Once again, the satellite industry can breathe a sigh of relief at having apparently dodged a bullet at the most recently concluded World Radiocommunication Conference. While some minor incursions were made with respect to the lower end of the fixed satellite C-band spectrum allocations, a bigger threat has once again been averted, at least for a while. However, without resting on our laurels for too long, the experiences at the last couple of World Radiocommunication Conferences raise the question of why the satellite industry’s spectrum allocations have proven to be so vulnerable and why such extreme measures have been required to counter such threats.
There is one area, however, in which the industry in a collective sense appears to have fallen short, which is its ability to effectively communicate to the world at large the critical role that satellites have played in the everyday transformation of our lives and the contributions that satellite technology has made to all mankind. Whether born of false modesty or lack of focus, this shortcoming has started to take its toll in terms of the satellite industry’s future viability. This fundamental under-appreciation for what the industry has done is clearly visible in a number of critical venues, including in particular telecom regulators in many of the leading countries around the world, with a spillover effect spreading to important international forums like the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Awareness of this shortcoming and its potentially devastating effects has been acknowledged by some of the key institutional players in the industry, including the Satellite Industry Association (SIA), the Global VSAT Forum (GVF), and the Society of Satellite Professionals International (SSPI). For example, SSPI, through its Better Satellite World initiative has undertaken a global campaign to promote awareness of the immense contribution of satellites to commerce, communication, education and human welfare. Equally importantly, all three of aforementioned organizations have joined with others in support of an industry task force that has come together for the purpose of better enhancing the public image of the satellite industry, through the establishment of museum-quality permanent satellite exhibit devoted to illustrating how the satellite industry has transformed our lives. This permanent exhibit, which is to be housed at the National Electronics Museum near BWI Airport in the Baltimore, M.D./Washington, D.C. metropolitan areas, will provide a needed venue where the industry can come together to honor its accomplishments and to better inform the world as to the value that we provide.
The task force is seeking to create an attractive destination, where satellite professionals can gather and bring government officials as well as prospective customers and investors to witness first hand our myriad accomplishments and successes, thereby laying the foundation for greater appreciation of how valuable and important satellite technology is. Additionally, a substantial STEM education component has been incorporated into this effort as well. Supported by a separate grant from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)-oriented booklet describing the many ways in which satellites have transformed our lives has been prepared. And given the museum’s prime location along the I-95 highway between Baltimore and Washington, there is no reason why this venue should not become an attractive starting destination for the hundreds of buses that bring students to visit the nation’s capital each year.
However, such undertakings do not materialize magically on their own. In the absence of strong backing from the satellite industry, including strong financial support, the success of such endeavors is problematic at best. And while the challenges that we collectively face may seem daunting at times, with full industry support for undertakings such as these, they can definitely be overcome. VS
Maury Mechanick is a counsel at White & Case LLP.