The satellite launch schedule for 2022 to 2026 shows the industry`s interest in designing multi-orbit schemes, with a footprint in GEO, LEO and in certain cases MEO, either through its own fleets or collaboration agreements. An example of this is Intelsat's roadmap for the remainder of 2022 and the beginning of 2023, when it plans to put the IS-40e into orbit: in total, the operator has twelve satellites in production, four of them defined by software and all under a vision of a “unified network”. The company, which has just come out of a judicial recovery process, maintains its focus on GEO, but seeks a presence in the other two orbits. That is why it evaluates plans for MEO and advances with testing solutions together with existing LEO fleets. On this last point, the operator recently worked with OneWeb on a multi-orbit communications solution for representatives of the US Army and the US Department of Defense: the diversification of transport between GEO and low orbit constellations was exhibited there , with a continuous switch between the two, to show the potential of using both types of satellites together.
Meanwhile, regulatory approval is awaited for Viasat's purchase of Inmarsat, the largest M&A operation in the last year, for US$7.3 billion. If materialized, Viasat would expand its footprint to the HEO orbit and inherit "Orchestra", the plan announced by Inmarsat in 2021 to deploy a hybrid network combining LEO, GEO and 5G, and with a particular focus on the maritime vertical. Viasat in turn is preparing the launch of Viasat-3 for the beginning of 2023.
The design of multi-orbital schemes is, on the one hand, a vote of confidence from traditional operators facing new offers powered by LEO: Eutelsat and Hughes with their investments in OneWeb are part of this trend. On the other hand, it reveals a search for cost-effective models in low orbit -where there are still difficulties in profitability- and for synergies not only between different constellations, but also with Cloud and initial 5G deployments.
The endorsement for the fleets in LEO also comes from the first announcements of agreements by large operators with the new constellations. Among them, AT&T will use OneWeb fleet to provide services in remote areas of the United States, as well as British Telecom in the United Kingdom and Telefónica in the countries where it has a presence; Verizon, meanwhile, has reached a similar agreement with the future Amazon Kuiper fleet.
Latin America takes its first steps with services over LEO by the hand of Starlink, with the granting of licenses to operate to subsidiaries of Space X. Chile was the first landing market, with five ground stations installed, and by the end of 2021 it had already sold almost 1,600 self-installing kits; in Brazil Starlink reached an agreement with the government for the connection of 19,000 schools, especially in the Amazon region; in Peru and Argentina Starlink has permission to provide services, obtained at the end of the first quarter; and in Uruguay it will do the same in 2023. Another constellation in LEO that follows in the footsteps of Starlink is Amazon Kuiper, which has been licensed in Chile since 2021 and plans to start marketing services in 2023.
These innovations of the last year in the satellite industry show a greater income opportunity for satellite companies in the provision of services. That is why there is an increase in M&A operations throughout the value chain, with an accentuation of verticalization and record financing for start-ups (US$ 15,000 million in 2021).