Viasat realizes major milestone for its global satellite broadband plan
Viasat Inc. today announced the first satellite in its ViaSat-3 global constellation has reached a major milestone with completion of payload integration and performance testing, and shipment to the Boeing Satellite Systems facility in El Segundo, Calif. That satellite constellation will serve the Americas and the surrounding oceans regions. Launch is targeted for early calendar year 2022.
“This is an incredibly exciting time for Viasat as the first of the three high-powered ViaSat-3 satellites in our global constellation enters the final stages of production,” said Dave Ryan, president, Viasat Space & Commercial Networks. “Once complete, we will be ready to put the world’s highest-capacity single satellite into geostationary orbit to serve the world by delivering broadband to the hardest-to-reach areas anywhere — on the ground, in the air and at sea.”
Each ViaSat-3 satellite is expected to generate over 20kW of payload power, making it among the highest-power commercial satellites ever built. Just three of these satellites will cover nearly the entire globe, and are expected to deliver over 3,000 Gigabits per second (Gbps) of capacity — or 3 Terabits per second (Tbps) total — for 15 years or more.
The ViaSat-3 constellation is anticipated to have roughly eight times more capacity than Viasat’s current fleet combined. Vast amounts of bandwidth are needed to address increased demand for high speed internet access — particularly in the video streaming realm. ViaSat-3 represents a major advancement in Viasat’s mission to extend broadband internet service to the many places around the world that don’t have it.
Ryan added, “While the payload was assembled at Viasat’s Tempe, AZ facility, the effort was company-wide. From Tempe, to the antenna expertise in Duluth (GA), to Germantown (MD) for their software and systems engineering know-how and other offices around the world from Chennai, India to Lausanne, Switzerland as well as at our Carlsbad headquarters, all of these teams worked together to come up with a totally unique way to not only build this spacecraft, but to test it in record time.”
Viasat plans to launch and operate two more ViaSat-3 satellites that will serve Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the Asia Pacific (APAC) regions. The ViaSat-3 EMEA payload is expected to be delivered to Boeing in the latter part of the company’s fiscal 2022. That will help Viasat push ahead with plans for a new set of satellites that have been slowed by the pandemic.
“I can’t predict that there won’t be any other COVID impacts,” Rick Baldridge, Viasat’s president and CEO, said on the company’s recent fiscal Q4 2021 earnings call regarding the ViaSat-3 program, noting that the second payload (for the EMEA) region is running about six months behind the first payload for the Americas. “It has definitely hit us pretty hard this last year on that payload.”
Together, the trio of ViaSat-3 satellites is expected to deliver more than 3 Tbit/s of capacity over an anticipated lifespan of at least 15 years. The ViaSat-3 constellation is expected to support about eight times more capacity than Viasat’s current satellite broadband fleet combined, the company said.
That will also be coming together amid a race to deliver satellite broadband services on a global scale. SpaceX’s Starlink service, still in beta, is progressing with a plan to launch and operate thousands of low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellites.
Last month, Viasat asked the FCC to stay an April 27 order granting SpaceX’s application to modify its LEO system until a court reviews Viasat’s request for an environmental review of Starlink’s expanding constellation of broadband satellites.
“The Commission has violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) by failing even to assess the environmental impact of both deploying thousands of satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO) and then having those satellites ultimately disintegrate into the atmosphere,” Viasat argued in its filing. “Because the Order will allow SpaceX to cause immediate and irreparable harm to Viasat and the public at large, the Commission should stay the Order until judicial review is complete.”
Viasat is a global communications company that believes everyone and everything in the world can be connected. For 35 years, Viasat has helped shape how consumers, businesses, governments and militaries around the world communicate. Today, the Company is developing the ultimate global communications network to power high-quality, secure, affordable, fast connections to impact people’s lives anywhere they are—on the ground, in the air or at sea. To learn more about Viasat, visit: www.viasat.com, go to Viasat’s Corporate Blog, or follow the Company on social media at: Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter or YouTube.
3 thoughts on “Viasat realizes major milestone for its global satellite broadband plan”
It seems like Viasat is going to be an also-ran to SpaceX’s Starlink service.
Although perhaps it has merits, the NEPA lawsuit is an act of desperation. Viasat should also challenge the FCC’s awarding of RDOF funding to SpaceX for urban locations in Silicon Valley and beyond.
But one must credit Elon Musk with questioning all the usual assumptions, including the very protocols of the Internet, to create something that incumbents would never build. According to an Elon Musk Tweet, Starlink developed an alternative to IPv6 – see footnote 1 of this article for a link and more detail.
SpaceX’s vertical integration of rocket launch and operation seems to be another huge cost advantage over Viasat. With the sheer number of satellites (approximately 1,500) already deployed, how will Viasat be able to compete with its three satellites?
Add that to the $900m RDOF subsidy Starlink will receive from the federal government and it seems like this space race was over before it began.
Ken, Thanks for your comment. Surprised you believe Starlink has already won the global satellite Internet competition with Viasat and Amazon’s Kuiper. Geostationary satellites, used by Viasat, does have an advantage over LEO satellites used by Starlink as per this narrative:
Viasat uses traditional geostationary satellites located 22,000 miles above the Earth. A ground station broadcasts a signal up to the satellite located 22,000 miles above the Earth. The satellite then processes the signal before beaming it back down to earth. Equipment at the subscribers location then receives the signal from the satellite and reassembles the data. Communication back to the satellite from the subscribers location also takes place. With this technology fewer satellites are needed to cover a given area. This is the primary advantage held by Viasat.
Starlink uses special low Earth orbit satellites located just a few hundred miles above the Earth. This poses a challenge since each satellite can only cover a very small area. To mitigate this problem Starlink uses thousands of these satellites with thousands more planed to be deployed in the coming years. The other challenge is that the satellites are constantly moving. This requires specialized equipment on the subscribers end in order to track the satellites as they move.
Starlink is currently in public beta and is advertising between 80 Mbps and 150 Mbps of download speed and 30 Mbps of upload bandwidth. This is significantly higher than that of Viasat. Real world speed tests have shown speeds of about 100 Mbps being typical.
Here’s a comparison of those two: https://turbospeedwifi.com/starlink-vs-viasat-a-complete-guide-for-2021/
US-based Viasat Inc, is readying to launch fast internet-from-space services in India. The $2.25-billion geostationary satellite operator has sought approvals from the government to deploy two new satellites for delivering advanced broadband connectivity solutions in India.
“We have filed applications with the Indian government and relevant agencies, seeking authority to use two of our Ka-band ViaSat-3 satellites – currently under construction – to serve India, and we look forward to the opening of the Indian market to these advanced broadband connectivity solutions,” a Viasat spokesperson said in a written response to ET’s queries.
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