Viasat claims KA-SAT as Eutelsat joint venture winds down

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SAN FRANCISCO — Viasat announced plans Nov. 19 to purchase the remaining assets of the European joint venture it established with Eutelsat Communications for 140 million euros ($166 million), including the KA-SAT broadband satellite.

The move ends the joint venture Viasat and Eutelsat established in 2016 when Eutelsat planned to invest in Viasat 3 satellite coverage of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. After Eutelsat opted instead to build its own Konnect Very High Throughput Satellite in 2018, the companies’ strategies were no longer aligned.

Viasat and Eutelsat are “winding down their joint venture in a thoughtful way,” Viasat CEO Rick Baldridge told SpaceNews.

Prior to the deal, Eutelsat owned 51% and Viasat owned 49% of Euro Broadband Infrastructure (EBI), which operated KA-SAT and a wholesale broadband distribution business. EBI’s 140 million euro purchase price is not final and may be “adjusted up or down by up to 20 million euros depending on the level of certain EBI revenues achieved,” according to Eutelsat’s Nov. 19 news release.

Eutelsat announced Nov. 17 that its high-throughput Eutelsat Konnect satellite built by Thales Alenia Space was ready to provide service for France, Italy, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and Africa. One day later, Eutelsat announced that Telecom Italia, also known as TIM, claimed all Italian capacity on Eutelsat Konnect and Eutelsat VHTS.

Viasat, meanwhile, is eager to harness KA-SAT and its associated infrastructure to begin preparing for Viasat 3 by performing experiments, making changes in the network and establishing distribution across Europe, Baldridge said.

While some analysts have expressed concern that the head-to-head competition between Eutelsat and Viasat in Europe will hurt both companies, Baldridge said, “there’s plenty of room for both of us.”

European customers rely on broadband primarily for streaming video.

“That’s what we’re engineering our entire broadband network to deliver,” Baldridge said. “We’re engineered around trying to manufacture the cheapest bit so we can deliver more video viewing hours, while providing high-speed downloads very affordably.”

Eutelsat CEO Rodolphe Belmer said in a statement the agreement with Viasat “completes the reorganization of our broadband distribution set-up for Europe following the wholesale agreement with Orange for France and the acquisition of Bigblu Broadband Europe covering other major markets. With the recent entry into service of Eutelsat Konnect, to be followed by the launch of Konnect VHTS, we are optimally placed to assure the rapid ramp-up of these new generation in-orbit assets in the coming years.”

French telecommunications company Orange announced the purchase in July of all available French capacity on Eutelsat Konnect. In September Eutelsat announced plans to acquire Bigblu Broadband’s European business, which at the time included about 50,000 subscribers and operations in the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary and Greece.

Viasat plans to launch Viasat-3 Americas in late 2021, followed by a second Viasat-3 covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 2022.

Eutelsat Konnect VHTS is scheduled to enter service in 2022.