This implies their major role in communication to ensure uninterrupted connectivity in all corners of the world. With its ubiquitous presence, satcom has become the backbone of global communication and is helping improve lives in many ways.
To understand the resilience and transformation satcom has brought into global communications, let’s have a look at 6 different applications of satellite communication.
Global internet proliferation in 2023 is at 64.4%, which when converted into digits amounts to 5.16 billion users. The Internet has grown at such a fast pace in the past two decades that it has become an unquestionably essential mode of communication and powers all major industries and businesses. For consumers, the internet paved the way for a more convenient way of life surrounded by apps like Uber, Grubhub, AirBnB, Etsy, Amazon, Spotify, etc.
However, standard cable and DSL internet cannot be used to set up connections in distant and problematic regions such as rural areas, coastlines, warzones, islands and on aircrafts and maritime ships. The only solution to further improve internet penetration is using satellite internet devices like Starlink, Viasat and Hughesnet. These devices receive connections directly from the satellites instead of cables, and thus provide a vast geographical reach. They are very well capable of replacing the current internet infrastructure of the world.
- Radio Broadcasting
Radio broadcasting is the most well-known application of satcom equipment. However, apart from transmitting clear and uninterrupted radio signals, satcom equipment is also used to power innovative radio broadcasting tech. For example, with the help of satcom, broadcasting companies can provide services such as Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB) and internet audio. DAB provides higher-quality audio and a greater variety of channels, while internet radio allows listeners to access radio stations from anywhere in the world.
In fact, instead of traditional terrestrial broadcasting, satcom-based DAB broadcasting is so reliable that it has become the standard of broadcasting in many European countries. Lastly, satcom equipment greatly expands the capacity of radio communication by enabling multiple channels to be established simultaneously and providing backup in case of disruptions or system failures.
- Television Broadcasting
In terms of television, antenna TVs used to be the norm back then. They connected nearly all of the TV networks and powered the entire television broadcasting industry that amounts $704 billion today. In the late 90s, cable TV took over the industry from antenna TVs but after three decades, satcom powered television is back in the industry in two ways.
The first ones are direct-to-home (DTH) TV connections. These connections require a dish antenna to be installed at the rooftop of homes to receive encrypted transmission signals directly from the satellite. Later, these signals are encrypted with the help of a set-top box. As per a report, the estimated market share of the DTH industry in 2023 is $127.89 billion.
The second way satcom equipment is broadcasting TV networks is by bringing back antenna TVs again. In the year 2008, a new revolution in the TV industry began that encouraged consumers to create their own TV connections and be independent of cable service providers. This revolution later came to be known as the cord cutting revolution and today, it heavily relies on modern antennas. A clear benefit of using the antenna TV during peak inflation rates is that you get to watch all transmitted channels and stations for free.
- Positioning and Navigation
The impact of the satcom industry highly reflects in global positioning and navigation systems. To begin with, we take the example of GPS devices and technologies which are present in our mobiles phones and cars as well. Global Positioning Systems rely on 30+ navigation satellites that surround the world. The GPS device sends a signal to these satellites and calculates the distance from at least 4 satellites to point to the exact location.
Today, the applications of GPS are many with navigation being the most widespread one. The next in the list are surveying, mapping, timing and even scientific research. From general routing to tracking and surveying shipments and logistics, everything is handled with the help of GPS. Some industries where GPS applications are widely used are aviation, military, maritime, transportation and agriculture.
- Mobile Connectivity
Satcom equipment expands mobile connectivity in distant areas where cell towers and fiber optic cables fail to provide coverage. Moreover, as cable networks are vastly limited by their range and are difficult to set up, it is not possible to establish a network in tough terrains such as mountains, deserts and oceans. For all such areas, using satcom equipment such as antennas and satellite phones is a reliable and cost-effective way of communication.
Furthermore, as satellite phones can connect with mobile devices anywhere on the Earth, they are immensely beneficial in industries such as mining, oil and gas, and agriculture which commonly operate in remote areas. Similarly, they are useful in military operations, war like situations and disaster management about which we will learn more in the next point.
- Disaster Management
During natural disasters, such as earthquakes, cyclones, tsunamis and more, the general infrastructure is often affected and rendered inoperational. In all such calamities, satcom equipment is used for communication and conducting rescue operations. Due to the wide reach of the satellite network and wireless operation, it can efficiently work in disaster-stricken regions and improve the overall effectiveness and speed of rescue operations.
Moreover, satcom equipment can also be used to provide satellite imaging of the affected areas and assist rescue teams in remotely operating machines and equipment from a safe distance. Even during manmade disasters such as transport disasters, nuclear disasters, oil spills, and terror attacks, satcom equipment is used to ensure encrypted communication and coordinate teams. During shipwrecks, satcom-based Position-indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) and personal locator beacons (PLBs) are used for positioning and rescuing passengers.
Satcom equipment has become an essential part of modern society, providing reliable and uninterrupted connectivity to people all over the world. It bridges the digital divide and simplifies life and businesses for people. From broadcasting internet, radio and television to ensuring relief and assistance during emergencies, satellite communication has proven to be a versatile and resilient technology. As the world continues to advance, the role of satellite communication will only become more important, helping to improve the lives of people across the globe.