The satellite communications industry — a once-sleepy sector — is indisputably booming right now. With the ubiquity of launch, the skyrocketing growth of commercial infrastructure in space, the exponentially increasing importance of resilient communications and the creeping volatility of the space domain, satellite networks are in the spotlight across the GovCon landscape today.
After more than 16 years as the CEO of Iridium Communications, Matt Desch, an eight-time Wash100 Award winner, has certainly been through the highs and lows of the satcom world. When Desch took the helm of Iridium in 2006, the company was emerging from an era marked by bankruptcy, recovery and industry bust. Today, Iridium is nearing 2 million subscribers, and the company recently reported a net income of $4.6 million for the second quarter of 2022.
In a recent video interview with Executive Mosaic, Matt Desch spoke about the significant shifts he’s seen in the satcom industry, what’s driving Iridium’s meteoric growth, new expansion opportunities in the company’s future and more.
“Just last year, something like $16 billion was invested in the industry…there’s now over 400 venture capitals invested in the industry. It’s a very, very vibrant industry more recently,” Desch told Executive Mosaic’s Summer Myatt. “The government has adapted as well. They really want to take advantage of the innovation and investment in space and Low-Earth Orbit that all of us are making, so they’re partnering more with industry than I think they ever have.”
More robust public-private partnerships are one of the biggest trends moving the satcom industry, and even the broader GovCon marketplace today, Desch explained. Other significant trends and technologies to watch right now include the rising importance of cybersecurity, the advancement of quantum computing and the proliferation of autonomous systems, revealed Desch.
During the video interview, Desch also commented on Iridium’s efforts to enable its technology in smartphones — an initiative which he predicts will be a “hot new area” in satellite communications. According to Desch, we should expect to see more companies getting involved in this area soon.
In sharing his outlook on the future of GovCon and his advice for those entering the industry today, Desch highlighted the importance of being bold, cutting through the red tape and getting things done. He mentioned a few of the U.S. government’s most bold agencies that are harnessing industry innovations and moving the needle today, including the Space Development Agency, FBI, FAA, NASA and the Department of Transportation.
He also lauded the efforts of certain movers and shakers on the industry side of satcom, namely Elon Musk, CEO and founder of SpaceX. Iridium was one of SpaceX’s earliest customers and is still one of the company’s largest commercial customers. Desch spoke about his relationship with the SpaceX leader, how Musk is changing the industry and the lessons we can learn from his business model.