The Impact of SpaceX’s Starlink on Satellite Communications

The arrival of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service has had a significant impact on the satellite communications market, according to executives on a panel of legacy operators. The low Earth orbit (LEO) network has not only transformed customer expectations but also lowered price expectations for connectivity. Moreover, it has increased demand for ubiquitous coverage and shifted the industry away from long-term contract commitments. Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg highlighted the need for more competition in the market, which his company hopes to provide with its plans for a LEO constellation in 2027.

Eutelsat CEO Eva Berneke emphasized that Satellite connectivity is not a “winner takes all” market. She stated the need for sovereign and redundant networks and the challenge of launching satellite broadband constellations to non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) in the wake of Starlink and OneWeb. Berneke also stressed the importance of a competitive supply chain for the industry to succeed in this area. Ruy Pinto, CEO of SES, cautioned against underestimating the pricing pressure and competition faced by operators due to the increasing demand for connectivity. Instead, SES is focusing on regions where it can provide a differentiated service.

Mark Dankberg, CEO of Viasat, sees opportunities in heterogeneous fleets in both GEO and NGSO. However, he expressed concerns about the availability of resources and the sharing of spectrum in LEO. Dankberg suggested that releasing more information on spectrum footprints could help operators and countries make informed decisions. Space sustainability is also becoming a crucial topic for satellite operators as the number of satellites in NGSO continues to increase. Berneke called on the industry to come together to revise how companies operate and share spectrum to ensure a sustainable future.