A satellite due to launch in three years promises to expand high-speed Internet services to rural Americans who cannot get access through cable or phone companies.
ViaSat Inc. bills its forthcoming ViaSat-1 satellite as the world's highest-capacity broadband satellite. The company said the new satellite should provide at least 10 times the capacity of those in orbit today, largely by using the spectrum more efficiently.
That means each customer could get faster speeds and more customers could be served in any given area, Chief Executive Mark Dankberg said.
He said satellite broadband providers have been reaching their limits in some of the more populated rural regions, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania — places where people are more likely to know others with broadband and thus would want it, too.
ViaSat announced a contract this week for Loral Space and Communications Inc. to build the new satellite, to be launched in early 2011 and serve the United States and Canada. A European counterpart, Eutelsat Communications' KA-SAT, is set to launch in late 2010 using similar technology.
The cable and phone industries now dominate the U.S. broadband market, each having a market share of more than 40 percent, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. But there are many rural stretches where Americans have access to neither. In other places, they have only one option, keeping prices high.
ViaSat plans to resell satellite broadband capacity through existing Internet service providers. ViaSat will handle the basic data flow; the ISP will handle sales, billing and added services like e-mail.
Dankberg said the satellite could handle Internet traffic in both directions, so customers could send, or upload, data at speeds comparable to cable and DSL. Some satellite systems send data in one direction only, meaning customers need a regular — and slow — dial-up modem for uploading.