Mon. Dec 4th, 2023
Satellite Operators Focus on Multi-Orbit Networks and Partnerships to Compete with SpaceX’s Starlink

Leading satellite operators spoke at the 2023 World Satellite Business Week event in Paris about their strategies to deal with competition from SpaceX’s Starlink constellation. Intelsat CEO David Wajsgras announced that the company is considering investing in a Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) constellation. Wajsgras believes that the biggest growth areas for Intelsat are commercial aviation, government aviation, and land mobility. The operator is focused on expanding its managed service capabilities as part of its ‘Unified Network’ strategy.

Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg addressed the anomaly on the ViaSat-3 satellite, calling it “enormously disappointing.” Viasat expects an update on the satellite’s performance next quarter. Despite the setback, Dankberg sees a large opportunity in the potential for direct-to-device services. He emphasized the importance of coordinated satellite spectrum to scale the market.

Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg expressed optimism about low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, citing the success of Starlink as evidence of market demand. He believes that competition in the market is important and is focused on getting Telesat Lightspeed up and running as quickly as possible. Goldberg is skeptical of multi-orbit antennas, favoring cheap, flat panel user antennas that work with LEO satellites.

Eutelsat CEO Eva Berneke credited Starlink with driving innovation and lowering the price of connectivity. She believes there is room for multiple players in LEO and that the need for multi-orbit connectivity depends on the use case. Berneke called for a more competitive supply chain to keep up with industry innovation. Eutelsat is nearing the completion of its merger with OneWeb.

EchoStar’s new CEO Hamid Akhavan, who recently oversaw the merger with Dish Network, spoke about the upcoming launch of the Jupiter-3 satellite. Akhavan highlighted the value of bringing EchoStar and Dish’s spectrum assets together and sees enterprise services as an area for future growth.

SES CEO Ruy Pinto emphasized the importance of sovereignty and secure communications. He highlighted niche markets such as government and cruise as areas of specialization for SES’s O3b mPOWER to protect against price erosion. The next launch for O3b mPOWER is scheduled for October, with service set to begin early next year.