Satellite 2007
Feb. 19-22
Washington Convention Center

The Industry:Commercial, military, and consumer satellite technology

The Attendees: 7,500 sky-techies seeking more bang for their bandwidth

The Issues:

That’s Transi-entertainment: Mobile TV panelists agree: future content will be gadget-driven. Shows will be scaled down for small-screen iPods, PDAs, back-seat terminals, and mobile phones. Likewise, programming length will shrink to accommodate the jammed schedules and short attention spans of “video snackers”—five- and 10-minute shows will become the norm as prime time migrates to lunchtime.

Social Networking: The youth market will drive content for mobile TV. In Japan, 4 million kids ages 5 to 9 have mobile phones; they’re seeking animated and sharable content. Said one panelist, “The young population won’t be watching Bloomberg TV.”

Atmos-Fear: Satellites aren’t above it all; threats include solar flares that fry components, meteoroids, and man-made space debris. Consultant Mark Chartrand described the drama of being pummeled with particles flying at 15,000 mph.

Geo-Whiz: Chartrand explained geosynchronous orbit: There is only one distance from Earth at which a satellite will orbit in 24 hours (actually 23 hours, 56 minutes, four seconds), and if you want a geostationary satellite, it must be docked right over the equator. But prime positioning is moot without a prime downlink frequency. Hence the four cardinal rules of celestial real estate: location, location, location, and frequency.

Merger Fervor: Consolidation predictions peppered the finance forum. Panelist Hoyt Davidson said, “Sirius and XM are down about 50 percent, and investors aren’t happy.” There’s static about huge checks for Howard Stern, Oprah, and NASCAR. Hours later, a planned merger between the satellite-radio giants topped headlines. Attendees recalled the last time XM chief Hugh Panero attended the conference: in 2002, when he collected executive-of-the-year honors.

Quality on Demand: Among the most popular uses of tech innovations, said EchoStar’s Michael Kelly: downloading MySpace pages, Desperate Housewives, and five-hour cricket matches onto handheld devices.

Can the Con-tent: Telenor Satellite Services debuted Terralink Secure, which filters out such “unwanted content” as spam, virus-infected files, worms, and Trojan horses transmitted over the Internet before they’re sent to a satellite. It could signal big savings for IP-based-application users who pay by the amount of data sent and received.