ViaSat Enrolls 285K in Internet Satellite Service; CEO Talks Costs

3/19/13Follow @bvbigelow

As the “Satellite 2013” conference gets underway this week in Washington D.C., Carlsbad, CA-based ViaSat (NASDAQ: VSAT) says more than 285,000 subscribers have signed up for its satellite-based Internet service, which began just over a year ago.

In a statement yesterday, ViaSat chairman and CEO Mark Dankberg said, “Our results prove that driving down the cost of bandwidth can make satellite a better choice than slower terrestrial alternatives.”

ViaSat and its Colorado-based ViaSat Services group (previously known as WildBlue) say this month marks the first anniversary of the nationwide rollout of their Exede Internet service—which followed the successful launch of the ViaSat-1 satellite in October 2011. “The market success of ViaSat-1 strengthens our commitment to delivering a series of new satellites that push the boundaries of what’s possible in satellite broadband across a broad range of market opportunities,” Dankberg said.

ViaSat says Exede Internet subscribers receive download speeds of up to 12 megabits per second (Mbps). A report issued last month by the Federal Communications Commission found that ViaSat’s Internet service actually performed 140 percent better than 12 Mbps for 90 percent of the company’s subscribers during peak use periods.

Mark Dankberg

ViaSat claims that the quality of its Internet service has been so high that about 40 percent of Exede subscribers switched from slower DSL, cable, and wireless services. Dankberg touched on many of these points when he talked with me last year at ViaSat’s Carlsbad headquarters. What follows is an edited and condensed version of our conversation:

Xconomy: The last time we sat down like this, you gave me the analysis that went into the decision to launch the ViaSat-1 satellite. It had a lot to do with the tremendous growth of online video.

Mark Dankberg: Yeah, well, we’ve been doing data networking a long time. We knew back in 2000 that the key to high-performance satellite networking was in space. What was exciting about WildBlue at that time was that they came up with seven gigabits per second, which was a big step forward and it was at an affordable price. And we looked at that as… really the test case that was going to confirm this hypothesis, and it did.

What’s interesting is many other competitors just kind of went in other directions. They didn’t see the … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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  • Sevokevo

    I kind of wish that they will be able to raise the Data Threshold soon because only getting a max of $25 GB a month is really low compared to Normal Internet companies that have Data Limits of 250GB a month… And then if you want more Data you have to pay $10 extra a GB that only last till the end of the billing period.

  • Jonathan Henschel

    I am an Exede customer, and thankfully I am one of the users that tends to get better speeds than advertised. However, I am experiencing a continual problem, and one look at their Facebook page or message boards confirms I am not alone.

    My problem: The data caps. Now, I understand they are necessary to a point. But, the Exede usage meters simply do not work properly. If I pay for 10 gigs of bandwidth a month, and I supplement it by using their “Late Night Free Zone” when bandwidth is free and not counted towards my 10 gigs, then I should actually get 10 gigs of bandwidth.

    But, when using the Late Night Free Zone counts towards my monthly allotment of 10 gigs, when it is advertised that it will not and cannot count against it, this is bad business. When I see this same issue with many other users, I suspect the problem is even bigger since many people just think that they are the problem, especially when the customer service department tells them that yes, they are the problem and that their service is working perfectly fine.

    Last month, I checked my usage meter, and soon after I had an internet outage, and when my internet came back online an hour or two later, 9 of my 10 gigs were mysteriously missing. Obviously if i am offline for 2 hours, I cannot be using 9 gigs of bandwidth, when in the previous week I had only used 0.6 gigs.

    For Exede to grow, they need to get new customers, but they also need to retain the customers they already have. They either need to get rid of the bandwidth caps since they have no way to properly track usage and find other ways to sell their product, or they need to actually give the customer what they are paying for.

    And, they need to have a proper customer service department. If I call Exede to order service, I get to a live person instantly. If I call customer service, the typical wait to speak to a representative is well over an hour, which is unacceptable.

    If they get these problems sorted out, they will have my business for years to come. If they do not, why would I want to do business with a company that cannot give me what I am paying for on a consistent basis?

    • Exede Nick

      Jonathan, I would be happy to investigate this concern for you. Can you please send me an email at exedelistens@viasat.com so I can correct this for you. Please be sure to include the name and phone number that are on your account in your email so we can get this resolved for you as soon as possible. Thank you!

  • Rick Fraser

    Be sure to read your terms and conditions. I came from a bad WildBlue experience nine/ten years ago. Then had a similar experience with HughesNet soon after. Been with AT&T managed T1 since, they are expensive but consistent.

    As of April 2013 we are now a week into this satellite company service. I find myself with super low, inconsistent bandwidth speeds and now talking with the exede customer support team. I am afraid they sing the same song as their predecessors- “read your terms and condition.”

    Last test 6.82Mbp/s down 265Kbp/s up~ although it jumps all over the place. I have scheduled a second appointment to fix but I fear this satellite company has the same flavor as the others.

  • http://www.facebook.com/craig.lynd.5 Craig Lynd

    Well he tells a good story but with the data caps, the idea of streaming movies and such doesn’t fly. Even with the top plan of 25G a month a movie a week will quickly eat that up along with the other surfing one does. As far as being cheaper it’s not cheaper per GB to the user,it actually went up. I was paying $79 a month for 22GB with Wildblue (17 down/5 up) now I pay $139 a month including a $10 modem fee for 25GB an extra $60 for 3 more GB. Yes there is the late night free zone, which works OK if you want to get up between 12 and 5 in the morning to download a movie, but for the average day worker its like getting all the water you want at the ocean, sounds good but in reality you can’t drink it. When they promoted the new satellites prior to announcing the price plans they claimed we would get more for less and that the one new satellite had more capacity than all the others combined and that was before Hughes put up a similar satellite. I’m assuming that the statement was true but they must be limiting the consumer side and selling most of the capacity to the government and/or business. In fact it only took Dishnetwork who uses Exede about 6 months to reduce the 25GB plan to 15GB and they don’t allow the free night zone that you get when you subscribe direct through Exede. I would also suggest that the majority of the backlog wasn’t from new users clamoring to get satellite internet, it was from existing users clamoring for the faster speed and converting from Wildblue or Hughes. The only new users of any consequence may be from those who were relying on cell coverage which is the only internet service that is more expensive per GB than satellite, the others may be from DSL users on the fringe who get slow speeds. I can’t imagine any cable user who gets high speed internet service with high caps or no caps at all for a lower price switching to satellite. The last thing is the usage meter they provide is useless and inconsistent, apparently there are not state regulations covering the accuracy of their meters like you have at a gas pump. If they’re going to limit the amount I can use then they should have to have the software accredited and validated by the a States Weight and Measures division. I will say that the speed is a vast improvement over the prior offerings but the low data caps and high pricing makes it impractical for all except those of us who are stuck without a practical alternative, I’m sure if you took a poll of satellite users most of them feel taken advantage of. The Hughes commercials where everyone in the family is a happily using the internet and streaming away is a joke, in real life that doesn’t happen with satellite instead you watch that usage meter closely and limit any streaming to the absolute minimum.