SPECSI Strategic Positioning of the European and Canadian Satcom Industry

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The SPECSI project examined the role of satellites in future communication networks and applications in 2020-25.

It studied emerging Information Communication Technology (ICT) trends to identify future opportunities for satcom and their associated system propositions. The outputs of the study are designed to help ESA understand how the European and Canadian satellite industry can be best supported through its ARTES programme. 

These goals were met by addressing the following specific objectives: 

  • Develop a detailed understanding of the evolution IT & Media sector architectures and requirements influencing satellite communication networks;
  • Identify at least two reference scenarios and system designs, for which the impact of the satcom industry can be demonstrated to be most significant;
  • Formulate a strategy (roadmap, associated conditions, necessary resources) for the satcom sector in addressing future opportunities in general and these reference scenarios in particular;
  • Implement a strong interaction between terrestrial ICT, media and satellite stakeholders to develop joint value propositions;
  • Prepare the results of the study to support the Agency in the preparation of its future programmes and strategy for telecommunications. 

The scope of the study included geostationary and non-geostationary (MEO, LEO, HEO) systems, high altitude platforms (HAPS), user and ground segments and any combination of these.


Today, communication satellites provide a complex mix of services ranging from long distance trunking, telephony, video and audio broadcasting, mobile communication, on-demand narrowband data, broadband multimedia and Internet access. However, the continuing digital revolution is driving both a step-change in user expectations and increasing competition for satellite capabilities from terrestrial communication and distribution technologies. 

In order to grow, the satellite industry must understand the demands of the evolving market and potentially re-define itself in light of the increased infrastructure capabilities and service performance demands being offered by new infrastructures such as 5G. 

The ubiquity, quality of experience and service personalisation required by a diverse set of demanding future applications (including pervasive high definition video, cloud and augmented reality services and the Internet of Things) will result in a need for innovative telecommunication technologies. 

Moreover, future systems must be flexible to meet evolving or unknown requirements, must respond to increasing pressure on service prices, accommodate evolving business models driven by the need to deliver holistic service experience for end users, and deliver to geographies and socio-economic groups previously left out. 

At the same time overseas competitors are making substantial investments in satellite communications infrastructures in order to capture growth. European and Canadian industry must be strategically positioned to exploit opportunities and respond to competition on price and performance.


Satellite systems can and should be fundamental components in future networks - their inherent characteristics address challenges in relation to the support of multimedia traffic growth, ubiquitous coverage, machine to machine communications and service reliability whilst optimising value for money for users. 

 The SPECSI study re-assessed the propositions offered by the satellite industry – whether fixed or mobile, geostationary or low-earth orbit, evolved flexible ultra-HTS or revolutionary mega-constellation – in the context of the broader ICT revolution. 

The study identified a subset of the key satcom system propositions that will shape the market post 2020, and delivered strategic roadmaps for the delivery of these systems in support of ESA planning on how best to support European and Canadian Industry in meeting the global challenges of the converged connectivity future.


The SPECSI study developed its recommendations to the ESA over the six months to July 2016. 

Phase 1 to April 2016 examined the requirements and needs of the IT & Media sectors in 2020-25 in collaboration with a broad range of stakeholders before developing and down-selecting  2 satcom value propositions (reference scenarios and system concepts) for further study. 

Phase 2 to July 2016 developed end-to-end system designs for the selected concepts and undertook a technological, industrial, operational and regulatory gap analysis for the satcom sector. These were used to prepare the roadmap and recommendations for the Agency 

Current status

The study successfully completed in October 2016 and will be presented at the ESA ARTES 1 Day in January 2017. 

The SPECSI study reached conclusions on

  • the future network and 5G use-cases for which satellite systems offer substantial value propositions and market opportunity;
  • performance and cost targets required for next generation satellite systems to remain competitive with or complementary to terrestrial systems;
  • how the satellite ecosystem must adapt itself for fit to the future network and 5G context;
  • proposed evolutions, detailed designs and development roadmaps for next generation systems for future broadband markets;
  • the feasibility of such satellite systems in the 2020-25 timeframe.

The two selected reference scenarios assessed in detail were an evolved flexible Ultra-High Throughput Geostationary satellite system and an optimised High Throughput Low Earth Orbit satellite system; each servicing ubiquitous broadband use cases in the 5G environment. 

The study team would like to thank ESA, and the terrestrial and satellite telecommunication industry stakeholders who provided inputs to this study.

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