President and CEO
Boeing Integrated Defense Systems
"The Future of Space-Based Communications"
International Technology Summit
January 30, 2002
Good morning and welcome. I'm happy to be part of this forum today and delighted to share the platform with my colleagues.
Certainly, we've come a long way in space-based communications in the past 25 years. . . and can all be proud of what our industry has achieved.
But what I'd like to do today is to look ahead to where I think we're going in the future.
I'll keep my remarks brief so we can get to some dialog and spirited debate. I'm eager to hear from all of you.
So what will the future bring?
I can envision a time in which all of us have the ability to:
- Be connected to people, resources, and information
- With high-speed data, imagery and video
- From fixed-point locations and mobile platforms
- Anytime. . . . Anywhere
In this world of the future, the underlying complexity of required systems and infrastructure will be transparent to users.
It will be facilitated by an invisible web of integrated space-, wireless- and terrestrial-based communications systems, and controlled by multifunctional devices that can
- fit in your pocket. . . or even
- on the button of your shirt.
It's the kind of seamless and ubiquitous connectivity that will let individuals and businesses pull - or even passively receive - whatever information they need. . . in whatever format they choose. . . from the ether.
Tailored, value-added data delivery that makes businesses and individuals more productive. . . more powerful. . . more connected to the world.
To me, that represents what the future could be.
I envision that future coming true in any number of areas:
- For air traffic management and battlefield management
- For the man on the street and the sailor on the bridge
- For the hiker in the Pyrenees at 3,000 meters, and for parents at home (keeping track of their children, wherever they may be)
- For the air traveler en route to Madrid and the fighter pilot en route to a target...
- For all of us in this room
Getting there will not be easy... and we face a number of challenges.
For one thing, the space business is not for the faint of heart.
We work on the cutting-edge of technology in areas of extreme environments, and our work has to be perfect because once launched it is impossible to bring our systems back for repair.
But not all of the challenges of working in space involve technical risk. . . . In fact, the biggest challenge we face in achieving this vision may not be technical at all... but, rather, financial.
Increasingly, the question will not be: "can this be done (technically)?". . . but "does the business case close?"
Future issues are less likely to be about our ability to get data from point A to point B quickly and securely, but doing so affordably and with the potential for profit. . . .
If we learned anything from the early low-Earth orbit satellite communications ventures that ran into trouble, that's it.
The careful, measured approach that Hispasat is taking in moving forward in the geosynchronous communications satellite service business is a great example of building on a sound foundation.
Predicting what the market will want and expect from space-based communications represents another challenge.
Some of the questions we need to address here include:
- Are the air-travel industry and governments looking for less ground-based air traffic control and more space-based air traffic management?
- Is the military market, which wants a fully integrated communications solution, willing to let go of separate legacy platforms in order to achieve true interoperability?
- And does the current export license environment support the kind of future our space-based communications systems can provide?
While the business challenges may represent a more vexing obstacle than technology. . . there still are some important enablers required to achieve the kind of connectivity I think tomorrow's market will demand.
Such things as:
- Hybrid networks that combine fiber, wireline and wireless systems. . . to provide a flexible, powerful and less costly communications infrastructure
- High-performance digital signal processors that change a satellite from a passive reflector of simple data streams. . . into a "swithboard in space" that intelligently directs complex communications traffic of all kinds.
- Active antenna arrays that can react instantly to changing market needs or coverage requirements to provide bandwidth-on-demand or custom-tailored delivery to a given geographic region.
- Sophisticated encryption techniques to answer the demand for greater information security
- Pioneering applications like satellite radio. . . video-on-demand. . . digital feature-film transmission. . . individualized, interactive programming
- And, perhaps most important, our ability to move towards open architecture and common standards around the world.
Those are the kinds of enabling technologies and processes that will help us achieve the seamless integration of space-, air-, and ground-based systems.
The phased array antenna being developed by INTA and CASA under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Science and Technology is an excellent example of these types of future technologies.
Since Sept. 11, Americans have learned to appreciate the uncertainty and vulnerability that people who are threatened by terrorists feel. But we have also learned that like our Spanish allies, our people have the resolve to maintain our spirits and our optimism.
Clearly, space-based communication will play a major role in giving our military and civil authorities the timely information necessary to defeat emerging threats to our way of life.
I certainly don't have all the answers to what tomorrow will bring, but I'm looking forward to hearing some of yours.
I've spoken the last few minutes about the many challenges we face. . . . Personally, I'm very optimistic that those of us in this room today can help build the future I described a few moments ago.
I base that optimism on what our industry has already achieved, and what we can do in the years ahead through partnership and cooperation.
Thank you very much.