Eutelsat Communications has ordered the next-generation KONNECT VHTS satellite system to support the development of its European fixed broadband and in-flight connectivity businesses. The satellite, which is due to enter into service in 2021, will be built by Thales Alenia Space which will develop a satellite and ground segment solution that is said to be the most competitive on the market. With a weight of 6.3 ton and a Ka-Band capacity of 500 Gbps, KONNECT VHTS will be the most powerful on-board digital processor put in orbit, offering capacity allocation flexibility, optimal spectrum use, and progressive ground network deployment.
The project will be launched with firm multi-year distribution commitments from Orange and Thales. A retail partnership was signed with Orange to address the fixed broadband market in European countries where the Group has a retail presence, and a distribution partnership was signed with Thales to serve the government connectivity services market.
Commenting on the contract, Rodolphe Belmer, CEO of Eutelsat, said: “We are delighted to sign this agreement with global partners, Orange and Thales, which confirms the place of satellite-based solutions in the drive for enhanced high speed internet coverage. As a core complement to terrestrial broadband networks, high speed broadband will be a critical driver of Eutelsat’s growth from 2020 onwards. Over the next decade, VHTS satellites will bring enough capacity to serve high speed internet and in-flight connectivity markets at scale, offering fiber-like services both in terms of price and speed.”
The investment in KONNECT VHTS replaces the project of a joint investment with ViaSat in a ViaSat 3 satellite for Europe, Africa and the Middle East, and is covered by Eutelsat’s capex objective of an average of €420 million per annum.
Stéphane Richard, Chairman and CEO of Orange, added: “Satellite is one of the technologies that contribute to building tomorrow's inclusive digital society, especially for delivering broadband connectivity in rural areas where it is sometimes challenging to set up traditional broadband networks. With this agreement, we will enhance our portfolio of very high speed internet solutions delivered by satellite, offering all our customers across Europe digital services of premium quality.”
Patrice Caine, Chairman and CEO of Thales, declared: “With this partnership, Thales is supporting France and Europe in their ambitious drive to ensure universal access to high speed broadband across their territories. We are extremely proud to provide to our long-standing partner, Eutelsat, a state-of-the-art satellite designed to serve fixed and mobile connectivity markets as well as supporting our government customers for coverage of connectivity solutions across Europe. Built on our all-electric Spacebus NEO platform, the KONNECT VHTS satellite will be equipped with a flexible and digital VHTS payload embarking the latest innovations bolstered by the significant increase in our R&D investments and the ongoing government support from the CNES, the European Space Agency and the French investment programme – Programme d’Investissements d’Avenir.”