Viasat taps into Brazilian market with Telebras pact

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WASHINGTON — Fleet operator Viasat will soon challenge Hughes, Eutelsat, Hispasat, and others with satellite broadband businesses in Brazil thanks to a new agreement that will let the Carlsbad, California company use capacity on a Brazilian satellite.

State-run Brazilian telecom company Telebras agreed to let Viasat use Ka-band capacity on the Geostationary Satellite for Defense and Strategic Communications, SGDC-1, for consumer broadband, corporate networks and inflight connectivity.

Viasat said Feb. 26 that it will provide a ground network for the satellite that will pave the way for service rollout in April.

SGDC is a large satellite carrying seven X-band transponders for the Brazilian ministry of defense and 50 Ka-band transponders for Telebras to connect unreached and underserved regions of the country. European launch provider Arianespace launched the satellite in May.

With SGDC, Viasat is reaching further down into Latin America. Viasat’s newest satellite, Viasat-2, extended the operator’s coverage from mainly the U.S. to include Mexico and Central America down to the edge of Colombia. The company is growing its presence across North and South America in preparation for the first Viasat-3 very-high-throughput satellite, which will cover both continents when it enters service in 2020 or 2021.

While several fleet operators have capacity over Brazil, the Viasat-Telebras tie-up is a visible challenge to Hughes of Germantown, Maryland. Hughes, Viasat’s main competitor in the U.S. consumer broadband market, chose Brazil as its first international expansion of that business in 2016 using high-throughput capacity on Eutelsat’s 65 West A satellite. Hughes’ next-generation broadband satellite, Jupiter-3, is the company’s answer to ViaSat-3, and will also cover the Americas after launching in 2021.

Keven Lippert, Viasat’s president of broadband services, told SpaceNews by email Feb. 26 that Viasat and Telebras are splitting customer groups as part of the Brazilian Government’s National Broadband Program (Programa Nacional de Banda Larga, or PNBL), a federal initiative started in 2010 to bring internet access all of Brazil, especially remote and rural regions that often lack terrestrial infrastructure such as fiber.

Telebras will bring satellite connectivity to government entities such as schools and hospitals, while Viasat provides satellite-enabled Wi-Fi hotspot services to residential communities, enterprise and commercial aviation markets, he said. Lippert declined to say how much of SGDC’s 58-Gbps of capacity Viasat will be able to use.  He said Viasat will supply satellite dishes for its SGDC customers in Brazil.

Telebras projects the Viasat arrangement can generate over $1 billion over the next 10 years for the publicly run company.

Lippert said SGDC agreement “is a success-based revenue-share model.” He declined to say how much revenue that might mean for Viasat.