Astranis has a plan to slash satellite backhaul costs

Currently, satellite broadband may be the hottest, but the launching Astranis has another goal in mind: mobile transmission.

The latest figures from the International Telecommunication Union show that about 3.7 billion people worldwide remain offline at the end of 2019.

Astranis CEO John Gedmark told Fierce that in order to make them online, the company “needs to reduce the cost of satellite bandwidth so that telecoms can build cell tower networks in super-remote locations, rural areas, places with uneven terrain that they have never been able to do economically before. “

“If you get that price low enough, we’ve found that telecommunications companies would be happy to expand their network of cell towers to places where there’s no point in digging up fibers,” he said.

The CEO explained that satellite technology itself is the key to reducing costs. Older systems relied on large analog satellites that could take four to five years. But Astranis designs new, smaller birds that weigh about 20 times less than their traditional counterparts and can be produced in 12 to 18 months.

He added that the secret sauce was the use of software-defined Astranis radios, which allowed its satellites to be built on a production line and programmed at the appropriate frequency later.

“Having a small satellite means you can build them very quickly, so we can build ours in months, not years, you can build them with much smaller facilities and a smaller team. Everything is only an order of magnitude more efficient. “

Gedmark said its satellites use standard frequencies in the Ku (12-18GHz) and Ka (27-40 GHz) bands, each of which can offer 10 to 15 Gbps bandwidth.

Laying on the ground

Data from Northern Sky Research (NSR) provided by Gedmark show that 40,000 to 50,000 cellular sites using satellite transmission are estimated today. The market research group predicts that figure will jump to 800,000 by 2029, according to information shared by Gedmark.

Earlier this week, the NSR noted in a press release that the backhaul satellite industry was “simply scratching the surface of the target market”, with about 470 Gbps of traffic being transmitted through that medium from a total address market of 22 Tbps. By 2030, he predicts that the satellite transfer market will generate about $ 25 billion in annual revenue.

Hedmark has already said that Astranis has seen “huge interest” in its technology around the world. In fact, earlier this week, the company secured $ 250 million in new investor funding, adding to the $ 103.5 million it raised in previous rounds in 2018 and 2020.

The company launched its first satellite in 2018 and is now working on a commercial program that aims to deploy “dozens” of satellites over the next three to five years, Gedmark said. His goal is to eventually have hundreds of his birds in orbit. Each will cover a country-sized area and will be able to serve “thousands” of cell sites, he added.

“I think we are really at a turning point here. The ability to use a satellite for transmission … is now something we think will explode. There is so much potential there that you can unlock when you lower your backhain prices to a certain price point. “