Aggressive Ka-Band Solutions Target Lucrative Markets
The search for the potentially lucrative Ka-band broadband market has several key industry players focusing on specific regions of the globe. The United States, France and the United Kingdom - all are being targeted as potentially lucrative markets for Ka-band broadband offerings.
ViaSat Targets United States
According to ViaSat Senior Vice President Tom Moore, if you combine all of the satellite broadband capacity in the United States today, the total will not add up to the broadband capacity his company will provide with its first satellite, ViaSat-1. The satellite, ordered in conjunction with Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat spacecraft, is scheduled to be launched in 2011. “ViaSat-1 has roughly 100 gigabits of capacity and Ka-Sat has somewhere between 70 and 80 gigabits,” he said. “When you total the capacity of all the other broadband satellites serving the United States — WildBlue-1, Anik F2, the Spaceway satellite — being used for broadband plus all the Ku- and C-band satellites, they add up to less than the capacity of ViaSat 1. Ka-Sat has the same situation in Europe.”
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While ViaSat plans to increase capacity in the United States tenfold, the company sees a healthy opportunity for its planned service. “People are downloading movies and larger size files more frequently now and the trajectory is increasing. When someone downloads a movie off of the Internet today, they are consuming the same amount of data and bandwidth that a whole household consumed in a whole month three or four years ago — about a gigabyte of data,” he said. “We project that in the next three or four years, that consumption demand will triple. It is a robust market. To be relevant in a market like this, we have to deliver a service that is comparable to the demands of the customers. That is what ViaSat-1 and Ka-Sat are all about.”
Eutelsat Takes New Direction in France
Bouncing back from the disappointing failure of the W2M satellite in January, Eutelsat Communications and partners Numeo and Sat2Way launched a broadband access service in France. The initiative consistent with action one of the Digital France 201 plan announced by the French government in October, which aims to have guaranteed access to broadband in all homes in France.
The satellite broadband solution proposed by Eutelsat and its partners is based on the Tooway service, an individual-access broadband solution for consumers and small enterprises which delivers downlink speeds to user PCs of 2 megabits per second and speeds from the user on the transmit side of 384 kilobits per second. Tooway is available using Ka-band capacity on Eutelsat's Hot Bird 6 satellite and the company plans to deploy a new satellite infrastructure to support the service's deployment throughout Europe in 2010.
Eurosat, SES Seek Share of U.K. Market
Eurosat, which signed a distribution agreement with SES Astra late last year to distribute Astra2Connect in the United Kingdom, is confident it will reach the breakeven point for the service in 2009 due to strong demand for satellite broadband service.
“It’s not going to be easy, especially with the current financial situation, but we expect that our aggressive pricing will make sense for those who currently can’t get broadband to sign up with us,” said Mike Locke, special projects manager at Eurosat. “We have been involved in this for over 10 years now and the cost benefit of the Astra2Connect service is, we think, right for customers currently out of reach of terrestrial services in the United Kingdom.”
The Astra2Connect service will be marketed under Eurosat’s brand name, BeyonDSL. “Public estimates of the size of the market vary as widely as the bias of the sources,” said Locke. “But whether it’s the 100,000 or 800,000, there is still a lot of customers who need this service. We think the market is somewhere between the two.”
Locke believes there will be a strong demand for these services. “There will always be a good market for satellite broadband as long as it’s affordable and convenient to install, as it is the only technology that is completely independent of population density,” he said. “All the other providers require customers to be within reach of the terrestrial infrastructure, and that infrastructure costs money to build so there is the need to connect enough customers to make commercial sense. Additionally, if customers are too dispersed or too far from the exchange or mobile mast, the cost to reach them rises too steeply. With satellite, it’s a flat cost no matter where they live.”
But will satellite broadband to households be a difficult sell in the United Kingdom? “It can be a tough sell especially to those who believe the not-entirely-accurate perception that broadband is truly ubiquitous,” Locke said. “Clearly it isn’t. Sometimes we have to wait for a household to try to get traditional broadband before they discover that it’s unavailable in their area. Only then do they look for alternatives and then they appreciate the benefits and availability of our service. We’ve also built up good experience in identifying the geographical areas of so-called ‘not spots,’ and we focus our marketing there. It is a classic case of understanding the needs, identifying the customers and communicating with them.”