Intelsat To Order Two High-throughput Satellites

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PARIS — Intelsat will order two multifrequency satellites starting in the coming weeks as part of a new offering designed to marry the low per-megabit cost associated with Ka-band services with the widely installed base of C- and Ku-band ground equipment among corporate and government customers, Intelsat announced June 7.

Luxembourg- and Washington-based Intelsat sent bid requests to satellite manufacturers earlier this year and is prepared to order at least the first of its planned Epic spacecraft within about a month, according to Dianne J. VanBeber, Intelsat vice president for investor relations and communications.

VanBeber declined to say whether Intelsat had booked anchor customers for either of the first two Epic satellites. In a document describing the Epic program, Intelsat said the first two satellites, to be called Intelsat 29e and Intelsat 33e, would by themselves “cover all of the populated continents.”

The document says each Epic satellite will be capable of between 25 and 60 gigabits per second of throughput — several times that of most of today’s satellites but only about half the capacity of the largest new-generation Ka-band spacecraft now entering the market for consumer broadband applications.

Consumer broadband has not been an Intelsat priority in the past and does not appear to be the focus of Epic. Intelsat is pitching the new product line as extending the advantages associated with Ka-band — frequency reuse, high throughput and multiple spot beams — to the C- and Ku-bands where most of its corporate and government customers already do business.

But because the Epic satellites each will have a relatively high throughput, customers who today use several spacecraft will be able to concentrate their business on a single satellite.

Customers whose current ground hardware allows them full use of the C- or Ku-band spectrum likely will be able to make full use of the Intelsat Epic satellites, VanBeber said. Others may need to purchase new equipment, as is the case today with consumer broadband customers who wish to upgrade to the new high-throughput Ka-band satellites.

But in general the document says, the Epic satellites will be backward compatible and tailored for “carrier-grade, fixed data rate services, versus consumer-grade, highly concentrated best-effort broadband applications.”

 As the world’s oldest satellite fleet operator and a former intergovernmental organization, Intelsat has a large inventory of orbital slots and frequency allocations in C- and Ku-band. It also has 25 unused orbital slots reserved for Ka-band.

In a May 18 filing to prepare for an initial public offering (IPO) of stock, Intelsat said it would try to develop the Ka-band slots with other operators.

“Given our heritage in operating in C, Ku and Ka and our collection of orbital rights, Intelsat has the unique ability to deploy the spectrum based upon what is best suited to the application of the customer,” Intelsat says in the document outlining Epic. “Unlike many new satellite operators, Intelsat is not constrained to Ka-band.”

VanBeber said the initial two Epic satellites each will have at least two operating bandwidths. She said both satellites’ estimated costs, with launches in 2015 and 2016, have been factored into Intelsat’s previous forecasts of its capital investment.

The company has promised investors that its capital spending on 10 new satellites would peak in 2012 at between $775 million and $850 million.

Intelsat announced its intention to sell up to $1.75 billion in equity in an IPO on the New York Stock Exchange as soon as market conditions are deemed favorable.