Europe's space industry is an EU success story

Written by Christine Leurquin on 30 March 2016 in Opinion Plus
Opinion Plus

Innovative Satellite technology and applications are key to delivering Europe's future space strategy, writes Christine Leurquin.

Thanks to the valuable investments made in this high-tech sector in the last few decades, Europe has become the cradle for a world-leading industry.

Satellite communication plays an important role in this industry, as satellite orders provide continuous opportunities for spacecraft and launcher manufacturers, supporting independent EU access to space.

Over recent years, telecommunications satellites accounted for 87 per cent of Ariane launches. Since Ariane’s first launch for the SES group of companies, we have placed 41 of 73 satellites (57per cent) with Ariane with two more to come by 2017. That's more than all other launch vehicles combined.


With its fleet of over 50 GEO (geostationary) satellites and 12 MEO (medium earth orbit) satellites covering 99 per cent of the world’s population, SES has a unique ability to deliver innovative end-to-end solutions to the most demanding video, data, mobility and government verticals.

The combined strengths of the SES fleet and the O3b satellite system serve a much broader customer set than either could do individually, both developing the core market for satellite services and extending into  markets that could only have been addressed with terrestrial fibre in the past.

Satellite communications allow for a multitude of applications that largely contribute to Europe's policy ambitions including crisis management, Digital Agenda broadband connectivity objective, Border surveillance and the Space Policy Strategy overall.
Our GEO satellites are perfect for broadcasting high-quality linear TV to millions of households in both HD and Ultra HD. They transmit over 7200 TV channels, more than 2200 of them in HD and reaching 317 million TV households - 1.1 billion people - globally.

Video will represent 80 per cent of all internet traffic in 2019. Every second, nearly a million minutes of video content will cross the network by 2019.

The exponential rush for video content and streaming services will deepen the digital divide in Europe unless we rely on satellite systems to close the gap.

More than 91 per cent of the territory of the EU and 56 per cent of the population is 'rural'. SES satellites with offloading traffic capability can help current and future terrestrial networks cope with these extraordinary high volumes and low-density areas.

This is why SES is a founding and active member of the 5G PPP where satellite can be an essential building block for a global, profitable and inclusive 5G deployment. Satellites can alleviate among others the increasing bandwidth requirements on backhaul links to feed and connect dense 5G cells, which is in line with the ubiquitous coverage targeted by 5G networks.

SES is scaling up its relationship with the European Institutions, as evidenced by the two operational EGNOS payloads, which have been embarked on Astra 5B and SES-5 and that will play an instrumental role under the future Galileo programme.

Earlier in the year, SES entered into an innovative joint venture with the Government of Luxembourg, LuxGovSat, to provide Ka and X-band services on a dedicated satellite.

LuxGovSat will provide a secure, reliable and affordable satellite telecommunications infrastructure to address the governmental and institutional demand of all EU member states for defence and civilian applications, as identified in the EU GovSatcom analysis.

To maintain this significant European presence, we would like to ensure that any future European space strategy should continue and enhance the support of innovative satellite telecommunication applications using the Horizon 2020 research programme, foster unfettered access to spectrum, recognise the importance of satellite as an essential contributor to the deployment of the Digital Agenda and 5G ecosystem and stimulate a close collaboration with a broad range of terrestrial players.



About the author

Christine Leurquin is vice president for institutional relations and communications at global satellite service provider SES S.A.

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