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Is Hacking the Major Challenge Being Faced by Global Satellite Telephones Market?

Increasing digitalisation and IoT are driving the global satellite telephones market, but hacking remains a major concern

TechSci Research defines a satellite phone as “a type of mobile phone that enables the user to communicate with each other by connecting directly to orbiting satellites, instead of terrestrial cellular telephone sites”. Growing convergence of digitalisation and enhanced productivity has culminated in a marked rise in IoT (Internet of Things) usage, which is further driving the global satellite telephones market. TechSci Research examines two trends, one negative and one positive, that will shape the satellite telephones market in the years to come:

Tour de Force of Space Industry is Gaining Global Recognition

As prosperity levels rise all across the world, governments are gaining an interest in space as the next frontier to conquer. Emerging market economies and developed countries both see space as a profitable enterprise, as it has something to offer to any country, big or small. Relatively smaller players such as ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), for example, are winning plaudits for the number of launches and the cost effectiveness which is boosting the global satellite telephones market. Only recently, ISRO launched the South Asia satellite (SAS) satellite as a ‘gift’ to the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) region. It enables a full range of applications and services in the areas of telecommunication and broadcasting applications viz television, direct-to-home (DTH), very small aperture terminals (VSATs), tele-education, tele-medicine, disaster management support etc.

The trend of launching nanosatellites and heavier satellites through Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles (GSLVs) is gaining steam. Both provide different benefits; nanosatellites are smaller, relatively cheap and easier to launch and more of them can be delivered in one payload. GSLV satellites, while heavier and more expensive, usually cover a much larger tract of area and can be ‘shared’ among countries, i.e. the benefits are not simply intranational. Both set of satellites though, are critical in boosting the global satellite telephones market.

Threats from Hacking

However, with digitalisation, one of the growing threats to the satellite telephone market comes from hacking. As humankind increasingly starts to depend upon satellites for its existence, the loss of one or more of this to nefarious activities can prove to be a major setback. New data suggests that the encryption used in popular satellite phones, such as the Inmarsat, can be cracked in real time. The issue with the decryption, when it was originally pointed out in 2012, the company "immediately took action to address the potential security issue and this was fully addressed".

TechSci experts have previously raised questions as to the practicality of the hacking technique pointed out by academics, saying that the theoretical aspect of it may not necessarily translate smoothly into practical hacking. However, as per TechSci Research report “Global Satellite Telephones Market Competition Forecast & Opportunities, 2011-2021”, Inmarsat remains the dominant player in the global satellite telephones market, with use in remote and underdeveloped areas, war zones etc. where satphone services are a must. Communications security remains perhaps the biggest challenge being faced by the industry today, and the problem is one that isn’t going away any time soon.

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Relevant Reports

Global Satellite Telephones Market By Satellite Type (Geosynchronous, Low-Earth Orbit), By End User (Defense, Government, Maritime, Aviation, Energy, Others), By Region, Competition, Forecast & Opportunities,

ICT | Mar, 2017

Satellite Telephone, also known as a satphone, is a type of mobile phone that enables the users to communicate with each other by direct connection with the orbiting satellites instead of terrestrial cellular telephone sites.

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