Voice and data relayed around the world, the vast array of available television channels, and mobile phone services are just some of the benefits brought by communication satellites.
The four largest satellite systems operators in the world are either based in Europe or are European-owned. Both from an economic and social viewpoint, satellite communication has been the one European space activity to make the biggest impact on our lives in the past 35 years.
Today, the largest application for satellite communication systems in Europe is television distribution. More than 3 000 channels are available via European satellite operators, feeding tens of millions of homes either directly or via cable networks. Satellites are also the vital link for 'live' broadcasts of news, sports and other major events.
Satellite data networks form the basis of our financial systems and complement ground-based telephone systems. Such systems are particularly important during emergency situations.
Satellite systems can help close the rural 'digital divide' by providing more remote communities with broadband internet access and ensuring that the whole of society can get involved in the knowledge-based economy.
European industry currently supplies over 40% of the competitive global commercial satellite market. European technical capabilities in satellite communications need to keep pace with our global competitors. The European Space Agency (ESA) has a strong supporting role here, acting as a catalyst for European industry.
In parallel, an industry-led technology platform has been formed to bring the European satellite communications community together around a common strategic agenda addressing broadcasting, broadband and mobile communications and their convergence and integration. The Integral Satcom Initiative (ISI) was launched in February 2006.