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ViaSat delays launch of new satellite: CEO

ViaSat delays launch of new satellite: CEO
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First Published: Tue, Jul 19 2011. 10 20 AM IST
Updated: Tue, Jul 19 2011. 10 20 AM IST
Bangalore: ViaSat Inc expects its upcoming satellite Viasat-1 to double the company’s earnings in three-four years, but was forced to delay its launch by a few weeks as the spacecraft’s manufacturer reviewed a malfunction in a previous satellite, its chief executive said.
The new Ka band satellite, which was expected to be launched this month, may have to wait till August or September, chairman and CEO Mark Dankberg told Reuters over the phone.
“It will go into service two months after the launch.”
ViaSat, which provides satellite services and other wireless networking systems, had given its satellite construction contract to Space Systems/Loral, an unit of Loral Space & Communications Inc .
A solar panel problem with Telstar 14R—a communications satellite launched by Loral in May—had prompted a failure review analysis by the manufacturer and delayed the launch of ViaSat-1, as it uses similar components, Dankberg said.
ViaSat-1 is expected to have the highest capacity and to be the most cost-efficient Ka band satellite in the world, and will help the company add customers as subscriber growth was capped because of supply constraints.
Ka band offers high-speed data links on higher frequency bands at lower costs, as the exponential growth of the Internet is chocking lower bands.
Dankberg expects ViaSat-1 to triple his company’s satellite services revenue from a little over $200 million within three-four years.
“That’s our most profitable business,” he said.
“So, we do have the prospect of more than doubling the company’s earnings.”
Through its WildBlue unit, ViaSat provides two-way satellite-based broadband Internet access to about 400,000 subscribers in the United States.
“Compared to what WildBlue is now, we believe we will more than double it,” Dankberg said.
ViaSat also makes satellite antennas, communication chips and wireless communication gears, mainly used by the US military.
The company that is now valued at about $1.8 billion with an annual revenue of $800 million, was formed by Dankberg along with Mark Miller and Steve Hart—its chief technical officers—in 1986 at an investment of less than $25,000.
“Billion Dollar Market”
ViaSat is betting on the new satellite to boost its partnership with JetBlue Airways Corp to offer in-flight broadband Internet.
“ViaSat-1 makes airtime pricing so affordable that it makes that (service) possible,” Dankberg said.
“We are aiming to be in service probably in the last quarter of 2012.”
The company is also in talks with other carriers for providing in-flight broadband connectivity through Ka band.
“If it gets the level of traction as in-flight videos, then its a billion-dollar market in five-seven years,” the CEO said.
ViaSat is also hoping to get started on ViaSat-2 by the end of this year, so that it can be launched in early 2015.
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First Published: Tue, Jul 19 2011. 10 20 AM IST