This report reviews the status of satellite communications systems and technology research and development around the world, with particular focus on comparisons between the United States and other leading industrialized countries. Topics covered include a review of market forces and future drivers at work in the satellite communications industry today, key technology trends around the world, relevant policy and regulatory issues including standards and protocols, and opportunities for international cooperation. The report also includes site reports for visits conducted by the panel to leading research laboratories and systems developers in North America, Europe (including Russia), Japan, and Korea. Additional material is provided from secondary sources on relevant activities in Brazil, India, and Israel. The panel's conclusions include the following: (1) many European and Asian governments are maintaining or increasing funding of commercial communications satellite R&D while the United States does not appear to be supporting R&D at the level necessary to maintain its leading market share position in this growing business; (2) the United States is the leader in the manufacture, insertion of new technology, and development and finance of new commercial communications satellites, but crucial new technologies, systems concepts and regulatory patterns will need to be developed to maintain this lead. Further, the United States now lags in the satellite launch service area, and this must be viewed with concern; (3) commercial communications satellite services are rapidly becoming a large and global business, increasing from $11 billion in 1992, to $20 billion in 1996 to a projected figure of $75 billion in 2005; (4) there is a critical need in the United States for long-term satellite and high frequency research--the continued U.S. leadership role in this industry is dependent on the creation of a strong, long-term R&D program to support future needs of new technology as the communications capability of the satellites improves; and, (5) opportunities for international cooperation can facilitate the global development of new satellite technologies, systems and standards. These and other conclusions are reviewed in detail in the panel's executive summary.

Published: December 1998; WTEC Hyper-Librarian