ViaSat, the first “high throughput” satellite in the United States, with more capacity than all other US-based two-way satellites combined, has transmitted the first data over the ViaSat-1 and the WildBlue data network.
The initial transmissions and receptions were completed the evening of December 2 from a SurfBeam 2 terminal at ViaSat’s Carlsbad campus. The test included email, web surfing, and video streaming. The satellite, designed and owned by ViaSat, is the highest capacity satellite in the world. ViaSat also purchased WildBlue for $568 million in 2009, which also uses the Ka band (20/30 GHz).
Once in-orbit testing is complete (planned for mid-December), satellite manufacturer Space Systems/Loral will hand over operation of the 140 Gbps capacity satellite to ViaSat and partner Telesat. ViaSat will then begin the final phase of integration with the network of 20 SurfBeam 2 ground stations that connect the satellite to the Internet backbone. Commercial service is expected to begin prior to the end of calendar year 2011.
ViaSat-1 is an all new Ka-band, high-throughput bird, a platform designed to provide more than 140 gigabits per second throughput.
Coverage is along the West Coast and in the Eastern half of the U.S. It doesn’t cover the Mountain time zone or the plains. ViaSat 1 achieves its speeds in part by focusing capacity in areas where service has been popular for WildBlue.
The satellite will be positioned at 115.1 degrees West longitude. It has 72 spot beams, with 63 in the U.S. and 9 over Canada. The Canadian beams are owned by satellite operator Telesat and will be used for the Xplornet broadband service to consumers in rural Canada.
ViaSat-1 reuses their transponder frequencies, has an improved terminal and focuses more capacity in subscriber rich areas. Proponents of “high throughput satellites” say improved capacity is essential for cost/effective satellite internet.
ViaSat has invested nearly $1 billion over the past three years on the new satellite. It uses DOCSIS-based Surfbeam 2 terminals that can deliver more than 10 Mbps to end users.
ViaSat hopes to attract 1 million to 1.5 million new subscribers over the next few years. It’s a lofty target. HughesNet and WildBlue currently have less than 1 million subscribers combined. ViaSat’s prime market are the 20 million households, mostly in rural areas, that lack broadband access
Currently Hughes uses the Spaceway-3 satellite for internet access. It competes with ViaSat’s WildBlue satellite. Competitor EchoStar is buying HughesNet, which was formerly known as DirecWay. News Corp spun off their two-way satellite business when it bought DirecTV for satellite television. Echostar’s HughesNet JUPITER satellite will be the mirror image of ViaSat-1, and is due to launch in the first half of 2012.
Unlike Lightsquared, which uses the 1.6 GHz Mobile Satellite Spectrum, ViaSat-1 is not designed for mobile satellite phones. Instead ViaSat-1 uses the much higher frequency Ka band (20/30 GHz) that require (fixed) satellite dishes for 10 Mbps broadband.
Both ViaSat-1 and HughesNet’s Jupiter are expected to provide satellite internet access up to 10 Mbps in the United States in the later half of 2012.
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