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

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really be effective to deliver the Internet. But right now, it’s just not legal.

X: What’s your view of how network infrastructure fits into economic development?

MD: One of the places is in emerging countries. You could look at things like agriculture, fishing, and the amount of crops that are lost due to spoilage, due to an inability to deliver products tomorrow, or the inability of the producers to capture the value [of fresh goods]. Without network infrastructure, they don’t know where their markets are, where to deliver them, and the buyers don’t know it’s available. One of the things that has had a big impact in places like India and Africa is just cell phone texting. It’s just extremely basic stuff. You can’t really communicate a lot of information. But having any information at all [can lead to] substantial economic progress.

So, one idea is whether we can augment that [texting] with basic Internet. One of the reasons texting is so popular is because you can communicate effectively with very, very few bits. What the Internet really does, broadband does, is that it drives down the cost for bits. So with the same amount of money, think about pennies on each of the transactions that users are sending, a few characters of text, you can send pictures or images, or you can actually have a phone call or a face-to-face conversation for pennies.

ViaSat-1 launch

What has made it possible is really cheap telephone handsets, with very low-cost monthly bills, mostly prepaid. So you can imagine that with low-cost Android-based phones or other types of low-cost smartphones with very low-cost WiFi access, or that use satellites, you could get the same effect. Just give people more bandwidth and I think that would be very impactful in a lot of places.

X: How do you measure the cost of satellite-based Internet service?

MD: For subscription-based telecom services, there are two measures. One is cost per home passed. If I build out any type of network infrastructure, what does it cost me to be able to knock on your door and say, “You could buy service if you want to”?

The other key metric is the cost per home actually served. If you look at those numbers for traditional telecom, they are in the thousands of dollars per home for broadband, high-speed Internet.

With satellites, the cost per home passed is in the single digit dollars per home, and the cost per home served is … Next Page »

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

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