Nirmal Velayudhan, Senior Director, Special Projects, Viasat, addresses some of the more than 30 ambassadors from around during a presentation about the Viasat high speed internet mobility program at the Carlsbad offices, June 18, 2019. In the foreground is a maritime satellite antenna.
(Howard Lipin/The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Carlsbad-based Viasat is scheduled to launch the first of three terabit-class Internet satellites by the middle of 2022 — highlighting the company’s huge bet on the increasingly competitive space communications market.
When all three satellites in the constellation — called ViaSat-3 — are in service, the company will have global coverage with massive bandwidth that enables better than 100-megabit-per-second download speeds, video streaming on commercial airlines and business jets, and reliable connectivity from anywhere for high-value government customers.
The first ViaSat-3, which weighs 6.4 tons, covers the Americas. About six months after its launch, the second satellite in the constellation is expected to enter orbit, providing service across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Timing for the third satellite covering Greater Asia has not been pinned down.
As Viasat’s constellation comes online, a slew of competitors are launching thousands of small, low-orbit Internet satellites that can deliver fast speeds without the transmission delays, or latency, inherent from higher orbit satellites like Viasat-3.
Viasat and others have raised concerns about crowding in low orbits, where potential collisions could create dangerous debris fields circling the earth at thousands of miles per hour. In the end, however, the Internet space race may boil down to which technology delivers the most reliable bandwidth at the lowest cost.