News from Satellite 2014 | O3B Sets Sail with New Service Amid Questions about Constellation’s Health

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WASHINGTON — Startup satellite broadband provider O3b Networks on March 10 said it was going live with its first customer, Telecom Cook Islands, on March 12 and had completed testing with luxury-cruise operator Royal Caribbean in preparation for that company’s use of O3b satellites on a huge luxury liner, the Oasis of the Seas.

O3b Chief Executive Steve Collar dismissed industry rumors about the health of the company’s first four satellites, which are in orbit, saying O3b is moving forward with its commercial offer and expects no slowdown related to the four satellites.

The satellites have a technical defect which forced a delay in the launch of the second four-satellite batch, now scheduled to occur in June aboard a Europeanized Soyuz rocket.

Industry officials in recent weeks have said O3b would be filing an insurance claim for a partial loss related to the defect, and that the satellites’ in-orbit life may be reduced by the issue.

A panel including investment analysts at Satellite 2014 on March 10 acknowledged the rumors around O3b and said that even if wholly untrue, the scuttlebutt should be addressed head-on by O3b.

O3b has eight satellites on order. In addition to the four scheduled for launch in June, a final four spacecraft are being readied for a launch that could occur late this year or early in 2015, Collar said. “For us the important thing is to get the second four satellites into operation as that enables the business case for several of our customers,” he said.

O3b satellites operate in an unusual 8,000-kilometer orbit over the equator, meaning users need steerable antennas to track the spacecraft and capture signals moving from one satellite to another.

Satellite managed solutions provider ITC Global has been testing the O3b system’s performance, using two antennas in Australia, as part of a months-long evaluation. Only when it is assured that the system works as described will ITC recommend to its customers that they invest in O3b bandwidth-supply contracts and the related ground technology, said David Myers, ITC’s chief marketing officer.

 

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