Although Viasat has spent the past three years concentrating on geostationary broadband satellites with its Viasat-3 program, it is now looking to sail into Low Earth Orbit (LEO) territory. The temptation to venture into the new orbit was generated by the company’s interest in qualifying for Rural Digital Divide funds, reports SpaceNews.com.
Viasat CEO Mark Dankberg defended the shift in focus saying, “It’s the demand side that we’re after, and the only thing that’s really changed on the demand side are government subsidies.” The move means that Viasat is seeking its share of the $20.4 billion in available broadband subsidies. “Assuming that the FCC does allow LEO to be eligible in the Phase 2 part of the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, the opportunity for funding is far in excess of the increase in what the constellation would cost,” Dankberg added.
The proposal put forth by Viasat envisions a constellation of 288 satellites that now meet FCC funding regulations. A recent filing authorized the same Ka- and V-band frequencies that Viasat wants to use for its new satellites, according to the account. The plan is for each satellite, operating at 1,300 kilometers, to support 96 gigabits-per-second of throughput. The overall system would enable a collective 27 terabits of internet connectivity spreading out 60 degrees on either side of the equator.
“We had a purpose in MEO (Medium Earth Orbiter), but the biggest factor in wanting to lower the altitude is really the amount of funding that the FCC is aiming at low latency communications,” Dankberg said during a phone call earlier this month, reports SpaceNews.com.