Denmark is a relatively small country in Europe with a population of less than 6 million people. However, over the last 20 years, it has seen its demands for satellite capacity increase by over 20 times, making it a keen acquirer of new satellite capability.
In an exclusive interview with Via Satellite, Peter Malmberg, project manager for maritime satellite services at the Danish Defence Acquisition and Logistics Organization, talks about what is next for the country in terms of its milsatcom strategy.
VIA SATELLITE: As we have entered into a time of economic restraint, has this impacted Denmark’s milsatcom strategy? Have the plans that were made two years ago been cut back?
Malmberg: No, on the contrary, we have invested in more capacity. If you look at Denmark, and the dial-up systems like Inmarsat and Iridium, we have moved to fixed-line systems such as Eutelsat and Intelsat. The more we can get onto fixed systems the better. They have been far more cost-effective for us.
VIA SATELLITE: What would you say are the main challenges for Denmark’s milsatcom strategy over the next two years? How are you looking to build this capability?
Malmberg: We are a small country. We don’t have our own military satellite. Three years ago, we made an agreement with some other nations, as well as the United States to join the Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) system. That is the core of our milsatcom strategy, to get as much capability as possible from the WGS system. Until now, this has been working out quite well. All the circuits today for the Army and the Air Force are running on WGS. But, in terms of the navy and the ships, we already had a quite well developed network in terms of Ku band. This Ku-band network is still running. But, we now also have a WGS X-band network for our ships.
VIA SATELLITE: How are you looking to improve your milsatcom capabilities? What does WGS give you?
Malmberg: The move to WGS gives us the capability of almost having a military satellite of our own. However, despite the capacity with WGS, we will still have to look for more capacity in a few years; there is no doubt about that. We have a well developed network. The demand for capacity is increasing. I can tell you when we started running our fixed line network around 10 years ago, we had 5 Mhz capacity. Today, we have 95 Mhz of capacity. The demand for capacity has increased almost 20 times over the last 10 years. The main use of that capacity is our ships. So, we have a lot of ships in the North Atlantic, where we have a special obligation to permanently operate ships. Satcom makes our overall operations more efficient.
VIA SATELLITE: Would Denmark consider a hosted payload deal? Are you looking to form closer partnerships with the commercial satellite sector?
Malmberg: We have some partnerships with the commercial satellite sector, such as with Eutelsat. But, despite our increased demands for capacity, going to a hosted payload would be a giant leap for us. I don’t think our capacity needs would justify this. However, if our demands for capacity continue to see strong increases over the next 10 years, then it might. We have bought a lot of equipment for our land forces, so the demands for capacity will increase.
VIA SATELLITE: How important is satellite in your overall military capabilities? How does satellite work with other communications technologies?
Malmberg: For broadband services, satellites are a lifeline. We have discussed lately what we would do if we had no satellites. So, we are thinking of a life without satellites so other alternatives are under consideration. We will start to seriously look at this over the next year. All of our ships use satellite and have broadband systems. We are looking at alternatives such as HF (BRASS project), Ultra High Frequency (UHF), and other mobile systems that can be used in Danish waters as well for international operations and the whole North Atlantic as mentioned before.
VIA SATELLITE: What impact will High Throughput Satellites (HTS) have on your strategy?
Malmberg: It is good that we are getting these HTS. The problem is that they will initially be deployed in these high density areas. That is a general problem for a country like Denmark. For 20 years, satellite operators were not really interested in covering the sea with their satellites. But, we need satellites to cover these areas.
VIA SATELLITE: What is next for Denmark’s milsatcom strategy? What trends do you see emerging in milsatcom over the next two years?
Malmberg: The trends we will see is that we will go to higher frequency bands, such as Ka band, where you can use smaller units in the field. You don’t need a larger antenna anymore. This is important for satcoms on the move and military units. For the Navy, there are problems as these Ka-band satellites do not cover large areas of the sea. We are considering Global Xpress. The problem with the Inmarsat system is cost. If it is still Inmarsat prices, it is still not of interest to us. We have now learned to use satellites more efficiently. If Inmarsat does not follow this trend, it is difficult to see how we can use their services.
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