In the beginning the Universe was created. — The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Privately held Wild Blue, in which Liberty Media holds a 37 percent stake, will become an operating subsidiary of ViaSat, which makes satellite communications equipment for defense and consumer markets. The deal is expected to close by April.
Wild Blue, based in Denver, serves 400,000 subscribers of which around 90 percent have dial-up Internet access as their only alternative. The company holds 44 percent of the U.S. satellite ISP market. WildBlue’s, two-way Internet service is currently powered exclusively by the ViaSat SurfBeam networking system.
ViaSat, based in Carlsbad, California, plans to buy Wild Blue for $443 million in cash and $125 million in new common stock, reports Reuters. Liberty Media, controlled by media mogul John Malone, will appoint a representative to ViaSat’s board. Mark Carleton, senior vice president at Liberty, is Wild Blue’s chairman.
Wild Blue’s internet service is resold by DirecTV Group, Dish Network, AT&T and the National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative.
ViaSat is planning to launch a satellite in the first quarter of 2011 that will enable Wild Blue to offer speeds of 2 to 8 Megabits per second. Currently, Wild Blue’s speeds top out at a DSL-like 1.5 Mbps. ViaSat plans to hold prices essentially the same for consumers, which range from $39.95 to $79.95 a month for speeds of 512 kilobits per second to 1.5 Mbps.
ViaSat says their new ViaSat-1 would have more capacity than all current North American satellites combined, and could serve two million subscribers with 10 times the throughput of any other Ka-band satellite. Wild Blue has struggled with having enough capacity to add more customers, and ViaSat’s new satellite should provide the bandwidth to burn.
ViaSat-1 will use Space Systems/Loral’s 1300 platform and high-capacity Ka-band spot beam technology. In many ways it’s similar to Eutelsat’s KaSat, also scheduled for launch in 2010.
Viasat’s strategic partner Eutelsat, in a parallel competition, awarded EADS Astrium a contract to construct the European-based KaSat. It will be positioned at 13° East, Eutelsat’s prime orbital position (above).
Rival satellite ISP HughesNet, a unit of Hughes Communications, also offers higher speeds over North America. The SPACEWAY 3 satellite system, the world’s first with on-board switching and routing, was launched in April, 2008.
SPACEWAY 3’s unique phased array antenna creates 24 hopping spot beams delivering 440 Mbps directly where the traffic needs to go. It offers direct site-to-site connectivity at rates of from 512 Kbps up to 16 Mbps. SPACEWAY 3 reuses frequencies across North America, yielding higher effective capacity at a lower cost.
Unlike WildBlue, where all communications must first go through a ground station, Spaceway’s switchboard-in-the-sky, can connect two nodes directly. SPACEWAY 3 was launched by Arianespace in August, 2007 and subsequently placed into geostationary orbit by Boeing in December, 2007. The spacecraft was built by Boeing Satellite Systems and is based on the Boeing 702 design. Currently HughesNet offers 2-way satellite internet to consumers using the Ku band (11/14 GHz), with the Ka band spotbeams on Spaceway 3 (at 20/30 GHz), expanding their business. Spaceway currently has 470,000 subscribers.
Hughes says it plans to launch a next-generation with over 100 Gbps throughput in the first quarter of 2012. This new geostationary satellite will use a multi-spot beam, bent pipe Ka-band architecture, for service in North America. It will use seven or eight gateways at the same physical sites as the ones they use for the current Spaceway network.The new satellite will use “bent pipe” architecture rather than their “switchboard in the sky” architecture, due to it’s lower costs (pdf).
Space Systems/Loral will manufacture the new Hughes satellite, based on its SSL 1300 platform. Designed to deliver over 100 Gbps throughput, it will utilize an enhanced version of the IPoS standard, a standardized protocol for broadband satellite terminals, approved by ETSI, TIA and ITU.
There are at least 3 billion people on the planet who have no affordable way to connect to the Internet–a problem Google aims to solve by helping foot the bill for the launch of 16 satellites in the O3B constellation.
The O3B satellite network (”O3B” stands for “the other 3 billion”) is set for launch in late 2010. An ISP would install a pair of high-tech antennas capable of tracking multiple satellites and establish a 155-megabit per-second connection to the global Web. ISPs could use 3G cellular and WiMax towers for local connections. Each satellite in the network will have 10 spot beams, each delivering in excess of 1Gbit/s.
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