New satellite launches with services to watch in 2022
I mentioned in the January issue under my tech predictions for 2022 that we will see the much talked about LEO satellites coming to life with services starting this year. Since I wrote that I’ve been catching up on the satellite industry as a whole and with the combination of the 2022 scheduled launches and the delayed launches from last year this year is set to be a big one for satellite launches, as several major satellite operators launch satellites that mark the culmination of years of planning and investment.
New Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) communications satellites –services becoming available and being tested in 2022.
Starlink has already started launching more satellites for 2022.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket took off on Thursday 6th January from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and deployed 49 more Starlink internet satellites, blazing a new trail to orbit of the first of, as many as seven, space missions planned from Florida this January.
Fifteen minutes after launch, with the successful separation of the 49 Starlink satellites, it brings the total number of Starlink satellites that SpaceX has launched to 1,993. Not all those satellites remain in orbit. Some have failed after launch, and SpaceX has intentionally de-orbited others, either due to technical problems or obsolescence as newer designs reach orbit.
An expert tracker of spaceflight activity shows SpaceX has 1,468 satellites beaming Starlink broadband internet service around the world. Currently the Starlink network is now live in 25 countries with 145,000 users.
OneWeb confirmed the successful launch of more satellites on 27th Dec 2021.
This launch added a further 36 satellites, bringing their total constellation to 394 satellites. This represents 60% of their planned constellation of 648 satellites.
OneWeb enters the new year in a position of strength, as it plans to launch all the other satellites and provide global service by the end of 2022 and it is fully funded with demand continuing to rise from telecommunications providers, aviation and maritime markets, ISPs, and governments worldwide.
Is there a difference between Starlink and OneWeb?
Many are comparing Starlink with OneWeb both of which are developing and launching constellations with numerous satellites to provide broadband internet to anywhere on Earth.
Neil Masterton, the CEO of OneWeb says that they both have a very different approach to the market. He doesn’t see Starlink as a direct competitor to OneWeb as Starlink are focused on direct sales to the consumer (B2C) whereas the OneWeb model is business to business (B2B).
At e3 we have been observing the development of these two businesses and we can confirm that Starlink is just focused on selling a terminal on-line, direct to an end user, using the same business model that Elon Musk operates for Tesla. We hear the Starlink terminal simply works, out of the box, and provides an instant internet connection rather like a cell phone. However, the provision of all the added value services, for example: to install, configure and connect it into a network and to provide other services such as a support, VoIP, streaming, failover etc. is not included in the Starlink model but it is included in the OneWeb model.
Cellular network antenna on a satellite – proof of design
AST SpaceMobile – Bluewalker 3
This is really interesting, and is highly anticipated as it’s different to all the other broadband communication satellite projects and constellations. It will offer cellular connectivity for anyone on Earth, anywhere on Earth, using an unmodified mobile phone.
It’s a novel approach to satellite connectivity by providing a cellular broadband connectivity from space. BlueWalker 3 is designed to communicate directly with unmodified mobile phones on Earth. The launch is to validate the company’s space-to-cell network for testing with mobile network operators. Vodafone is one of the investors. The 693-square-foot phased array automatically folds out and it will be one of the largest deployed on a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite.
AST SpaceMobile is targeting summer 2022, so hopefully we should see results by the end of the year. All eyes will be on the AST SpaceMobile launch to see whether is works, as it could be a game changer!
New Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) communications satellites –services becoming available in 2022.
SES is planning to launch two batches of its anticipated O3b mPOWER satellites in 2022. The first batch of three satellites is set to launch in the first quarter of 2022, and the second batch of three satellites in the second quarter 2022. SES anticipate the constellation will start service by the end of the year using just those six satellites whilst another 5 will be launched in 2023.
O3b mPOWER is the next generation of the SES O3b fleet already in Medium-Earth Orbit (MEO) using 20 satellites since 2019. It will be able to deliver managed services from tens of Mbps up to multiple Gbps per service. The constellation will primarily serve cruise, commercial shipping, aviation, telcos, mobile network operators and cloud providers, militaries, government agencies, and enterprise users like oil and gas and mining.
New Geostationary (GEO) communications satellites – services becoming available in 2022.
These two well established companies are launching more capacity in the GEO market and they are not the only ones. You may have seen Inmarsat are adding further GEO satellites to their fleet over the next few years as well as getting into the LEO market. Even though Eutelsat are investing in new GEO capacity they also made a substantial investment in OneWeb in 2021. So the big players are hedging their bets.
ViaSat-3 – with services becoming available in 2022
Viasat is preparing for the launch of ViaSat-3 in the first half of 2022. It is the first in a trio of Ka-band satellites and it will be the highest-capacity single satellite launched to Geostationary Orbit (GEO).
Viasat announced their ViaSat-3 plans in 2015 providing a huge increase of capacity. Each satellite is designed to offer 1 Terabit per second of capacity, delivering speeds to users at 100+ Mbps. The first satellite will cover the Americas and the surrounding oceans regions, the second will cover Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, and the third will cover the Asia-Pacific region.
Eutelsat Konnect VHTS and 10B – with services becoming available in 2022
Eutelsat continues to transform its business from TV broadcast satellite provider into a satellite broadband provider with its new KONNECT VHTS satellite, due for launch in the first half of 2022. KONNECT VHTS follows KONNECT, which entered service in 2020, covering part of Europe and Africa. KONNECT VHTS will cover Europe for broadband, mobility, and government service. The satellite is huge, being as tall as a three-story building.
Separately, Eutelsat is also preparing for the EUTELSAT 10B launch in the second half of the year. 10B will serve both connectivity and broadcast customers, aimed at meeting demand for aviation and further maritime mobility services.
These launches will increase the capacity of broadband that will be available from space. In some cases, there will also be an increase in speed and a reduction in latency. As there will be much more available, I am sure this will herald the start of price reductions for satellite bandwidth.
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