ViaSat Inc. hopes to use its two recently registered orbital slots for Ka-band satellites to secure a partnership with consumer-broadband company WildBlue as WildBlue confronts a lack of satellite capacity for its current service, ViaSat Chairman Mark Dankberg said.
In an Aug. 8 conference call with investors, Dankberg said Carlsbad, Calif.-based ViaSat has a strong negotiating hand as is seeks to expand its relationship with Denver-based WildBlue, whose current satellite capacity is filling up quickly. Because of delays in launching its system, WildBlue currently does not have an additional orbital slot and will have difficulty expanding its business, Dankberg said.
already is providing much of the terminal hardware for WildBlue, which has become a major ViaSat customer. Dankberg said ViaSat, in a recent addition to its supply contract with WildBlue, has passed on to its customer
most of the price savings that have come from producing the terminals in volume to help WildBlue develop its market. That is one explanation for the relatively low profit margins reported by ViaSat’s commercial division, Dankerg said.
ViaSat has filed reservations for orbital slots in the same Ka-band that WildBlue uses to provide its consumer broadband service. ViaSat has not been clear about what it intends to do with these reservations, and specifically whether it plans to build a Ka-band satellite of its own.
In the conference call, Dankberg said ViaSat would like to use its own satellite registrations as part of a partnership with WildBlue.
“WildBlue is going to take action on another satellite sooner rather than later,” Dankberg said. “At the current rates they are selling terminals, they will be selling out their capacity. Because of delays, they basically lost their orbital slot. So for somebody who wants to work with them, bringing orbital slots would be extremely important. We have two filings for orbital slots and those filings have been granted. WildBlue is evaluating a range of options. We are very interested in working with them and we think we bring a lot to the table.”
Dankberg said he expected a decision by WildBlue on a possible partnership by the end of the year.
ViaSat would like to replicate in Europe the U.S. success of WildBlue and Hughes Communications Inc., which has a competing consumer-broadband service. Dankberg, who has long maintained that
Ka-band spot-beam satellites can offer huge amounts of bandwidth at low cost, said ViaSat
is working on technologies that will “improve the cost efficiencies of satellite broadband by almost an order of magnitude compared to what we have done with WildBlue.”
In Europe, ViaSat has been a regular supplier of more-conventional VSAT, or very small aperture terminal, satellite communications terminals for businesses. Eutelsat has been testing a WildBlue-type service with ViaSat and recently the Paris-based satellite-fleet operator has decided to order an all-Ka-band spacecraft for television broadcasting and consumer broadband.
Dankberg said ViaSat views Europe as a potentially large market for satellite consumer broadband.