ViaSat to boost US satellite broadband with MEO

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Satellite operator ViaSat of Carlsbad, California, which already operates a fleet of geostationary satellites for broadband services, has received the go-ahead from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to launch a fleet of 20 Medium Earth orbiting (MEO) satellites.

The FCC’s permission came on April 23 following an application made by ViaSat back in 2018.

The new fleet will operate at 8200 kms high and use Ka-band and V-band, and the permission extends to links between the new fleet and ViaSat’s existing geostationary satellites. However, ViaSat is not permitted to broadcast DTH or radio broadcast signals (DARS) to US consumers.

The FCC decision covers the US but such permissions are usually adopted by international regulators.

ViaSat states that grant of its request for market access would allow it to more intensively use spectrum that is already being used, or is planned for use, by its existing and planned satellites in geostationary orbit (GSO), and to provide ubiquitous and low-latency broadband services to users in the US.

Just about every other operator of geostationary satellites objected to the Viasat scheme, but the FCC ruled in favour of the plan. “We conclude that grant of the ViaSat Petition will serve the public interest.  ViaSat is a well-established provider of broadband communications using a fleet of Ka-band geostationary satellites, and the addition of the proposed non-geostationary space stations operating in the V-band as well as Ka-band will provide ViaSat with an alternative means to better serve American customers with more broadband capacity,” said the FCC’s ruling.

The FCC ruled that ViaSat must ‘bring into use’ at least 50 per cent of the system by May 2026 and the full system by May 2029.


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