“Twenty-Five Years: Is the Past, Prologue?” David Meltzer

As GVF’s Silver Anniversary year draws to a close, David Meltzer, Secretary General, provides his reflections on the association’s first quarter century.

With this issue of ‘GVF FOCUS’, we end the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of GVF’s establishment. Earlier contributors to this column noted that GVF – or the Global VSAT Forum as it was first known – was established in a much different era in the satellite communications industry. In 1997, GVF was one of a few industry trade associations and the industry was still dominated by the intergovernmental organizations enjoying privileges and immunities that extended to exclusive supplier relationships with the world’s largest PTTs. However, these “IGOs” were burdened by public service obligations and non-fiduciary boards while competition in the form of separate satellite systems were focused on the low hanging fruit of broadcast and business networks and fiber optic cables were siphoning traffic from Intelsat and others then providing PSTN services. On the ground, antennas were often described in 1997 in meters rather than centimeters while mobile communications in the form of cell phones was in its infancy with just 3.6% of the world’s 5.9 billion people having a subscription to mobile cellular telephony. Today, over 100% of the world’s 8 billion people have a subscription.

Twenty-five years later, GVF and the industry we represent are transformed. Moving away from our initial focus of advocating for regulatory reforms to advance the use of VSAT’s, GVF has evolved with its membership. Today, GVF is at the forefront in advocating for the industry’s spectrum rights in response to mobile network operators and their voracious appetite for spectrum. Faced with the annual “buzz” surrounding the release of the latest smartphones by corporate behemoths like Apple and Samsung, the satellite industry has struggled to regain the ”sexiness” of the 1960’s space age. GVF has responded by promoting the industry at conferences, via webinars, social media, and newsletters such as ‘GVF FOCUS’. As the industry grows and its need to recruit people grows, GVF has developed industry leading online tools to train over 20,000 technical and non-technical people in the industry.

If you, the reader, have read this far, you are probably wondering what the next 25 years will bring. I am not ambitious enough to make a prediction for 2047. However, let me make some predictions for 2027:

• The mobile and satellite industries will move from competition towards collaboration as each needs the other to reach customers. 3GPP’s Release 17 and subsequent Releases will drive much of the convergence, but corporate acquisitions will bring back the close collaboration seen when the PTTs owned the largest satellite operators.

• While some LEO operators will fail, some will succeed. The end-result will be a continuation of the satellite industry’s history of providing affordable connectivity to people and, increasingly, machines.

• Satellite operators will move up and down the value chain through organic growth and acquisitions.

• Echoing 1997 when GVF was one of a few industry trade associations, by 2027 the many industry trade associations will have become fewer as industry members seek to amplify the industry’s voice and more efficiently utilize their investments in their trade associations.

Time will certainly tell if the past is indeed prologue.

David Meltzer, Secretary General, GVF

David Meltzer has 30 years of experience in the satellite and humanitarian industries. Mr. Meltzer currently leads GVF which is the largest global trade association for the commercial satellite industry. As GVF’s Secretary General, he leads advocacy efforts on behalf of the industry with national and international regulators while providing members with benefits in areas such as online and classroom training, organizing industry conferences, and leading industry working groups on topics that include international regulatory matters, sustainable space operations, and disaster relief.

Prior to leading GVF as its Secretary General, Mr. Meltzer worked for sixteen years at the world’s largest communications satellite operator - Intelsat - and served as Intelsat’s General Counsel and Executive Vice President for Regulatory Affairs. Following Intelsat, Mr. Meltzer served for thirteen years at the American Red Cross leading its international disaster relief and development activities and served as the American Red Cross’ General Counsel for over five years.

Mr. Meltzer has extensive experience working with senior members of government and has made numerous appearances before media, the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, ITU, and other national and international organizations.