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Satellite remains an essential element of video distribution: AVIA

Bharti Enterprises' Sunil Mittal also joined the forum for keynote conversation on the space

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Mumbai: The Asia Video Industry Association (AVIA) hosted its annual satellite industry forum on 18 November as a virtual conference.

The forum opened with a look at satellite trends and forecasts post-Covid with Quilty Analytics senior analyst Caleb Henry. The traditional satcom industry continues to be in a state of rapid change, and still in a state of turmoil. While the industry is currently dominated by a handful of major players, this could also change dramatically over the next five years as new technologies and standards reset the competitive landscape. And despite the impact of Covid-19, there has been no let-up of interest in investment into the space industry with $5.5 billion in collective proceeds from all 13 space SPACs.

AVIA was also privileged to host Stephen Spengler for his final keynote before he steps down as CEO of Intelsat. Spengler had spoken at the satellite industry forum for his first keynote as CEO in 2015, hence it was fitting the forum was his final address as well.

While the industry continues to innovate and push the boundaries of what is possible, it has yet to reach its full potential in fulfilling its essential role in the global telecommunications landscape. With digital video making up 70 per cent of internet traffic, satellite remains the essential and enabling technology, with the ubiquity, reach, and economics to serve the networks.

Spengler’s outlook on industry trends for Asia remains positive, with linear and pay-TV distribution still a driving application for the Asia Pacific region, with a growth rate of 2.5 per cent per year. Spengler was also excited about 5G being a huge enabler and game-changer. With satellite fully integrated into the 5G world, it will make solutions and services more seamless, interconnected, and economical.

Wrapping up his keynote address, Spengler shared Intelsat’s mission to unify the global telecoms ecosystem of the future. The vision requires all satellite and terrestrial technologies, networks and providers, and solutions and services to be unified as one global ecosystem. “If we focus on our customers, the people who benefit from a more connected world, that is success for the next year and beyond,” said Spengler.

Asia Pacific’s leading satellite operators also shared similar positive sentiments despite the move from broadcast to streaming. MEASAT COO Yau Chyong believes that satellite will still be the main platform to deliver video services nationwide in Malaysia, and it is the platforms themselves who are transforming their services to include streaming. Hence broadcast and streaming will complement each other, with linear still having a role to play, and streaming alongside it. Similarly in Australia, despite a plethora of streaming services available, Optus head of satellite and space systems Nick Leake still sees the same requirements for satellite to go out for at least another ten years. The greatest issue for Asia Pacific remains one of scale, in order to provide reliable networks to serve the customers, added AsiaSat CEO Roger Tong. Tong believes that moving forward, creating more partnerships between competing satellite operators is important, especially when regulatory restrictions on consolidation remains a key challenge in the region.

Bharti Enterprises founder and chairman and OneWeb executive chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal also joined the forum this year for a keynote conversation on the space business in India. With the holy grail of low latency, high speed, and sufficient capacity resolved by NGSOs, it has become a solution that works for the new world and into the future. 5G, too, is seen as a game-changing technology for Mittal, with its extremely low latency a boom for industry applications. However, Mittal also noted that while NGSOs will have an important role to play in the 5G ecosystem, it will only be at the periphery of supporting 5G ambitions. Mittal also shared OneWeb’s vision to connect all areas of the world, from oceans to aviation. “In 5 years’ time. . . there should not be anybody in the world that is not connected,” said Mittal.

The satellite industry forum is generously sponsored by AsiaSat, Eutelsat, Hughes, Intelsat, Marsh and Maxar.

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