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Viasat’s Dankberg Calls for Industry-Wide Policy Discussions on Direct-to-Cell Service

By Rachel Jewett | September 12, 2022

Mark Dankberg returns to the role of Viasat CEO. Photo: Viasat

PARIS — The satellite industry is facing opportunity and danger — danger in terms of regulations, Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg cautioned Monday during a fireside chat at World Satellite Business week in Paris. 

On the heels of announcements from T-Mobile and SpaceX, and Apple and Globalstar, about satellite direct-to-cell service, Dankberg said the satellite industry will need to make changes to its whole ecosystem including policy, regulations, and coordination agreements among operators to provide services to mobile devices. 

“One of the things that we’re seeing is new entrants coming in and saying, ‘We don’t care about those old rules, we’re going to do things differently and that’s what’s going to enable some of these services,’’ he said. “[But] it’s not necessarily the orbit from which you offer those services, it’s the environmental rules and the policies that go along with that.” 

Dankberg mentioned orbital carrying capacity, debris, equivalent power flux density (EPFD) and inline events as concerns that were once esoteric but are now more pressing. He also believes change should come from dialogue among existing operators about how to coordinate on spectrum.

He cautioned that development in mobile and direct to satellite services could potentially block some countries out from the service, but did not give a specific example. 

“When it comes to some of these new mobile and direct device services, countries for many reasons are talking about education, agriculture, climate change,” Dankberg said. “If we don’t have a dialogue on how to do that, and rules are changed, they may preclude countries from entering those markets. Being a global operator doesn’t mean displacing the regional [operators].”

“There are new opportunities that are so great that we shouldn’t be focused on a zero-sum game among satellite operators and countries, we should be focused more on win/win solutions that can grow market substantially,” he added.