The paradigm shift in defence doctrine that saw the transformation of European defence into an expeditionary force, has allowed satellite communication (SATCOM) to become the primary means of integrating platforms and forces under one umbrella. European MODs are vigorously acquiring SATCOM capability since it is increasingly recognised as a force multiplier in the new European defence posture. As a result, the European defence strategic communication market is poised to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8 per cent from 2009 to 2018, defying the economic downturn.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (aerospace.frost.com), European Defence Strategic Communication Market Assessment, estimates that the market will earn revenues of $1.08 billion in 2009 and reach $2.37 billion by 2018. This growth is attributable to the rapidly spreading tenet that SATCOM is a key enabler of networked communication, which is fundamental to Network-centric Warfare (NCW).
"The market is showing signs of rising demand for higher frequencies and wider bandwidths," notes Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Major Sabbir Ahmed (retd). "Networking imperatives for far-flung deployments, improved sensors including unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), as well as personnel needs to communicate with their families back home, have all generated a massive increase in bandwidth demand for smooth transmission of voice, data, video and images. This can only be achieved with greater investment in higher frequencies like EHF and AEHF and related SATCOM terminals, among others."
The gradual integration of communication means with elements of situational awareness such as navigation, identification and sensors is the trend of the day. Communications-on-the-move (COTM) terminals have already demonstrated the embodiment of integrated communication and navigation systems, and have the potential to integrate other elements of situational awareness over time. "In the near future we can expect to see every mine-resistant-ambush-protected (MRAP) platform fitted with one such integrated COTM terminal" predicts Ahmed.
"From 2013 onward, the Ka band will rapidly acquire market share thanks to increasingly number of satellite launches carrying EHF payloads. Unlike the already widely used X and Ku bands, the sky remains relatively open for the Ka band," remarks Ahmed. "In the terminal market, multi-band terminals are replacing single bands to claim an increasing stake in procurement across platforms and are set to grow even more robustly with the onslaught of EHF and AEHF bands in the market from 2013 onwards. The COTM terminals should see significant penetration from 2016 onwards."
Technological and regulatory barriers to greater bandwidth, arresting power losses in higher frequencies, and the increased tightening of space entry are some of the major challenges, besides the credit crunch, that could substantially impede market growth.
"Armed forces that rely solely on military satellite communications (MILSATCOM) will find that these no longer suffice in meeting growing requirements," states Ahmed. "Commercial SATCOM will continue to play an increasing role in filling the gap."
Companies are likely to gain higher returns from investing in satellites that operate with higher frequency payloads. The current credit crisis may prove a barrier to further investment in such satellites. At the same time, however, it may also provide significant opportunities for new entrants. New and flexible companies that adapt early in the game will likely gain dominance in the integrated communication and situational awareness market. However, traditional giants will need to reduce response time if they want to remain competitive.
"Companies might seek strategic partnerships to fill capability gaps in areas such as data links, avionics electronics, payloads, COTM terminals, and network interfaces in order to realise the benefit of an integrated C4ISR," says Ahmed. "In this highly lucrative market, a trend-based approach to partnerships and alliances is necessary to develop innovative, market-winning products and securing market entry."
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European Defence Strategic Communication Market Assessment / M384