[Satellite News – 1-22-08] When ViaSat Inc
., primarily an equipment manufacturer, announced that it was partnering with Loral Space and Communications
to build and launch what it claims will be the world's highest capacity broadband satellite, it got the attention of the satellite industry.
ViaSat-1, being developed in conjunction with a similar satellite that EADS Astrium
will manufacture for Eutelsat
, will target a small but growing part of the satellite business, said Mark Dankberg, ViaSat's chairman and CEO. According to ViaSat, there are about 700,000 satellite broadband subscribers in the United States — evenly split between WildBlue
and Hughes Network Systems
, but with those satellites reaching capacity in their markets, there is room for more competition.
Dankberg spoke with Satellite News
Editor Jessica Pearce about the satellite broadband market and ViaSat's targets.
Satellite News: What will your satellite bring to the market that is not available now?Dankberg
: There are two parts to it. Number one, if you just look at capabilities of satellite, that's the thing that's transformational. I think it's transformational in the sense of how much capacity you get for how many dollars. One of the things that people talk about, like VSAT data services or other services, is how many thousands of dollars per month per megahertz. Typical numbers can be $2,000 to $3,000 for a megahertz of bandwidth on a good quality conventional [fixed satellite services] satellite. Obviously if you go to a really great orbital slot like Eutelsat's 13 degrees East video slot it's a lot more than that, but basically people talk about that kind of range, thousands of dollars per megahertz per month. If you take a satellite that has 100 times as much capacity, it costs more. Say it costs 40 or 50 percent more, what you're doing is reducing the cost of bandwidth enormously. That's our objective. We're looking at going out and charging the equivalent of hundreds of dollars per megahertz per month. That's the part I think is the big deal. It's a big change in the cost of bandwidth, and I think it will cause people to recalibrate what satellites can be good for.
Satellite News: By the time the satellite launches in 2011, other technologies such as WiMax also will have developed further. What makes you think that satellite broadband will offer a compelling alternative to these other technologies?Dankberg
: Absolutely you want to pay attention to what satellite does in the context of terrestrial alternatives. There's a lot of hype about WiMax, but one question is, “Why would you think it would be a threat?” We don't especially expect to compete with WiMax. Clearwire, which is really the only WiMax national service provider that's going after home use, will tell you in their prospectus that virtually all of their deployments are people who already have a choice of DSL and cable. The reason they're doing that is because wireless is very, very expensive to deploy in rural areas.