PARIS — The population of satellites over Europe either fully or mostly dedicated to military communications is likely to double by 2018, to 18 spacecraft, as Central and Eastern European nations increase their demand for capacity and the nations already active in the arena replace existing capacity, according to a market study by Frost & Sullivan.

The study, “European Defence Strategic Communication Market Assessment,” says European militaries, which have lagged behind the
United States
in moving to higher-frequency satellites, are likely to order increased amounts of extremely high frequency (EHF) and advanced EHF capacity as they replace their existing satellites.

“Networking imperatives for far-flung deployments, improved sensors including [unmanned aerial vehicles] as well as soldiers’ welfare needs to connect to their homes from deployment areas have caused a massive increase in bandwidth demand,” the study says. “This can only be achieved through more investment in higher frequencies.”

The European military satellite communications market up until now has been divided into three categories – nations with their own dedicated military satellites, nations leasing capacity on others’ satellites in bilateral arrangements, and a third group whose demand is fully met by their pro rata share of capacity made available through the NATO alliance.

have opted for dedicated military telecommunications capacities, and
plans to do the same. The Turkish and Greek militaries have capacity available on their nations’ mainly commercial telecommunications spacecraft that are equipped with military payloads.

and several other European nations have purchased special access rights to French, British or Italian spacecraft.

All of these nations have, at one time or another, made use of commercial satellite capacity. The European Defence Agency is now seeking to federate that demand to approach the commercial satellite market on behalf of several nations, thereby increasing bargaining power beyond what is available to any nation individually.

The situation in Europe is further complicated by the fact that some dedicated military satellites – the Skynet 5 spacecraft in Britain, Italy’s Sicral 1B and Spain’s Spainsat – were funded in part by a private sector that is now free to market its share of the capacity to other allied nations.

is considering a similar move for its next military telecommunications satellite, the Sicral 2 to be built with
, and French authorities are also weighing whether to sell to the private sector the current
3 military satellite telecommunications system. French authorities then would lease capacity on the system.

The evolution of the military satellite communications sector has followed the evolution of
‘s satellite and ground-segment manufacturers as they become pan-European corporate entities.

Frost and Sullivan assessed the industrial landscape and found, not surprisingly, that ThalesAlenia Space of
, plus the
and Joint Systems division of
, shares the lead in market share with EADS’sAstrium division. Astrium includes manufacturer Astrium Satellites and the Astrium Services service provider.

The Thales and Astrium groups each have a 35 percent share of the milsatcom market in
, which Frost and Sullivan defines as revenue from satellites and ground-segment hardware and services.

Following Thales and Astrium is ND Satcom of Germany, a provider of satellite ground networks specializing in military procurements and now owned by satellite fleet operator SES of Luxembourg. The study found ND Satcom had a 20 percent share of the market in 2008. Astrium and ND Satcom are both major contractors to the German Defense Ministry for the SatcomBw project, which includes two satellites to be launched in 2010 as well as an ND Satcom-provided ground infrastructure.