Operators of geostationary satellites disagree with the view of low Earth orbit services like Starlink as the only resolution for customer communications. With the continuous expansion of SpaceX on its Starlink communications network and service promotions, existing service providers formulate strategies to stay competitive.

Gwynne Shotwell (president and chief operating officer at SpaceX) shares insights on 6th April at the 2021 Satellite LEO Digital Forum. He said, “The company moves ahead with plans to offer Starlink satellite internet services to the customer directly with an eye on the US government as a potential client.”

In the meanwhile, professionals from the corporate operators of geostationary satellites argue on the Starlink which is a low Earth orbit service is not the only solution for customer’s communication issues. About 1320 satellites owned by SpaceX are present in the orbit and it plans to launch many more this year. During summer, SpaceX will deploy its satellites in the polar orbits.

Mr. Shotwell said that the Defense Department is now interested in services related to communications from low Earth orbit. Hence, it builds a huge network of its own and she also expects the government to purchase their commercial services. She added, “It is visible on how the government starts to think on multiplied LEO capabilities however, I am not sure on their purchase from the commercial operators. In either case, we are happy to serve the government with our commercial bandwidth.”

DoD shows interest in Starlink services and it uses LEO communications services from operators namely, Iridium and OneWeb. This is because the data is easily transmitted with minimal delay as compared to other operators of geostationary satellites (22,000 miles above the equator). Due to the Earth’s curve, the geostationary satellites cannot provide continuous analysis in the polar regions. In the meanwhile, LEO satellites move around the low altitudes (below 1,200 miles) in order to provide continuous global coverage with the satellite movement.

Details on SES operation satellites by Steve Collar (CEO of SES):

  • The company offers a hybrid service which incorporates satellites from numerous orbits.
  • SES conducts satellites in geostationary orbits along with a system of satellites in medium Earth orbits.
  • The distance of these satellites is about 5,000 miles from Earth.
  • Steve said that the government requires access of an effortless network which takes the advantage of multiple orbits on the basis of consumer demand.
  • There is confusion in the type of satellites and its providers among the government and commercials, as per Steve.
  • Collar adds, “The industry is fractured since its customers face these sorts of issues without rational solutions.”
  • In Steve’s opinion, the answer to the above question is a well-managed service which can distribute network based on the demand.

Pradman Kaul (president of Hughes Network Systems) shares that the company builds a hybrid strategic partnership with OneWeb. Hughes offers services from its own geostationary satellites and LEO network connectivity via OneWeb. Pradman says there is a belief in combined services.

Mark Dankberg (executive chairman of Viasat) said that there are pros and cons that need thorough analysis. Viasat operates geostationary satellites however, last year it announced the development of nearly 300 satellites in low Earth orbit. The intention behind the development is to check if they can qualify for US government in order to provide broadband in rural areas.

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