Advances in satellite technology have given rise to a healthy satellite services sector that provides various services to broadcasters, Internet service providers (ISPs), governments, the military, and other sectors. There are three types of communication services that satellites provide: telecommunications, broadcasting, and data communications. Telecommunication services include telephone calls and services provided to telephone companies, as well as wireless, mobile, and cellular network providers.
Broadcasting services include radio and television delivered directly to the consumer and mobile broadcasting services. DTH, or satellite television, services (such as the DirecTV and DISH Network services in the United States) are received directly by households. Cable and network programming is delivered to local stations and affiliates largely via satellite. Satellites also play an important role in delivering programming to cell phones and other mobile devices, such as personal digital assistants and laptops.
In a relatively short span of time, satellite technology has developed from the experimental (Sputnik in 1957) to the sophisticated and powerful. Mega-constellations of thousands of satellites designed to bring Internet access to anywhere on Earth are in development. Future communication satellites will have more onboard processing capabilities, more power, and larger-aperture antennas that will enable satellites to handle more bandwidth. Further improvements in satellites’ propulsion and power systems will increase their service life to 20–30 years from the current 10–15 years. In addition, other technical innovations such as low-cost reusable launch vehicles are in development. With increasing video, voice, and data traffic requiring larger amounts of bandwidth, there is no dearth of emerging applications that will drive demand for the satellite services in the years to come. The demand for more bandwidth, coupled with the continuing innovation and development of satellite technology, will ensure the long-term viability of the commercial satellite industry well into the 21st century.