Taiwanese manufacturers rise alongside global satellite giants

Allen Hsieh, Taipei; Vyra Wu, DIGITIMES Asia 0


Three major global low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite operators have been actively making moves. SpaceX, the industry leader, announced positive cash flow for Starlink and conducted another test flight of the Starship, demonstrating its determination to maintain its leadership position. Eutelsat OneWeb achieved success in the Indian market and is set to collaborate with local telecom operators, becoming one of the first providers of satellite internet services in India. Amazon's satellite service, Project Kuiper, successfully launched low Earth orbit satellites for testing in October 2023, aiming to catch up with its main competitors.

For Taiwanese business, this presents an opportunity. With the increasing user base of these top satellite operators, there are prospects for related equipment such as passive components, mechanical components, CCLs, PCBs, as well as assembly, testing, wafer foundry, and user terminals (UT) including antenna manufacturing, routers, power suppliers, among others.

SpaceX's recent test launch of its next-generation transport rocket, Starship, in November 2023, despite encountering difficulties, underscores the company's ongoing efforts to enhance launch efficiency and introduce second-generation Starlink satellites with greater capacity. This suggests a continuous rise in Starlink users, necessitating larger bandwidth capacity to meet transmission demands.

While the initial launch of Starship in April 2023 faced challenges, leading to the use of existing rockets to launch improved Starlink satellites, the global Starlink user base has exceeded one million households and is expected to reach two million by the end of 2023.

OneWeb, another player in the LEO satellite communication services, recently completed a successful merger with European communication satellite company Eutelsat, forming the European Communication Satellite Group (Eutelsat Group). This strategic move is seen as a response to future challenges in the satellite market.

OneWeb's recent approval to provide satellite internet services in India positions it as one of the first companies to offer such services in the country, indicating potential for increased satellite launches and demand for ground terminals.

Amazon, with Project Kuiper, officially launched two prototype satellites into low Earth orbit in October 2023. This entry into the competitive LEO satellite service market marks the beginning of Amazon's ambitious plan to launch over 3,000 low Earth communication satellites in the next six years. Beyond satellite internet services, Amazon sees satellite applications driving demand for cloud data centers, with AWS providing more user services through its own ground stations.

For Taiwanese manufacturers participating in LEO satellite opportunities through subcontracting and component manufacturing, the growing user base of these top operators opens up avenues. However, the emphasis for Taiwanese businesses is likely to be on subcontracting roles, potentially adopting an Open BOM model where they earn subcontracting fees. The ability to sustain this growth will require ongoing observation.