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The internet from space: How satellites could soon play a bigger role in broadband

ViaSat-3 platform will "redefine the role satellite plays in the competitive broadband communications market".
Written by Danny Palmer, Senior Writer

ViaSat aims to provide the world with low-cost, high-speed broadband by 2019.

Image: iStock

A series of three new satellites will provide faster internet speeds across the globe, delivering a more than twice the total combined network capacity of the 400 commercial communications satellites in space today.

That's the bold claim of a new collaborative project between American broadband provider ViaSat and aerospace firm Boeing, which aims to provide global coverage of affordable, high-speed internet from space by 2019.

The two companies plan to "redefine the role satellite plays in the competitive broadband communications market" with a ViaSat-3 ultra-high capacity platform made up of three satellites and the associated ground network infrastructure.

ViaSat has already started working on the first two satellites while the satellite bus platforms required for the project are on order with Boeing Satellite Systems. The expectation that the first two satellites will be up and running in three years.

Those first two satellites will cover the Americas and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), while a third is also planned for the Asia Pacific Region.

It's claimed that the first two satellites alone will deliver more network capacity than the combined capacity of all 400 commercial communications satellites in orbit today, providing a data output of more than 1,000 Gbps - or 1-Terabit per second.

"The innovations in the ViaSat-3 system do what until now has been impossible in the telecommunications industry - combining enormous network capacity with global coverage, and dynamic flexibility to allocate resources according to geographic demand," said Mark Dankberg, chairman and CEO of ViaSat.

Once the ViaSat-3 platform is completed, it's claimed the satellites will deliver a residential internet service with speeds of over 100 Mbps, enabling users to stream 4K ultra-high definition video. The satellite system will also provide speeds of up to one gigabit per second for use in maritime, oceanic, and other corporate applications such as those required in the oil and gas industry.

Ultimately, the ViaSat-3 satellite project sets out to offer affordable wireless internet connections to billions of people, including those in emerging markets, many of whom currently don't have access to such services.

When it comes to building the satellites, ViaSat will be the overall system architect, manufacturing the advanced payload sections of Via-Sat 3, while Boeing will provide upgrades as well as engineering expertise, integration and mission services.

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