After a period of declining revenues, the commercial satellite communications industry is profiting from growing U.S. government and military business. The increased tempo and wide geographic scope of recent U.S. and coalition military activities have caused a surge in commercial leased satellite use. Industry experts predict this additional demand for video, voice and data services to contribute steadily to the market's growth for the next seven to eight years.
Changing market demands have prompted a major satellite telecommunications company to diversify its services. Moving beyond its traditional niche leasing transponder space on its large constellation of spacecraft, the company is branching into new areas such as broadband and cellular services. The Washington, D.C.-based firm also is a major provider of video, data and voice communications to the U.S. government.
Incidents of fratricide continue to plague the military forces, but the U.S. Marine Corps is examining current technologies that could reduce them by enabling vehicles to identify themselves as friendly in less than one second. By building these types of capabilities to an international standard, joint and coalition forces would benefit, extending protection across the battlespace. The capability is scheduled to be assessed in a coalition combat identification advanced concept technology demonstration during the next fiscal year, and acquisition efforts could begin as early as fiscal year 2006.
The U.S. Marine Corps is linking the present to the future with a communications architecture that will allow it to train for new systems even before they are in hand. Using today's technologies, the approach could provide Marines in the field and on the move with the ability to communicate over the horizon by connecting communities of networks through points of presence. The capability effectively emulates many of the network functions that will be available once warfighters are equipped with next-generation
An infusion of funding, some corporate restructuring and a new business plan are re-energizing one commercial satellite company as it creates new capabilities. These improvements could increase support of military operations and homeland security efforts. They have already lowered prices for satellite telephone users and helped a health care association put a backup communications system into place in rural areas sooner than planned.
The new Department of Homeland Security is assembling an information infrastructure that must encompass internal and external organizations, must process and disseminate key data among the appropriate customers, and must incorporate innovative new technologies and approaches to stay ahead of the enemy-all without missing a critical piece of intelligence or running afoul of the law. In effect, the department is constructing a complex information architecture that must serve its crucial immediate needs well before it is completed.
The international telecommunications system is re-balancing into four major centers of innovation: the United States, China, India and an expanded Europe. If current trends persist, the United States may be hard pressed to maintain an advantage in communications technologies and services and could find its ability to prosecute information warfare highly constrained.
After years of economic stagnation, the satellite industry could find that a turnaround is about to begin. Early returns point to a resurgence in interest and visibility for a weathered, yet optimistic, industry. Now more than ever, the government community recognizes that the commercial satellite industry plays an essential role in both international and homeland security. Several important occurrences in 2003 have set the stage for a turnaround.
The U.S. Marine Corps has built a hybrid-electric land vehicle that could be a harbinger of future battlefield mobility. The combination diesel/battery vehicle would have greater range than existing four-wheeled infantry carriers and would be able to operate quietly without any visible thermal fingerprint.
New collection platforms, satellite communications links, a common operating data set and commercial-style database exploitation tools are at the top of the intelligence wish list for the U.S. Marine Corps. The Marines fight in a manner similar to that of a joint task force, and their intelligence approach parallels this as it seeks to collect, process and disseminate information to users. Many of the hurdles that plague joint warfighters have been overcome by the Corps, but in doing so it has developed its own needs that cannot be met by joint service operations.