As part of the plan, Viasat is planning to build a constellation of nearly 300 LEO satellites that could deliver broadband service at low latencies.
Satellite broadband company Viasat has announced new plans for a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation that is scheduled to launch in approximately five to six years.
The announcement was made during its Q4 2020 and full-year results call last week. Viasat executives said that the LEO constellation is expected to receive subsidy funding from the FCCs $16bn Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) for US broadband services.
As part of the plan, Viasat is planning to build a constellation of nearly 300 LEO satellites that could deliver broadband service at low latencies (less than 100 milliseconds).
According to SpaceNews, Viasat’s proposed LEO constellation would operate at 1,300km using the same Ka- and V-band frequencies it’s currently authorised for medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites. Viasat effectively wants to transfer its existing MEO approvals to a LEO constellation.
Additionally, Viasat’s fiscal Q4 revenues climbed 4% to $592m, versus $557m in the year-ago quarter. Service revenues rose 10.5% to $292.7m, with revenues specifically from satellite services increasing 11.8% YOY to $212.4m.
Commenting on the new LEO constellation plans, Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg said that the company is paying close attention to FCC guidelines for rural broadband subsidiaries.
We had a purpose in mind for the MEO constellation, but the biggest factor in wanting to go to LEO is really the amount of funding that the FCC is aiming at low specifications, he said.
Dankberg added: A LEO constellation does involve more satellites than we would have used in MEO, but the satellites are a lot smaller and less expensive than they otherwise would be, but the main attraction is that things are evolving, but assuming that the FCC does allow LEO to be eligible in the Phase II part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund. The opportunity for funding is far in excess of the increase in what the constellation would cost. So thats the main reasoning behind it.
The company has also cut 5% of its workforce and imposed a hiring freeze as part of a cost-cutting initiative to reduce the impact due to the coronavirus pandemic.