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Eutelsat and ViaSat Prep 100Mbps Satellite Broadband for EU and UK

Thursday, February 11th, 2016 (8:17 am) - Score 1,705

Satellite operators Eutelsat and ViaSat have announced that they’re teaming up via a Joint Venture. On top of that ViaSat has also announced plans to build three new ViaSat-3 spacecraft, which could deliver broadband speeds of 100Mbps+ to customers around Europe and possibly the UK.

Apparently the first two satellites will focus on the Americas and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), respectively, while a third is planned for the Asia Pacific region. Construction of the first two ViaSat-3 satellites, which is being helped by Boeing Satellite Systems, has already begun and these should be delivered in 2019 (i.e. related services probably won’t go live until 2020).

Admittedly the new Satellite’s aren’t going to solve the age old problem of latency, which will always be slow given the orbit / relay distance, but they will make such services significantly faster and add a huge amount of extra capacity (1Tbps Terabit per second (1000Gbps) of network capacity per satellite).

The promise of this is that the new Satellites will be able to deliver “residential” packages that offer download speeds of 100Mbps+enabling 4K ultra-high definition video streaming” (hopefully the data usage allowances will be adjusted upwards to match), which is faster than BT’s best FTTC (VDSL) lines today (up to 80Mbps). A 1Gbps service will also be offered to the maritime sector (ships and off-shore oil platforms etc.), as well as something similar for aircraft.

But of course by 2019/20 BT will have deployed a lot of 300-500Mbps fixed line G.fast connectivity and no doubt Virgin Media will have gone beyond their current top speed of 200Mbps, although both of those will still be more focused on the first 60-65% of largely urban UK premises. As such ViaSat’s new kit, which will also be compatible with the existing ViaSat-2 class terminals, remains focused on those with slower connections (e.g. rural areas).

Mark Dankberg, Chairman and CEO of ViaSat, said:

“The innovations in the ViaSat-3 system do what until now has been impossible in the telecommunications industry – combining enormous network capacity with global coverage, and dynamic flexibility to allocate resources according to geographic demand.

While there are multiple companies and consortia with ambitions to connect the world with telecom, satellite and space technologies, the key technologies underlying ViaSat-3 are in hand today, enabling us to move forward in building the first broadband platform to bring high-speed internet connectivity, including video streaming, to all.”

The other big news is the Joint Venture with Eutelsat, which will help ViaSat to expand into Europe. At the same time it will allow Eutelsat to expand its current wholesale broadband business and launch a new consumer retail service in Europe.

The joint venture will initially use Eutelsat’s existing KA-SAT spacecraft, although this is very likely to be expanded to include ViaSat-3 when it launches.

Michel de Rosen, Eutelsat Chairman and CEO, said:

“With KA-SAT, our unique dedicated High Throughput Satellite, Eutelsat has built an effective, high-quality, broadband platform for Europe in which ViaSat has played a key role as technical partner. Broadband is an important component of our strategy, and we seek to partner with market-leading companies that contribute to enriching our offer.

ViaSat is a partner that we both trust and value for its track record in setting industry standards and developing technologies that unlock broadband opportunities. Our joint venture will take our relationship to a new level and give further impetus to affordable, high-quality internet services in Europe.”

In relation to this ViaSat said that they would continue to provide selected broadband technologies for KA-SAT gateways and terminals and will acquire a 49% interest in the wholesale side of the new business, for a consideration of €132.5 million (£103m).

On the retail side we expect to see the first consumer services going live sometime this year, with ViaSat owning 51% of the business and Eutelsat holding 49%. However the deal is still subject to the usual regulatory approvals and that isn’t expected to complete until the second quarter of 2016.

Leave a Comment
5 Responses
  1. Avatar JamesM says:

    Nice! Ill have some!

  2. Avatar Craski says:

    Makes sense for things like ships etc but dread to think how much they would charge for such a service given the price they charge for a 20Mb connection with measly data allowance.

    1. Avatar MikeW says:

      How much did the charge come down when the current fleet of Ka-band broadband satellites launched, compared to previous generations? I can’t remember numbers, but it went from “infeasibly huge” to “high, but we could just about bear it”.

      The jump in capability of the satellite is what will allow them to make a step jump in headline speed and headline allowances.

      I suspect that in 2020, you’ll be buying a package at a little below today’s price, but with maybe 2-4x speed, and 4x bandwidth allowance.

      One problem that they’ll always have: they can’t attract too much of the market, otherwise they’ll face congestion. That means they can never undercut fixed-line fibre, and probably can’t undercut mobile broadband much either.

  3. Avatar MikeW says:

    There is an interesting article here about ViaSat’s plans for the ViaSat-3 satellites – and it looks incredibly bullish about the market opportunities for satellite broadband.
    http://spacenews.com/viasat-details-1-4-billion-global-ka-band-satellite-broadband-strategy-to-oust-incumbent-players/

    The article notes the relative reluctance of Eutelsat and SES about the opportunities for satellite broadband in Europe. Perhaps they are more aware of the bad rep the business has here; perhaps ViaSat has a business model that can overcome this problem.

    Whatever happens in the 2020 timeframe, it is certainly interesting to see tham talk about the ViaSat-2 generation (2016 launch), with revenue targets of $45 million per month. That’s 10x the revenue for ViaSat-1 (2011 launch).

    One thing is certain: Those who complain about satellite, while retaining a fixed opinion about congestion and capacity, are in for a shock at the coming increases in capacity.

    In comparison, the capacity of various birds is:
    – Avanti Hylas 1 – 14Gbps (2010)
    – Eutelsat’s Ka-sat – 90Gbps (2010)
    – ViaSat-1 – 140Gbps (2011)
    – Avanti Hylas 2 – 50Gbps (2012)
    – ViaSat-2 – 350Gbps (2016)
    – Avanti Hylas 3 – 18Gbps (2017) ?
    – Avanti Hylas 4 – 120Gbps (2017) ?
    – ViaSat-3 – 1,000 Gbps (2019) on each of 3 satellites

    1. Avatar Craski says:

      Good info Mike.

      Geostationary sat operators continue to gloss over the latency “issue” for residential customers comparing their sat service performance to other distribution methods. The operators/suppliers continually use statements like “we cant change the laws of physics”.

      What I find far more interesting are the projects looking at deploying medium earth orbit and low earth orbit constellations of satellites that will give a far more tolerable level of latency. Its a few years away yet but once the space companies have cracked reusable deployment methods to get smaller satellites into orbit cheaper then a number of the projects look far more feasible. Even the work google are doing on Project Loon looks like it could be a credible solution in some locations.

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