Satellites carry less than 10 percent of the world’s total telecommunications traffic, despite the fact that the total capacity of all of the commercial communications satellites in orbit is less than the capacity of a single transoceanic fiber optic cable. In 2002, the satellite part of the telecommunications industry took in an estimated $100 billion.
Many satellite system operators, earthstation operators, and ancillary services have sprung up to accommodate users around the world. (As we will see in the next chapter, the trend has been away from governmentally controlled entities and toward privately owned multinational corporations.) This chapter will explore the strengths and weaknesses of telecommunications carried by satellite, the industry’s major competitors, some of the systems and networks providing space segments, and an overview of some of the ancillary service providers.
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