Satellite Internet Providers Innovate in the Face of LEO Competition

Facing new competition from low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, satellites are going hybrid in their attempts to increase speeds and reduce latency. Among the strategies revealed this month, established Geostationary (GEO) satellites are combining with terrestrial wireless and satellites in different orbits. 

One example is Hughes Network Systems, LLC, which is deploying a 25 Mbps, low-latency satellite internet offering with no data limits to consumers in select U.S. markets, known as HughesNet Fusion. The multipath technology blends GEO satellites and wireless technologies. 

“With HughesNet Fusion plans, we are solving the latency challenge inherent with GEO technology, while maximizing the many advantages of these time-tested satellites, including low cost, reliability, dense capacity and widespread availability,” said Pradman Kaul, President of Hughes.

HughesNet Fusion will use hybrid connectivity — both multi-transport and multi-orbit — to increase internet speeds. Different transports will be integrated using smart technologies and managed services to create a “dynamic, always-on, connected environment,” according to Kaul. Additionally, Hughes plans the launch of the Jupiter 3 satellite, which is capable of speeds up to 100 Mbps down.

Hughes is not the only established satellite company feeling the heat from LEO upstarts like Amazon’s Kuiper and SpaceX’s Starlink. Other satellite companies are using satellites in different orbits to increase their speeds and reduce latency. European satellite broadband operator SES is combining broadband satellites in two different types of orbits: Geosynchronous (GEO) and Medium Earth Orbit (MEO).

SES CEO Steve Collar told CNBC at the annual World Satellite Business Week conference in Paris that SES is adding to its existing MEO constellation of satellites with upgraded satellites called mPOWER, which will begin operations next year.

Additionally, KT SAT aims to be a multi-orbit satellite provider, combining GEO, MEO and LEO satellites, according to an announcement at the Euroconsult World Satellite Business Week 2022 this month in Paris. For this, KT SAT is actively dealing with acquiring GEO and non-geostationary (NGSO) satellites. 

“NGSO satellites like MEO and LEO are adequate for a mobility service, which provides connectivity to vessels, aircraft and so on,” CEO of KT SAT, David Kyungmin Song, said. “KT Group is currently focusing on mobility service and it established a strategic alliance with Hyundai Motor Group in order to promote mobility business on 7th of September. KT SAT will do its best to lead in the future mobility market as a member of the group as well.”

By J. Sharpe Smith, Inside Towers Technology Editor

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