Business Applications Generate $4.5 Billion in 2006 Revenues


The global

market for very small aperture satellite terminals, or VSATs, used by businesses is expanding just about everywhere despite the continued advance of DSL and fiber-optic lines, according to data compiled by Comsys of Britain.

In the enterprise market alone, more than 1.6 million VSAT units have been shipped worldwide in the last 20 years

, with more than one-third of these being delivered in the past two years, according to Simon Bull, Comsys’ senior consultant and principal author of the company’s annual VSAT survey.

These 1.6 million enterprise VSAT terminals accounted for $4.5 billion in service

revenue in 2006,

a 10 percent increase over 2005, which was a 10 percent increase from 2004, according to Comsys.

“DSL really socked it to the VSAT market in 2004,” Bull said Sept. 25 in a presentation to Comsys’ VSAT 2007 conference. “But the recovery has been extremely strong. Every part of the business – bookings, shipments – is growing substantially.”

The newest growth driver has been the consumer market, led by Hughes Network Systems of Germantown, Md., and WildBlue Communications of Denver, both of which are reporting strong growth in the U.S. consumer satellite-broadband business. Similar rates of growth are reported in Canada, where technology similar to WildBlue’s is being deployed.

Outside North America, Orbit Data Systems Ltd. of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has signed up

more than 10,000 subscribers in the Middle East as part of a satellite-broadband service deployed in partnership with satellite-fleet operator Intelsat.

In Australia, a government-supported program promoting satellite broadband has resulted in more than 50,000

subscribers being signed up by service providers, especially Thailand-based Shin Satellite, operator of the IPStar satellite.

Comsys estimates that there were 613,000 consumer satellite-broadband subscribers as of June 30, nearly half of them in the United States.

Bull said the price of VSAT terminals continues the steep decline that began a decade ago. The average terminal now retails for less than $300, in part because of service-provider subsidies.

In a market growing this fast, with a broader array of products offered by Hughes Network Systems, ViaSat Inc. of California, Gilat Satellite Networks of Israel, iDirect Technologies of Virginia and others, it is perhaps not surprising that the number of VSAT network operators

also has skyrocketed.

Comsys found that by the end of 2006, VSAT operators numbered well over 500, with 120 new players entering the market since 2004.

It is, Bull said, a market ripe for consolidation because of the economies that larger network operators can realize compared to smaller players.