The Nth Coming of Satellite Broadband


Satellite-based broadband services have been a bit of a non-starter. The low speeds, and lower penetration rates have proved that the big birds really don’t fly. Folks, however still keep trying. In Thailand, iPstar is close to launching some of its birds to bring broadband-like speeds to folks in rural Asia. More recently, Telesat launched a Canadian only service. Not to be left behind, apparently we are going to see a new effort from WildBlue, a Greenwood Village, CO based start-up, which is going to launch its service in June 2005. Depending on the money you want to spend, you could get between 512 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps via a satellite, the company claims. Its not going to be cheap: the gear is going to cost $299 that subscribers will have to pay, and on top of that expect to be hit with a $179.95 installation charge. What!!!

WildBlue has been a work in progress for nearly six years, and has raised around $500 million in investment from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, EchoStar, Liberty Media, and IntelSat. “We’re after those 25 million homes that can’t get anything,” WildBlue CEO Tom Moore told The Rocky Mountain News. “If it wasn’t for a company like WildBlue, families like the Tuttles would be on dial-up for a long time to come.” The Center for the Study of Rural America – only 5 percent of communities with fewer than 10,000 residents have broadband access. While the market is clearly there, past experience of satellite broadband hasn’t been encouraging. More recently, Gilat Satellite Networks of Israel had to roll up struggling Starband into its Spacenet subsidiary after the service failed to get much traction in the market place.

Does this mean that Satellite Broadband will finally take off? I think these new generation birds have more capacity and can handle more customers. Higher speeds would make it worthwhole for corporations with remote offices, though not quite sure how much impact they will have in the residential markets, especially when munis and cities are pushing hard on building their own networks.



Long before Telesat started their Canada-only service, a company called Novanet Communications Limited (disclosure: I’m a former employee) rolled out NovaConnect, a Canada-wide satellite-based broadband service. It operated on a Telesat satellite, but long before Telesat offered anything similar. Unlike this comment, Novanet was early to the party here in Canada : )

Om Malik

I am not sure what progress has been made in these technologies, but from what I know, the first generation and even the second generation stuff was bit mediocre. and as a result i feel that this is forcing a solution, on something which clearly is a big problem

Nitin Ahuja

I see Satellite Broadband and technologies like EDGE/EVDO to be competing technologies where wireless broadband would win over satellite. As wireless networks expand and technologies like WiMax mature, this would naturally happen. People are looking for a single platform access for data and voice needs (convergence), I dont see Satellite Broadband as that medium


I have a friend who had satellite internet service for a while before they could get DSL. It was terrible. One thing that is not in these figures is the latency — which is really bad. In addition, things like rain and clouds would mess with the service. Don’t plan on hooking up your Xbox 360 to one of these services.

Martin Geddes

If people believe that there is a market for this stuff, it kinda suggests that the universal service fund isn’t exactly doing its job of providing people in rural areas with the universal services they desire. (Oh, and shouldn’t we start to refer to it as Universal Connecitivity, just to annoy telco lobbyists?)

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