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FCC Approves Viasat/Inmarsat Merger

By Rachel Jewett | May 23, 2023
ViaSat headquarters in Carlsbad California

Viasat headquarters in Carlsbad, California. Photo: Viasat

The Viasat and Inmarsat merger has secured another regulatory approval to move forward, this time from the FCC. The FCC issued an order on May 19 approving the transaction, stating that it will serve the public interest. 

The FCC’s approval stated the commission does not think the merger will harm competition in government satellite services, aviation services, and maritime communications services,  broadly because the companies either do not compete directly, or there is enough competition in the market, which is evolving with new entrants in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) and Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO). 

The FCC denied a petition from SpaceX to block the deal. SpaceX argued that Viasat operates in certain spectrum bands in violation of its license. But the FCC denied the petition on precedent that it does not block applications “as a means of dealing with pre-existing disputes between parties regarding licenses previously held by an acquiring applicant.” 

Viasat said it expects the transaction is expected to close later this month, but it is still subject to approval from the European Commission (EC). The EC is investigating concerns that the merger will hurt competition in the in-flight connectivity (IFC) market. The EC investigation has a June 29 deadline.

A similar review in the U.K. by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently approved the deal. The CMA found that while the companies compete closely in the IFC market, the deal would not substantially reduce competition for services on flights for U.K. customers due to growing competition from Starlink and other players.