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Four satellite-broadband providers have been awarded a combined $100 million in U.S government grants to provide broadband links to rural areas of the United States.

Hughes Network Systems was awarded $58.7 million (pdf) for unserved rural customers nationwide. ViaSat’s WildBlue Communications received $19.5 million in grants to extend the service to specific communities in the West and Midwest, EchoStar XI Operating LLC, received about $14.2 million to provide satellite broadband in the East and Midwest and Spacenet received $7.5 million for satellite broadband projects in Alaska and Hawaii.

Colorado satellite companies WildBlue Communications and EchoStar XI LLC have won nearly $34 million in federal stimulus money to supply satellite Internet access to rural areas. ViaSat subsidiary WildBlue Communications announced today that they were awarded $19.5 million by Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to connect an estimated 110,000 people and 4,800 businesses scattered across the western half of the country.

The funding is in response to WildBlue’s Western Regional Proposal to the RUS, which focused on providing service to less densely populated areas in 20 western and midwestern states which have no access to broadband services offered by terrestrial carriers, including many areas which are economically disadvantaged. The award is conditional on reaching agreement on terms and conditions with the RUS.

WildBlue, with co-applicants DIRECTV and DISH, said subscribers covered by the grant would receive service from one of WildBlue’s three current satellitesAnik-F2, WildBlue-1, and AMC-15 – and starting in mid 2011, from the new high-capacity ViaSat-1 satellite.

EchoStar XI LLC (pdf), an off-shoot of the satellite broadcaster, won nearly $14.2 million. It plans to offer satellite Internet to rural areas in the eastern half of the United States, covering an estimated 42,478 people and nearly 1,900 businesses.

ViaSat-1 is expected to have more capacity than the combination of all other satellites in operation over the United States, providing 2-10 Mbps download speeds at retail prices competitive with terrestrial services, says the company. ViaSat-1 is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2011.

Wildblue was acquired by ViaSat last year. Satellite internet providers were after some of the $6.39 billion in stimulus funding targeted for broadband and administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service.

Hughes Network Systems of Germantown, Md., was given more than half the grant total, $58.8 million, for use in nationwide rural-broadband projects. Hughes operates on multiple satellites globally, including its SPACEWAY 3 satellite, the world’s first with on-board switching and routing, deliver high speed internet access in North America. Hughes recently announced its next-generation JUPITER high-throughput satellite, with over 100 times the capacity of today’s conventional satellites, planned to be launched in 2012.

The Hughes Jupiter-1 satellite, which looks like a ViaSat-1 twin, is based on Loral’s SSL-1300 platform. ViaSat-1 and Jupiter are both Ka-band satellites, designed to provide 100 gigabits per second of capacity for each satellite. ViaSat-1 is also being built by Space Systems/Loral.

Of course satellite broadband has limitations, as the NY Times points out. There’s a half a second delay because the signals have to travel 22,000 miles up into space and back down again – then another half second delay to deliver the requested information. Satellite dishes are also bulky, expensive, and must point toward the southern skies.

In other satellite news, KVH Industries and its partner, ViaSat expanded the mini-VSAT marine communications capacity by 500% this week in the waters of North America, the Gulf of Mexico, and Central America, with the addition of an additional full satellite transponder as well as the rollout of a powerful new spread spectrum waveform.

The KVH TracPhone V7 antenna is said to be the first FCC-approved 24-inch VSAT antenna with a fully integrated worldwide service. The seamless global network is delivered by eleven satellite transponders and eight secure earth stations and offers voice service and Internet access as fast as 512 Kbps (upload) and 2 Mbps (download) with significant cost savings compared to competing services.

Related DailyWireless Space and Satellite News includes; Broadband Satellites: Looking Up, WiMAX and/or Satellite, HughesNet’s Spaceway 3 Now Available, Hughes Launches Switchboard in the Sky, HughesNet & Broadband Corporation, Spot Beam Sats Multiply, Clearwire & SatTV Do a Deal, Sprint Beams Up with MSV, TerreStar: I-HSPA for Satphones, Satphones: Merger Ahead?, Inmarsat + SkyTerra = Spectrum Sharing, Mobile Satellite on the Move, TerreStar Gets a Slot, Satellite Repeaters – Grounded In Reality?, WildBlue Partners with DirecTV & Echostar, John Malone in Space, NTIA: Big Fiber Grants Wind Down, RUS Awards $1.2B for Broadband, Round Two Stimulus: $4.8 Billion for Broadband, 66 Broadband Grants Awarded, ARPA-E: 43 Grants Announced, NTIA: Another $63M in Grants, Government Announces Broadband Grants, FCC Okays Terrestrial LTE for SkyTerra, Cisco’s Connected Communities Initiative

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