Is “Terrestrial Bias” a Political Problem for the Satellite Industry?

Is “Terrestrial Bias” a Political Problem for the Satellite Industry?

I recently caught-up with a European wireless executive and we compared notes on the communications industry. While discussing different technologies, I mentioned the progress satellite broadband was making in various countries. He responded with an interesting insight. Simply put, local politicians are eager to support terrestrial wireless and wireline projects because they create jobs in the areas they serve. However, satellite does not. Most satellite jobs are created in far aware satellite manufacturing and operations locations. As a result, local politicians often have a “terrestrial bias” when crafting policies.

Such terrestrial bias may be more prevalent in Europe than it is in the US. In the US, the FCC stepped in at the national level, and has limited the ability of towns and landlords to prohibit satellite dishes. But politicians in Europe, where higher unemployment levels are common, may be more sensitive to job creation than U.S. politicians. At the same time, most of Europe is, for the most part, sufficiently wealthy and densely populated to afford a variety of terrestrial technologies. In developing countries, satellite is often the only viable option, so job creation potential of alternative technologies is not an option.

Does this difference explain, in part, why satellite broadband has been relatively slower to develop in Europe than in the US or in developing countries? I’m not sure, but it’s a deceptively simple idea that seems to explain the data.