Q-KON: Satellite Trends for 2023 and Beyond

Change is the only constant.

In this ever-changing environment, it helps business and strategic planners to review generally expected technology trends in their industries. While the future remains unpredictable, in this article we’ll provide support for your development of future business and technology strategies by mapping current developments to likely future outcomes.   

Gartner top strategic technology trends

One view of the future is guided by Gartner’s Strategic Technology Trends for 2023 as summarised below, and outlined online here.

2023 article 1 img 1

It also relates these trends to business strategies with Digital Immune Systems, Applied Observability and AI Management aligned with a business optimisation strategy.

To drive scale, businesses can look to harness Industry Cloud Platforms, Platform Engineering and Wireless-Value Realisation.

Finally, technology trends including Superapps, Adaptive AI and the growth of the Metaverse link to pioneering strategies, while Sustainable Technology naturally remains a constant in all future strategies.

Note that the need for always-on connectivity is no longer listed as a technology trend or requirement; rather, it is now considered to be part of all operations everywhere. The need for connectivity applies equally to all business operations and assets including mobile business, off-grid locations, aero, maritime and distributed plants.

This scenario creates the context and impetus for rapid development and accelerated growth in the satellite industry.

Satellite industry 10-year view

In December 2022, Euroconsult released their forecast for the satellite build and launch market for the next 10 years (key outcomes summarised below). This report confirmed the capacity and motivation of the satellite industry to multiply global in-space bandwidth and add more than 200TB of capacity to the global telco grid.

Note that while the new LEO constellations will supply 83% of the demand in terms of numbers of new satellites, it will only deliver 30% of the market value with GEO and other services representing 70% of the $400bn market. This represents 50% growth vs the previous decade. The infographic below also confirms that satellites will in general become lighter, smaller and less expensive as technology advances.

2023 article 1 img 2

2023 trends in Africa

These global trends are also likely to be reflected by developments in Africa, and specifically southern Africa and South Africa. We expect the following trends in response to local demand and challenges.

#1: LESS LTE, MORE SATELLITE

While the South African market battles with loadshedding (rotating electricity cuts across the country at certain times of the day), the telco networks are particularly vulnerable and network uptime is rapidly declining in the face of continuous power outages, large-scale battery theft and an increase in network demand. 3G used to be the silver bullet for primary and back-up services for business, retail and fintech; unfortunately, this is no longer possible.

The upside is that Smart Satellite Services such as Twoobii have over the past 3 years clearly demonstrated the cost and service advantages of the new generation satellite services as a feasible alternative to LTE. We expect that this trend will continue in 2023 with more businesses, banks and retail switching to satellite in their search for reliable, always-on communications.

#2: GEO WILL CONTINUE TO GROW

The current demand for GEO satellite services is expected to continue driving growth on all the classic satellite service platforms. For example, the reliability, cost-effective price models and trusted deployment of Twoobii Smart Satellite Services will continue to provide business, retail and fintech with a frictionless deployment option for anywhere, any-time connectivity.

Roll-out projects for broadcast, enterprise and telco services will continue into 2023 to service a specific connectivity requirement for telco’s, enterprises and the financial sector. We expect classic GEO services to continue in importance despite their higher latency disadvantage, even though the enterprise sector needs the low-latency advantages of LEO services.

#3: FIRST CUSTOMERS FOR LEO AND MEO

Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) services have been in development for the past year, with the focus on developing and launching the satellites needed to create the space networks and global connectivity fabric. These networks are now ready to start engaging with the market and to sign-up their first customers services in 2023 Q3.  

OneWeb, in particular, is working hard to start with service distribution and provide business customers with the benefit of low-latency satellite services. We predict that 2023 will be the year in which the initial service definitions set for the global market will be matched with customer requirements in the African market. Once the product alignment and initial market adoption is done, we expect that large-scale roll-outs will probably happen in 2024. 

Equally ready to go to market in 2023 are the SES mPower services based on the MEO constellation which is expected to launch services in Q3. mPower is a trunk service with data links up to 1Gbps and latency at 150msec, with the product’s market focus firmly on providing primary access services to the mining, industrial, oil and telco industries. We expect to see the first customer network deployments in 2023 with further growth in 2024.

It is also expected that the Starlink consumer LEO service will launch with service deployments in Mozambique, Nigeria, Zambia, among others, as they secure regulatory approval. As a more consumer-focused, best-effort service, it is expected that the Starlink service will compete with other available consumer services such as Mobile 3G, local wireless ISP services etc.  Only once this competitive position can be modelled will it be possible to forecast any large-scale roll-outs for Starlink in Africa.

#4: ONGOING IOT DEVELOPMENT

The development of industrial satellite IoT solutions such as hiSky and SatixFy are expected to continue with solutions, probably market-ready towards the end of 2023. Development is currently ongoing in terms of the satellite communication channel, end-to-end applications, and closing the business case for real opportunities in the African market.

With the predicted boom in the industrial IoT market, these satellite solutions will be ready to service the connectivity requirements for off-grid or mobile applications. We expect that during 2023, some customer beta projects will be implemented to validate and test both the technology and the feasibility of the business case. There are currently too many unknowns to make any prediction for large-scale deployments beyond these initial beta projects.

Conclusion

In short, 2023 is expected to be a big year for the satellite industry in Southern Africa and Africa.

Current GEO services are expected to grow with satellite network operators and regional service providers working hard to provision capacity for the ever-increasing demand of the African market.

We expect to see strong growth of the current services in the market while at the same time the LEO and MEO services of OneWeb, StarLink, SES mPower will be introduced to the market. For the first time, we will then be able to evaluate the impact of these services in Africa, and to provide a better indication of how these will enable the digitalization in Africa.  

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