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Companies racing to launch satellites to provide super fast internet


21 Jun 2013
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Pulling out a 20-inch globe from underneath her office table, “here”, she said, pointing to India on the surface of the globe.

“Not only India, but the entire belt of developing nations will have high-speed internet after the launch of our satellite,” said Neha Satak, CEO, Astrome Technologies. Bengaluru-based space startup Astrome Technologies will launch 150 satellites into space by 2020 providing high-speed affordable internet to remote locations across the world. “We are working on the prototype of the first satellite which will be unveiled to the public in December,” Satak said.

What Satak characterised as “the developing nation belt” includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Middle East, Africa, and parts of Mexico; all of which would be powered with 50-400 Mbps speed. The working principle is similar to that of DTH television. The user has to install a set-top box and an antenna to avail the satellite internet services. About 150 satellites, weighing 120 kg each, would be orbiting the earth taking turns in beaming internet down from the sky. With the first satellite scheduled for launch in 2018, Astrome is currently in talks with different segments of the markets to provide its internet service. However, “launching the satellite and testing it will be our top priority,” said Prasad HL Bhat, CTO, Astrome Technologies.

From cost perspective, “covering one square kilometre area through ground connection costs around $3,000. Whereas from space, it would be just $4-5,” Satak said. KT Alex, former director of Isro Satellite Centre, Bengaluru, said,“The concept of providing internet from space is viable, however, manufacturing satellites costs a lot of money. Once you have the money for investment it is possible”. The Indian firm is currently backed by IISc and other private investors, “We raise funds in stages as per our need,” Satak said, adding that they receive business mentoring from Cisco and Analog devices.Incidentally, a 2016 study on ‘The future of Internet in India’ by Nasscom foresees a 75% increase in the number of rural web users by 2020. US-based Satellite TV broadcaster, ViaSat, recently set up an R&D facility in Chennai to work on satellite internet in India, confirmed Sathya Narayanaswamy, VP ViaSat India.

One among the pioneers in the field of satellite internet, Viasat currently holds the Guinness world record for launching the highest capacity communication satellite in the world (140 Gbps). ViaSat’s vision is to launch three high capacity satellites: Viasat-1, Viasat-2, and Viasat-3 and thereby enabling high-speed internet for the entire world. As a step in the realisation of this vision, Viasat-1 launched in 2011 has been fully functional for 5-years now. It offers speed up to 25 Mbps for its customers in the US and Canada. “We serve around 700,000 subscribers – and can’t add more because the satellite is full,” said Heather Ferrante, spokesperson of Viasat, adding that with the launch of Viasat-2 and -3 they are confident of addressing the larger market by 2019.

We are “having discussions with potential Indian partners and looking for companies who share our vision,” said Keven Lippert, EVP Satellite technologies, ViaSat.

Companies racing to launch satellites to provide super fast internet - ET Telecom
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