On Episode 8 of the Satellite & NewSpace Matters Podcast we were delighted to be joined by Ronald van der Breggen, the CTO at Rivada Space Networks. Ronald is a well known face in the satellite industry, and has been involved in a number of exciting projects and businesses over his career. He is also a key commentator on the state of the industry, and regularly shares his fascinating insights with his audiences.
Ronald told us about the challenges facing the future of satellite communications and how we can work together as an industry to overcome them.
What do you see as the most important challenge for the future of the industry?
We need to keep talent coming in, and we need to focus on getting investment. Starlink is another thing that scares me. The service was perfect for the first users, but now that things are starting to fill up people are seeing things being dropped, performance is going down and they’re nowhere near the number of subscribers they need to reach the targets that they were projecting a couple of years ago. That stuff scares me, because we need them to be successful. We need them to thrive so that people don’t start to shy away from it or think ‘this whole space thing was a bust’. If they do that, everybody in this industry is going to have a really hard time.
Space is a fantastic industry with an enormous potential. Many of the problems that we see in the world today rely on large networks that reach every location on Earth, and can be solved using satellite infrastructure. We need to figure out how to translate that into our business cases, and establish what is already achievable. Our leaders have to keep the company floating, attract the right talent and get them enough money to keep satellite production going. We need to succeed together, because if we don’t, we risk everyone failing.
Where do we need to make improvements in order to achieve that future?
Collectively as an industry, we need to find a better way to position ourselves in the larger data communication market. When we talk about satellite pricing, there still is this notion that we’ve got a lot of capacity and the demand is smaller. That means that there’s pressure for the price to go down. That’s a problem, because we need to keep investments up if we’re going to advance.
Companies need to find a balance between using expensive, high-speed and secure connections to do the best for their business while keeping their costs down. It’s up to us to offer those solutions. How about sending part of your data over a constellation in space, that allows you to go from your research centre to headquarters without having to worry about anybody tampering with the data, simply because they don’t have access to it? People will want it because it saves a lot of money.
You don’t need to use satellite tech for everything. Physical infrastructures are perfectly capable of hosting mundane tasks like downloading something from the internet, but if somebody wants to send the latest research findings to headquarters, then you should send it through a secure satellite infrastructure. People are more than happy to pay a premium for that security.
It’s all about finding a niche where you can make a difference. People have said that I’m limiting myself to the business segment, but there’s more money there when you address people’s needs and problems, because that’s what they’re willing to pay for. It might be a niche in terms of the applications, but it’s a huge market in terms of the number of companies that are interested in it.
What we need to do as an industry is pay more attention to the larger ecosystem. There are serious problems out there that people need real solutions for, and for some of them satellite systems are much better equipped to handle them than terrestrial systems. It’s rampant. The applications are there for gaming, high frequency trading, etc, we just need to find a way to meet those needs and communicate why we’re the best ones to do it. That would help our industry keep growing collectively.
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