SpaceX’s Starlink subsidiary has launched more than 3,500 satellites into low orbit to provide Starlink residential, RV, and marine broadband service. A theoretical competitor, Viasat, Inc., of Carlsbad, CA, has thus far been nothing more than a thorn in Elon Musk’s side, filing petitions and processes with the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) to thwart the aggressive and prodigious SpaceX launch schedule.
So far, Viasat has largely failed to slow or interfere with Starlink in its buildup of satellite capacity.
Viasat to launch first ViaSat-3 satellite this April
Last week, Viasat announced plans to launch its long-delayed ViaSat-3, a constellation of three additional terabit-class satellites, the first in April of this year. The company currently has two large, high-capacity satellites in high geosynchronous orbit.
At its launch from Kazakhstan in 2011, ViaSat-1 became the highest-capacity satellite in the world. Broadband coverage provided by ViaSat-1 included the continental United States, Hawaii, and Canada. ViaSat-2 rose from French Guiana in 2017 and would double the capacity of ViaSat-1. It isn’t easy to compare the capabilities of the two entirely different broadband systems represented by Viasat and Starlink. Starlink has launched >3,500 of its low-earth orbiters and is rapidly deploying more each week on its way to a deployed array of as many as 42,000.
Viasat Chief Executive Officer Mark Dankberg told a group of Wall Street analysts, “Putting the satellite into service addresses our most immediate challenge, which is bandwidth constraints that have caused us to downsize our residential business to support the strong growth we’ve had in in-flight connectivity.” His comment underscored the company’s prioritization of residential and inflight broadband connectivity and mentioned nothing about mobile service.
Amazon preparing to launch Project Kuiper satellites
Amazon, for its part, has been quietly preparing its subsidiary, Kuiper Systems LLC, to launch a significant Low Earth Orbit (LEO) array. Kuiper Systems has obtained FCC approval to launch 3,236 Project Kuiper broadband satellites. It will begin the project by launching 1,500 satellites over the next five years. Kuiper Systems LLC was formed in 2019. Its CEO is Rajeev Badyal, formerly SpaceX’s Starlink vice president. Badyal was reportedly fired from SpaceX in 2018.
The FCC Order and Authorization approving Project Kuiper’s plans is interesting reading insofar as it discusses in detail the issues surrounding collision avoidance in orbit of thousands of satellites, with more being launched every week. The FCC approved Kuiper’s debris mitigation plan and its launch vehicle and orbiter disposal plans.
It is likely that Amazon, having invested billions in Project Kuiper and anticipating infusing billions more, will offer satellite internet in competition with Starlink at some point. However, that point appears to be years in the future. Kuiper had better accelerate its deployments—the FCC order requires Kuiper to have the first 1,600 of its satellites in orbit by 2026.
The bottom line is that talk of competition with Starlink is, at best, premature, insofar as the first year of meaningful orbital broadband capacity achieved by a prospective competitor is probably 2026. And it is worth noting that Project Kuiper is the only entity with latent potential and announced intentions to compete with Starlink. Yet, do not count Viasat out despite its focus on residential broadband service. It is a compelling, relatively small technology concern with deep ties to military and government information services. Its potential is yet to be realized.
How will I know if I am looking at stars or flashes of tinfoil in the night sky?
If the objects are moving at a higher rate of speed than stars. The moving Starlink constellation is referred to as a “train”.
Gee, with thousands of low-orbit communication satellites, campground crowding may begin to seem insignificant compared to space crowding. Especially so, if the satellites begin bumping into one another and the associated debris fall to earth. 😉
I love my starliink.
I’m able to stream on 3 tvs and use our 2 phones and no lag at all, my fellow camphosts also stream from their phones at the same time..
$110.00 a month. Can’t beat that with a stick..
Thank you. We are considering trying it. Getting mixed reviews from some RVers that say they are being throttled during peak periods?
Sounds like you are 100% happy so thanks again for posting.
No throttling at all.. I’m in Mesa arizona, snowbird haven..
In theory, according to the Terms of Service, a Starlink RV subscriber could be downgraded in service volume, depending on location and a lot of other factors, but I have never experienced this, at least not throughout the western states.
I remember reading an issue of “Air and Space” magazine about 30+ years ago which was showing all the satellites and ‘space junk’ circulating around the earth back then, and how it posed a problem. Imagine how that must have multiplied since then. I would think the scariest part of a manned rocket launch to anywhere would be somehow dodging all this stuff that resides in our atmosphere.
Viasat will never be a serious competitor of Starlink as long as they use a geosynchronous orbit. The reason is simple – the speed of light gets in the way. A radio signal from your RV has to travel up at least 23,000 miles, then back down 23,000 miles to its destination, and then back again with the response. That’s at least 92,000 miles round trip. At the speed of light, that is about 1/2 second added to every round trip. Given that normal internet latency is around 50ms, the best a geosynchronous satellite can do is TEN TIMES that latency. For gamers especially, but also for videoconferencing, that’s a show-stopper. Low earth orbit satellites are comparable to land lines.
Cool. Thank you! 🙂
Just think about all that space junk when it starts falling out of the sky in a few years, this may rejuvenate bomb shelters. Hail storm damage won’t be anything compared to space junk. Lol
The Geosynchronous satellites (Viasat) are 22,000 miles up and are unlikely to ever enter the atmosphere. The low altitude ones are quite small, essentially “disposable”, and designed to easily burn up from atmospheric friction many miles above the earth.
The key word is “designed”, haven’t seen anything that was designed that didn’t fail sooner or later. Engineers are human and humans make mistakes, that’s what causes recalls.
Cr@p! Gonna need to get another rider on my insurance policy.