Broadband Satellites: Black Hole?

Posted by Sam Churchill on

Greetings, Professor Falken War Games

CNET’s Marguerite Reardon, a well-regarded journalist, is helping HughesNet drum up some enthusiasm by noting they’ll someday offer speeds between 5-20 Mbps, says Karl Bode at Broadband Reports. Hughes completed a $115 million loan agreement for Jupiter-1 last month and plans faster speeds for some 2 million subscribers.

In the first half of 2012, Hughes Network Systems, hopes to launch their Jupiter satellite (below), designed by Space Systems Loral. It will offer more than 100 gigabits per second of capacity — more than 10 times the capacity the company currently offers on its existing satellite, Spaceway3, launched in 2008.

But Broadband Reports gets it wrong [UPDATE: now fixed], saying “HughesNet has long promised that their high capacity ViaSat-1 satellite would help improve things”…

Actually, HughesNet is the chief North American competitor for ViaSat/WildBlue. Hughes operates Hughes Spaceway 3. ViaSat operates competitor WildBlue.

The new high capacity (Ka-band) satellites from the respective companies are ViaSat-1 (above), scheduled for launch in the first half of 2011, and the Hughes Jupiter-1, scheduled for launch in the first half of 2012.

ViaSat operates WildBlue, which serves over 400,000 subscribers within the 48 contiguous United States. WildBlue began offering residential broadband satellite access in June 2005. WildBlue was acquired by ViaSat on October 1, 2009 for $568 million. They currently holds a 44 percent of the U.S. satellite ISP market.

ViaSat’s new Ka-band ViaSat-1, is aimed at enhancing fixed broadband in the United States. The chart (below) shows the capacity of ViaSat-1. ViaSat-1 was designed by SS Loral. ViaSat-1 involves a collaborative effort between ViaSat, Loral, Telesat and Eutelsat.

The similar (but different) Hughes Jupiter was also designed by SS Loral.

Hughes Network Systems, which owns Spaceway3, was sold to SkyTerra Communications (now Lightsquared) in January 2003.

SkyTerra (now Lightsquared) is planning to launch huge satphone birds with a terrestrial LTE component. These are not for fixed broadband satellite service.

SkyTerra 1 & 2 satellites are L band (1.6GHz) spot beam birds for mobile phones. They are based on the Boeing 702 Geo-Mobile bus. SkyTerra 1 arrived in Baikonur last month in preparation for launch, planned next week, around November 13 by ILS. It features a 22-meter antenna — the largest commercial antenna reflector to be put into service. Hundreds of spotbeams will connect directly to mobile phones. By contrast, ViaSat-1 and Hughes Jupiter (both using the Ka band), will deliver 100 gigabit capacity for fixed satellite access.

The big unanswered question is how North America can support two competing fixed broadband satellites (ViaSat-1 and Jupiter-1), as well as two huge satphone platforms LightSquared’s Skyterra-1 (using 1.6 GHz), and TerraStar-1 (using 2 GHz). Plus their four in-orbit spares. Not to mention ICO and a new generation of Iridium and GlobalStar LEOs.

The balls are kept in the air by the miracle of high frequency trading.

But TerreStar, has more than $1 billion in debt, and is preparing a possible filing for bankruptcy protection, says the Wall Street Journal. TerreStar launched its first satellite in July 2009 and is building a second, dubbed TerreStar-2. To fund the second satellite, the telecommunications company tapped a $100 million credit line from hedge fund Harbinger Capital and EchoStar Communications. TerreStar-1, a 2 GHz spot beam satellite, is currently operational.

TerreStar’s Satphone service can be augmented with their GENUS dual-mode cellular/satellite smartphone. They planned to use AT&T’s cellular service, handing off to the satellite when out of cell range.

The technology is in place. But the service is still not available.

Now Lightsquared is banking on its new toy, Skyterra-1 (using 1.6 GHz) and a terrestrial LTE repeater network built by Nokia Siemens Networks.

The Mobile Satellite Services band (MSS) in the 2 GHz band is something of a US-only use of the frequency. On the other hand, the FCC’s Proposed Rulemaking should enable secondary leasing for terrestrial use on all the satellite phone bands.

Too bad ICO and TerreStar can’t sell their 2 GHz platforms to India for e-books and multi-media. Connect it to Samsung’s Galaxy Tablet for a triple play.

Dish TV is India’s number one direct-to-home provider and a member of the largest media conglomerate — Zee group. Dish TV subscribers have access to 268 channels & services with a registered 8.9 million subscribers and growing. It uses an NSS-6 Satellite at 95 degrees East.

The FCC’s rulemaking permits Mobile Satellite Service (MSS) licensees in the 2 GHz (1990-2025 MHz and 2165-2200 MHz), the L-band (1525-1544 MHz/1545-1559 MHz and 1626.5-1645.5 MHz/1646.5-1660.5 MHz), and the “Big LEO” (1610-1626.5 MHz and 2483.5-2500 MHz) bands to integrate ancillary terrestrial components (ATCs) into their MSS networks.

Harbinger hoped to make a killing with terrestrial “4G” using their satellite spectrum. Although it’s just speculation, perhaps AT&T is having second thoughts on sharing their cellular network with Terrestar’s dual-mode cellular/satellite smartphone. AT&T has their own 700 MHz LTE network planned, after all. Why encourage competition?

AT&T can wait.

Related DailyWireless Space and Satellite News includes; TerreStar: Bust?, LightSquared Talks Up Emergency Response, Satellite Internet Mobilizes, Lightsquared: Big Bump, Sat Broadband Gets $100M Stimulus, Huge Internet Satellites Near Launch, 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, TerreStar Gets a Slot, BSkyB + Google, SkyNet Satellite Hacked?, Lockheed CEO: Space is Broken, MSS: AWS Alternative?, WildBlue: AT&T’s DeathStar?

Posted by Sam Churchill on Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 at 2:48 pm .

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