There is an increasing global shortage of satellite bandwidth. This is mainly caused by the rise of drone missions throughout the globe, the implementation of new mobile networks managed by the Navy, as well as the deployment of UAVs from naval ships.
Many believe that this “bandwidth crunch” will only worsen over time as the U.S. military deploys more unmanned vehicles. As such, the requirements for satellite communications will tremendously outstrip the current capacity.
A recent National Defense Magazine article pointed out that this situation will become more challenging with the explosive growth in demand driving up prices along with a refocusing on more lucrative private-sector opportunities by commercial operators
Marco Caceres, aerospace analyst at the Teal Group, discussed how commercial providers are starting to have mixed feelings about doing business with the Department of Defense (DoD). More lucrative opportunities outside of defense and the challenges of working with the DoD are driving this trend, according to Caceres.
We would like to counter this argument. Commercial satellite service providers are pursuing new technologies such as high-throughput satellites to support the growing demand for bandwidth and proposing new procurement options such as hosted payloads to assist the DoD in meeting the challenges posed by their shrinking budgets
The article also highlighted how Gen. William Shelton, Commander of Air Force Space Command, foresees greater use of hosted payloads, but pointed out that the government does not know how to write these contracts, or even negotiate prices for the services.
With regards to contract issues, the government should consider an “insight, not oversight” approach that relies on commercial acquisition approaches, as highlighted by Don Brown, Vice President, Hosted Payloads, Intelsat General, at Satellite 2013. By leveraging “the commercial culture of mission success,” as well as understanding and relying on commercial expertise, this procurement approach actually provides more flexibility for government.
By empowering its program executives to make decisions during the build, integration and testing of the payloads, government would also see tremendous benefits.
In terms of bandwidth issues, high performance satellites can provide enhanced efficiencies, as well as performance and mission assurance. These can also offer extensive coverage of areas of expected operation, as well as wide channelization for supporting Wide-Area Airborne Surveillance (WAAS). In addition, user beams in Ku-band are compatible with current UAV bands.
While the DoD grapples with reduced resources, mission requirements are only increasing with the vast proliferation of UAVs. The bandwidth issue will only become more challenging and procurement process will increase in complexity. As such, now is the time for government to both rely on commercial solutions and embrace more flexible, commercially driven procurement practices.