Andesat, a provider of cellular backhaul, has placed an order for Peru’s first dedicated telecoms satellite with Astranis, that will develop a teleport in the country ahead of the spacecraft’s expected to launch in 2023. Over the course of the satellite’s eight-year life, the deal is worth more than $90 million. It also includes the possibility of launching a second satellite as soon as 2024 to provide more bandwidth.
Astranis, a San Francisco-based startup, is creating a company around satellites which are much smaller compared to the traditional geostationary orbit (GEO) spacecraft, weighing in at 400 kilograms and scaled to provide dedicated bandwidth to smaller geographies at minimal costs. Pacific Dataport Inc (PDI), Astranis’ first commercial client, is counting down to the deployment of its Arcturus satellite by SpaceX Falcon Heavy in the spring to offer internet services across Alaska.
Astranis constructs and obtains a launch for the spacecraft it develops, leasing the space for long periods of time. Andesat intends to use Andesat-1 to improve internet access in remote locations of Peru while also upgrading the country’s cellular services from 2G to 4G.
According to Andesat, more than 8 million Peruvians live in rural areas without access to broadband internet. With Andesat-1, about 3 million Peruvians will be able to access reasonably priced 4G service on the mobile gadgets for the very first time. About a hundred of the 1,000 cell towers that Andesat-1 focuses on connecting are already up and running and will be enhanced to 5G-ready 4G services, whereas the rest will have to be built from the ground up.
According to Andesat CEO Pablo Rasore, the company plans to operate 500 cell towers by the year 2023. He stated the company expects to reach its 1000-site coverage objective a year after deploying Andesat-1 at a speed of 50-80 sites each month. “There are no roads in 60% of the country, which is why there are dispersed populations which need service but don’t have it,” Rasore said. Connecting the cell towers via terrestrial routes is difficult and expensive due to three mountain ranges as well as the Amazon jungle.
To connect these facilities, Andesat has been purchasing capacity from satellite operators such as Eutelsat, SES, Intelsat and Telesat; however, Rasore claims that demand is increasing at a rate which renders this business model uncompetitive. “If consumer demand continues to grow at its current rate, I believe two satellites will be just the beginning,” Rasore added. Andesat says it began providing wholesale satellite operations in Chile in July 2010 and has since expanded to Argentina and Ecuador, with ambitions to expand to Paraguay and Bolivia.
Astranis is looking for a new customer for its second batch.
Astranis is also constructing two satellites for Anuvu, a U.S.-based in-flight connectivity company that just received $50 million in funding with plans to launch eight satellites in total. According to Astranis CEO John Gedmark, the company is working on four “block two” satellites: 2 for Anuvu, 1 for Andesat, and one that has yet to spot a customer. PDI’s Arcturus is a block one satellite, according to him.