With its more than 2,000 satellites positioned in low orbit, SpaceX’s Starlink has acquired a significant advantage, especially in terms of latency and speed, over Intelsat which currently operates 52 geostationary satellites. But each technology, of course, has its pros and cons.
The satellites in low orbit, as mentioned, ensure greater speed and significantly lower response times than those of geostationary satellites which allow instead to have a wider coverage with a single satellite remaining permanently over the same area. Starlink’s satellites are not fixed but orbit rapidly and are visible only from a more limited area of the earth’s surface. So there is a need to create a real constellation.
To take advantage of the benefits of both technologies, Intelsat has decided to offer its government customers who have chosen a Flex service an optional package which combines its classic geostationary satellite service with that of Starlink and the more classic cellular broadband. Intelsat is already purchasing Starlink terminals and services which it will resell to users who choose this service.
According to Don Claussen, Intelsat’s vice president of business development, the typical customer for this service may be the Department of Defense. The military units, in fact, could have the entire communications network at their disposal, carrying only two large suitcases: one with a Satcube geostationary terminal, cables and a gateway; the other with terminal and Starlink cables.
Meanwhile, Intelsat is also working with OneWeb which is building a constellation of about 650 satellites always positioned in low orbit like those of Starlink. And it will be up to SpaceX to send the next OneWeb satellites into orbit after the agreement with Roscosmos was blown due to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.