Carlsbad-based Viasat is expected to launch the first of three terabit-class internet satellites by mid-2022, underscoring the company’s huge gamble in the increasingly competitive space communications market.
When the constellation’s three satellites – called ViaSat-3 – are in service, the company will have global coverage with massive bandwidth that enables download speeds of over 100 megabits per second, video streaming on airlines. commercial and business jets, and reliable connectivity from anywhere for high-value government customers.
The first ViaSat-3, which weighs 6.4 tonnes, covers the Americas. About six months after its launch, the constellation’s second satellite is expected to enter orbit, providing services across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The timing of the third satellite covering Greater Asia has not been determined.
As the Viasat constellation comes online, many competitors are launching thousands of small low-orbit internet satellites that can deliver fast speeds without the transmission delays or latency inherent in higher-orbit satellites like Viasat-3.
Viasat and others have raised concerns about congestion in low orbits, where potential collisions could create dangerous debris fields circling the earth at thousands of kilometers per hour. Ultimately, however, the race for the internet space can come down to technology offering the most reliable bandwidth at the lowest cost.