Yahsat joint venture boosts EchoStar subscriber count

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WASHINGTON — Satellite broadband and hardware provider EchoStar added 20,000 HughesNet internet subscribers through its Brazilian joint venture with Yahsat, boosting subscriber numbers as EchoStar’s satellite capacity becomes limited. 

Germantown, Maryland-based EchoStar had 1.477 million subscribers at the end of 2019, up 116,000 from the year prior partly due to capacity made available in November on Yahsat’s Al Yah 3 satellite. 

During an earnings call Feb. 20, EchoStar executives said they continue to evaluate ways to add capacity while awaiting the launch of Jupiter-3, a half-terabit satellite Maxar Technologies is building for a 2021 launch. 

After selling nine on-orbit broadcast satellites to Dish Network Corp. last year for $800 million, EchoStar is now focused almost exclusively on broadband. 

EchoStar’s Hughes Network Services division generated $1.85 billion of the company’s $1.89 billion in 2019 revenue. 

Hughes President Pradman Kaul said the company’s satellites covering North America have “relatively full beams,” limiting the capacity available for new subscribers. 

Hughes is focused on adding higher paying subscribers in those beams while seeking to limit customer churn, Kaul said. 

In Latin America, Hughes’ community Wi-Fi service “Express Wi-Fi” has been deployed in 800 locations and is expanding rapidly in partnership with Facebook, Kaul said. Hughes provides services in seven countries across Central and South America, and counts 237,000 international subscribers, he said. 

Yahsat and Hughes are still combining their operations, a process Kaul said includes installing a Hughes Jupiter gateway pointed at Yahsat’s Al Yah 3 satellite, migrating more Yahsat customers onto HughesNet, and integrating Yahsat’s distribution network across Brazil.