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Satnews Daily
October 25th, 2016

The Astrome Plan Is to Launch 150 Satellites By 2020

Bengaluru, India, based space startup Astrome Technologies will launch 150 satellites into space by 2020 to provide high-speed affordable Internet to remote locations across the world, this according to Nilesh Christopher at the online infosite ET Tech, published by India Times.

“Not only India, but the entire belt of developing nations will have high-speed Internet after the launch of our satellite,” said Neha Satak, CEO, Astrome Technologies. “We are working on the prototype of the first satellite, which will be unveiled to the public in December."

What Satak characterized as “the developing nation belt” includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Middle East, Africa, and parts of Mexico; all of which would be powered with 50 to 400 Mbps speeds. How does the technology work? The working principle is similar to that of a home DTH television. The user simply has to install a STB and an antenna on the rooftop of the building to enable satellite Internet service.

About 150 satellites weighing 120 kg each would be orbiting the Earth, taking turns in Internet beaming, thereby forming a network in space. With the first satellite scheduled for launch in 2018, Astrome is currently in talks with different segments of the markets to provide this Internet service.

The CTO of Astrome Technologies, Prasad HL Bhat, indicated that the launching the satellite and testing it will be our top priority—once the network is operational, all the stakeholders from education to healthcare can make use of the solution.

From a cost perspective, to cover one square km area through ground connection costs around $3,000. From space, that cost would be just $4 to $5, Satak added.

Asked about the feasibility of satellite Internet, Dr. KT Alex, former Director of ISRO Satellite Centre Bangalore, said, “The concept of providing Internet from space is viable; however, manufacturing satellites costs a lot of money. Once you have the money for investment, it is possible.

The Indian firm is currently backed by IISC and other private investors and the firm also receives business mentoring from Cisco and Analog devices. Incidentally, a 2016 study on ‘The future of Internet in India’ by NASSCOM foresees a 75 percent increase in the number of rural web users by 2020. The colossal rise in the number of "netizens" has nudged foreign firms to fight for a larger share of the pie.

US-based satellite TV broadcaster, ViaSat, recently established an R&D facility in Chennai to work on satellite Internet in India, according to Sathya Narayanaswamy, the Vice President of ViaSat India. Viasat currently holds the Guinness record for launching the highest capacity communication satellite in the world (140 Gbps). ViaSat’s vision is to launch three high capacity satellites: Viasat-1, Viasat-2, and Viasat-3, thereby enabling high-speed Internet for the entire world. As a step in the realization of this vision, Viasat-1 launched in 2011 and has been fully functional for  five years, offering speeds up to 25 Mbps for the company's customers in the US and Canada.

We serve around 700k subscribers—and we can’t add any more because the satellite is full,” said Heather Ferrante, spokesperson at Viasat, adding that with the launch of Viasat-2 and -3, the company is confident of addressing the larger market by 2019.

In addition to home internet, Viasat specializes in providing airborne WiFi for people commuting via airplanes. We are “having discussions with potential Indian partners now and looking for companies who share our vision,” said Keven Lippert, EVP Satellite technologies, ViaSat.

A third contender who stands toe-to-toe with Astrome and Viasat with the aim of building the world’s largest constellation of 648 LEO satellites is London-based OneWeb. That firm has several high-profile investors backing their project. Partially funded by Richard Branson’s Virgin group, and Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Bharti Enterprise, OneWeb will be launching their fleet of satellites in 2018. Christopher Torres, a spokesperson for OneWeb, said that Sunil Bharti-owned Bharti Airtel will be supporting the distribution of broadband to its customers in India when the satellites are on orbit.