The surprising announcement that Eutelsat will launch its own consumer-focused ‘broadband’ high-speed satellite, and as a result not proceed with a planned joint-venture with ViaSat, dramatically changes the competitive landscape over Europe.
The winner might well be consumers who will shortly gain access to two rival systems offering similar extremely high-speed capacity, and likely to be at very affordable prices.
Eutelsat’s Konnect craft will enter service in 2021 and will have the marketing and retail might of telco Orange to help its retail efforts (in France, Spain, Poland and Belgium), and the powerful relations in government and military contracts that Thales has to aid business in the commercial sector. Orange already has a reported 40,000 satellite customers, and sees potential for another 100,000-150,000 according to French press reports.
However, ViaSat already has a very strong position over Europe in its – existing and ongoing – partnership with Eutelsat through Eutelsat’s Ka-Sat broadband-by-satellite business (and with around 180,000 customers). Moreover, ViaSat stresses that its upcoming ViaSat-3 EMEA satellite will be, when launched, “the highest capacity satellite system in the world, and will serve more than 1 Terabit per second (Tbps) of total network capacity to meet the growing broadband needs of residential, commercial aviation, maritime, enterprise and government sectors.”
ViaSat-3 MENA is scheduled to launch some sixx months after its planned ViaSat-3 Americas craft launches, which is currently later in 2020, although there is some talk that ViaSat will prioritise its European satellite ahead of the American version.
In other words, it could be a race from the launch pad into orbit. Eutelsat’s Konnect is an all-electric craft which will take some four months plus to reach orbit after launch.
Generally, the market has not seen the news as favourable. Giles Thorne, equity analyst at Jefferies, predicts a law suit might result, and that he does not believe the European market is large enough to accommodate two large consumer satellite broadband [suppliers] the way the USA can.