Commercial SATCOM Works in Times of Diminishing Military Bandwidth

As the United States has expanded its aerial surveillance capabilities through the use of UAVs, the country’s military is finding itself dealing with an increasingly critical shortage of satellite bandwidth. 

The task of managing heavy data loads for beaming surveillance data to the ground in real time via satellite is becoming more difficult for UAVs like the Global Hawk.

Commercial SATCOM is the ideal solution for meeting the U.S. military’s satellite bandwidth challenges, which was the key takeaway from a recent Defense One Op-Ed by Rick Lober, general manager and vice president of the defense and intelligence systems division at Hughes.

While it already meets 80 percent of DoD’s SATCOM needs, commercial SATCOM ‘s viability is often questioned due to perceived security, control, coverage and cost issues. 

According to Lober, the main focus should be that commercial SATCOM simply works.  He cited how one military Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) satellite has only four gigabits of capacity, compared with recent commercial satellites offerings of more than 100 gigabits.  In addition, commercial satellites are more efficient at using capacity on a higher gigabit-per-user basis. 

Regarding security issues, new waveforms and advanced modems with certified, enhanced military security protocols can be incorporated into existing terminals to deter attack or interference. 

In terms of cost, the military can actually save millions of dollars by using commercial satellites. “Many of the military satellites cost a billion or two per copy. Commercial satellites often cost closer to $150 million to $250 million,” said Richard DalBello, former vice president of government affairs at Intelsat General, in a Defense Systems story last year.

With an estimated increase in UAV spending to an unprecedented $40 billion, which will compound data usage by the military, commercial SATCOM is the key solution for dealing with these ever-increasing bandwidth challenges.


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