Covid-related production problems have hurt the planned launch of EchoStar and Hughes Network’s giant Jupiter 3 satellite. It has now slipped to H2/2022 after originally being scheduled for some time this year.
EchoStar 24/Jupiter 3 is a large, multi-spot-beam Ka-band craft and described as one of the world’s highest capacity broadband satellites. It is being built by Maxar Technologies.
There were also problems with two EchoStar ‘nano-satellites’ which failed after launch with propulsion problems. The two craft were launched last year and designed to ‘bring into use’ S-band frequencies. EchoStar’s Satellite Services division is asking regulators to extend the permitted timetable to secure the orbital frequencies because of the “force majeure” losses. Replacement satellites will be launch later this year.
The news emerged during EchoStar’s quarterly results announcement (for 3 months and 12 months ending Dec 31st 2020).
Michael Dugan, CEO and president of EchoStar told analysts that the past year would go down in the history books as one of the most challenging on record.
Hughes Network Systems and HughesConnect are subsidiaries of EchoStar. Dugan reported that for the 3-months to December 31st 2020 the Hughes division saw EBITDA rise $11.7 million y-o-y helped by improved margins, growth in broadband connections and lower sales & marketing spend.
Pradman Kaul, Hughes Network’s president, said that Hughes was working diligently with Maxar to both mitigate these issues and identify ways to recover the schedule without risk for the satellite. He hinted that the satellite’s launch – already booked but not yet named – could benefit from a speedier orbit raising and thus minimise the delay for the craft to enter service.
Total Hughes broadband subscribers are approximately 1,564,000 as of December 31st 2020. Subscribers in the US decreased by 27,000 to approximately 1,189,000. In Latin America, subscribers increased by 11,000 to approximately 375,000 and thus about 1.56 million overall. Such is the success – and emphasising the need for the new Jupiter 3 craft – Kaul said that some of its existing beam coverage needed to be limited in high-demand areas.
Hughes is working with Facebook to supply WiFi ‘hot spots’ in South America, and with locations up 50 percent in the past 12 months.