Elon Musk's SpaceX was top of the news this week with the successful launch of 60 low-earth orbit satellites Thursday that signaled the start of a constellation that will form its coming Starlink service. But another company that's been in the satellite broadband game for years also enjoyed a banner day.
Shares in Viasat jumped more than 7% Friday, the day after the company posted record Q4 and full-year revenues and said it was on track with its plan to launch a trio of geostationary satellites that will enable global coverage in the years to come.
Viasat put ViaSat-1 (140 Gbit/s of capacity) into service in 2013, followed by ViaSat-2 (260 Gbit/s), which entered service in 2018. The company's set of ViaSat-3 satellites is expected to provide total network capacity of 1 terabit per second and give Viasat global coverage. The first ViaSat-3 bird is set to launch in 2021 to serve the Americas; followed six months later by a second covering Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and a third, covering the Asia Pacific region, slated for the second half of 2022.
Viasat said the hardware build, enhanced payload testbed capabilities and qualification testing for the first two ViaSat-3-class satellites are progressing, while the design configuration phase on the third bird in that constellation is now underway.
"We feel we're just getting started and that we've got good momentum for the long-term," Mark Dankberg, Viasat's chairman and CEO, said Thursday on Viasat's fiscal Q4 call. "With the ViaSat-3 series and the enhancements that can follow, we can create even greater competitive separation."
Viasat said its US residential satellite broadband base inched up to 586,000, while ARPU rose 15%, to $81.99, versus the year-ago quarter as more customers migrated to Viasat's premium high-speed plans. Following the deployment of ViaSat-2, the company now offers a high-end service of 100 Mbit/s downstream paired with upstream speeds of just 3 Mbit/s.
Viasat ended Q4 with 1,312 aircraft being serviced by satellite broadband platform, up 189 from Q3. With another 490 commercial aircraft under existing contracts, the company is on a path toward 2,000 in-service aircraft. However, the grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will be a "growth drag" for Viasat in the first half of 2019, Dankberg said, estimating that those groundings represent just 4% of Viasat's in-service fleet of aircraft.
Dankberg said Viasat's emerging community WiFi business, tailored for underserved areas, is "still quite small [but] has good growth prospects." Of note, Viasat is working with Facebook to accelerate the deployment of affordable Internet services in underserved or unserved areas of Mexico.
Viasat said fiscal Q4 revenues (for the period ended March 31, 2019) rose 27% to a record $557.2 million versus the prior year period, with full-year revenues clocking in at a record $2.1 billion, up 30% from the previous year.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading