SATELLITE 2009: Day 1

March 26th 2009 – The CEO panel delivered on its reputation of identifying some of the key issues for the industry over the coming months. In years past the panel has identified new applications (HD) and new technologies (Ka-band satellites and business models). Based upon the comments of the CEOs, there were three topics that were center stage.

The first is the health of the overall supply chain for the satellite industry, and in particular the launcher segment. Dave McGlade, Intelsat’s CEO commented that the operators share in the responsibility to encourage multiple launchers and provide them with a sustainable business, but that operators can tolerate the wild pricing swings of the past 24 months. I believe the sound bite was “quality, on time, at a sustainable price.” Later in the day, a separate launcher panel was SRO.

The launcher discussion morphed into the second area of discussion, and that is the need for a review of the ITAR regulations that restrict U.S. manufacturers, operators and launchers from accessing technology from other countries (China was the point of discussion yesterday). As Dave pointed out, there are ITAR-free satellites being built and launched every day—i.e. with no U.S. content. In an environment where every technical job should be saved, it seems appropriate to review the original intent of ITAR and perhaps re-think what is currently a very broad application of the regulation.

The last topic is one that is very near and dear to my heart, and that is creating an interference-free space environment. Dave and Romain Bausch, the CEO of SES Global, made a joint call for action across the industry for users to take responsibility for inaccurate installations that create interference for users. Creating interference—unintentionally—creates cost for satellite users, operators, and even installers—since they may need to revisit a site to correct the offending issue. We need to work together to keep space clean so that we can deliver that outstanding reliability and availability (99.9%) for which we are known.

The Intelsat exhibit was less exhibit and more club house for this particular conference—our five meeting rooms were packed all day and even our open seating was contended. I had a couple of bond holders come by for a session and we were able to talk with a member of our Intelsat General team for the first time—a good introduction to this fast growing business segment.

Another action-packed day for us—our ‘global and mobile’ theme has gotten great traction at the conference—clearly a driver for others in the industry as well. Our press release yesterday morning on the Galaxy 26 move is a great example of some of the mobile applications driving our business.

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