content & Media Industry

Leadership is an essential part of any industry. On Episode 8 of The Content & Media Matters Podcast we spoke with Lionel Bringuier, the EVP of Product & Engineering at Videon. Beginning his career as a software engineer, Lionel has since worked across various technical and product leadership roles. He shared his insights on how to be a good leader and get the most from your teams. 

What do you think it takes to become a successful leader of a team and more strategically?

I’m becoming a better manager every day. It’s not something that you can learn at school because you always have to adapt to the people you’re working with. When we’re talking about leadership, we tend to see more leaders as mentors. My job is not necessarily to lead the team, but to provide guidance for them. I’m there to eliminate all the blockers from anyone on my team so that they can be as efficient as possible. That means that they don’t get distracted or sidelined by things that don’t really matter, which allows them to be successful in their jobs. Leaders need to know the path forward and what problems are in the way, then make sure that the whole team is laser focused in that direction. 

It’s really important to have a diverse team too. It makes you a better leader if you have diverse opinions and ways of thinking on your team, because it’s always good to be challenged by people who have different experiences, backgrounds and cultures. That opens up new possibilities that you wouldn’t necessarily see if you were just thinking by yourself.

How do you motivate people to go the extra mile in a sustainable way?

When you’re working on something that is completely new or unique on the market, it’s extremely motivating and rewarding for the team. You’re making history, you’re changing things, you’re solving problems with out of the box thinking that nobody has explored before. I am an engineer at heart and I’m very motivated by technology. Because I’m leading technical teams, I tend to think that people on my teams are also motivated by new technology and doing something innovative that nobody else is doing. There are civil aspects – you can obviously have cultural problems or salary problems on a team – but if you work on something that is unique, that will motivate people by itself. If I’m spending 8-10 hours a day working on something, I have to be passionate about it. I have to wake up every morning looking forward to the day.

What would be the one piece of advice you would give to someone entering the industry today?

I would echo what Steve Jobs said; “be foolish, be hungry.” Never take things for granted, always try to do new things and be innovative. Think big, think long-term. When I started to work on voice over IP and video over IP, people said there was no point trying to sell services on something as unreliable as internet networks. When I was creating the first OTT origin server I thought that pitched-up delivery would be the future, but people said there was no point trying to do high quality content on IP. People said they’d never pay for Netflix because it was a DVD rental company at the time. Never be short-sighted or focussed on the current limits you have. Think big and be hungry for trying new things, because that’s what pays off. It’s more rewarding if you really believe in what you do.

To hear more about Lionel’s work leading in the industry, tune into Episode 8 of The Content & Media Matters Podcast here

We sit down regularly with some of the biggest names in our industry, we dedicate our podcast to the stories of leaders in the technologies industries that bring us closer together. Follow the link here to see some of our latest episodes and don’t forget to subscribe.