WASHINGTON — Geostationary satellite operators say local service providers in hard-to-reach connectivity markets are helping them counter competition from SpaceX’s Starlink low Earth orbit network in Latin America.

During a panel at the Satellite 2024 conference here March 18, Ignacio Sanchís, chief commercial officer of Spain-based Hispasat, said local service ecosystems are proving to be an important selling point for rural communities, alongside the price and performance of available broadband.

Whereas Starlink sells directly to consumers through its website, Sanchís said it leverages more than 30 retail service providers, including regional specialists.

These service providers can provide local support, such as installation, and replace hardware faster than the weeks it can take to ship and receive a new Starlink terminal, according to Sanchís.

“That’s also a very relevant part of the proposition,” he said, and “creating a difference in the market.”

Spanish power company Red Eléctrica, which has a majority stake in Hispasat, recently recorded revenues up 3.1% year-on-year to around 2.1 billion euros ($2.3 billion). Red Eléctrica said the entry into service of Hispasat’s Amazonas Nexus satellite helped sales in its space business jump 9.1%.

Ramesh Ramaswamy, executive vice president and general manager for the international division of EchoStar’s Hughes satellite broadband services subsidiary, echoed Sanchís’ comments during the panel, which discussed progress for closing the digital divide but did not include Starlink.

“This is exactly what we’re seeing in Latin America,” Ramaswamy said, “where we’re competing quite aggressively with Starlink.”

He said the relatively high cost of Starlink terminals is also an obstacle in markets where consumers have little disposable income.

EchoStar recorded revenue from broadband and satellite services down nearly 14% to $1.8 billion for 2023, primarily because of a lack of capacity amid delays to launch its Americas-focused Jupiter-3 spacecraft, and competitive pressure from satellite-based competitors and other technologies.

Jupiter-3 entered service Dec. 19, five months after launching on a Falcon Heavy, but was initially slated to launch in 2021 before production issues at Maxar.

Ramaswamy and Sanchís said they still expect Starlink to take a good share of the Latin America market despite its lack of a local presence.

Indeed, analysis from internet traffic monitor Cloudflare Radar showed Starlink traffic in Brazil was 17.5 times higher in 2023 than 2022, compared with only a 2.5-times increase in the United States.

The Amazon has become Starlink’s main market in Brazil, according to a BBC report in October, which said antennas had been installed in 90% of the region’s municipalities as of July.

Jason Rainbow writes about satellite telecom, space finance and commercial markets for SpaceNews. He has spent more than a decade covering the global space industry as a business journalist. Previously, he was Group Editor-in-Chief for Finance Information...