Space has some unique characteristics in comparison to Earth. The distance and Earth's rotation make it possible to launch satellites into orbit, which help improve communications around the world. In the 1980s, communications was still provided by so-called GEO satellites that orbited 35 kilometers above the globe. However, the distance produced mediocre coverage and poor communication quality.
A few years ago, the SpaceX company began to virtually flood the sky with smaller and faster LEO satellites via its Starlink satellite network. In the last two years, the number has grown to around 3,500 to 4,000 satellites. These provide the global population with worldwide coverage of the Internet. Starlink has increasingly become a communications platform for the maritime industry, for sparsely populated areas, and also as emergency communications in Ukraine and Iran. By the end of 2022, Starlink exceeded one million subscribers. The necessary box and a subscription cost around $110 per month. By using it, subscribers receive Internet coverage and good streaming speeds (20-220 megabits per second).
These numbers add up to a roughly estimated $1.3 billion in revenue for Starlink, which was built up in just two years. This is something of a world record in the "sprint towards a billion in revenue" category. After all, it took Google five years to reach around a billion dollars in revenue, Facebook six years and IBM 79 years. With 50 million subscribers in just a few years, Starlink could generate between $50 billion and $70 billion in revenue, and with high margins.
Satellites have a life-span of between 6 and 9 years
What are the future prospects for mobile telecommunications in this context? If the American company AST Spacemobile succeeds in realizing its vision of space, 5G phones should be usable everywhere in the world - and "everywhere at once". Such a direct connection from satellites to smartphones will complement today's outdated infrastructure (radio towers, fixed networks) and services, and will generate excitement among the CFOs of telecommunications companies. That's why all the major brands are already on board. These include Qualcomm/Iridium, Apple/Globalstar, T-Mobile/Starlink, Nokia, Ericsson, Vodafone, American Tower, Samsung.
Another area that could benefit from satellites is "listening." Radio frequencies make it possible to hear changes on Earth. The American company Spire has more than 100 satellites that allow very accurate meteorological data, movements at sea, changes in the atmosphere, etc. to be obtained.
In total, there will be more and more satellites. Low-orbit satellites have a lifespan of six to nine years before they fall to Earth in a fiery trajectory. The constant need for renewal creates a stable basic market.
A second area that provides investment potential within the space industry is the launch industry, i.e. how do satellites get from Earth to space. In 2014, the launch industry was worth less than two billion dollars. Now, estimates are that it will grow from the current $14 billion to about $43 billion by 2030 (Federal Aviation Administration, Research & Markets). Not only are the costs of satellites and ground stations going down, but so is the cost of just launching them. This is due to both better, lighter materials and successful reuse of rockets. For example, SpaceX is already reusing its rocket boosters and the lower stage of its rocket launch systems up to 15 times.