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Year In Review... ViaSat

viasat_sm1210_l Without a doubt, the past year has seen the external spotlight focused brightly on the Company’s new high-capacity satellite technology and the nearing launch of ViaSat-1. And well it should be, as the bandwidth cost and service-quality transformation being created can be the single most significant new development in our industry in the past decade.

viasat_sm1210_g1 Also sharing that spotlight was the Company’s acquisition of WildBlue Communications, a pioneer in Ka-band satellite Internet access. As a key piece of the high-capacity satellite puzzle, WildBlue immediately solidified the primary business plan for ViaSat-1 by bringing world-class distribution and network operations for residential broadband, as well as the expertise to help service providers around the world develop similar businesses.

Inside ViaSat, the focus has been on a diverse set of products, technologies, and services. That broad focus is how growth continues, and is the foundation needed to be able to create new ventures on the scale of ViaSat-1. Even prior to the launch, we generated more than $800 million in new orders during 2010.

In addition to fixed and mobile satellite networking, major lines of business, including defense data links, networking and security, government satcom, and antenna systems, performed well in fiscal 2010 and are positioned for future growth. Through this unprecedented era of budget tightening — in both commercial and government markets — sales and new orders have continued to grow to set new company records.

Through continuous innovation, ViaSat offers customers a decisive advantage designing, customizing, and optimizing their networks. They gain the most network value from their dollars invested and position themselves to stay on the leading edge of communication technology when working with ViaSat.

Barrett already offers Xplornet satellite ISP services with Viasat’s SurfBeam® system and Ka-band capacity on Telesat Anik F2 and F3. This year Canada’s largest rural broadband provider expanded that relationship with an award for broadband gateway infrastructure and terminals to be used with ViaSat-1. Barrett also exercised its option to take the full 15 Gbps of ViaSat-1 capacity over Canada – more than all existing Canadian Ka-band satellite capacity.

O3b Limited, the new global, high-speed, fiber-like satellite service for telecommunication operators and ISPs, will also use Ka-band infrastructure from ViaSat. Gateway teleports and high-speed IP trunking terminals are being supplied to O3b Networks, including full-motion tracking antenna systems for Medium Earth Orbit (MEO) satellites, high-speed modems, monitor and control equipment, system development, and installation. The planned launch of the O3b service is in early 2012.

Against all odds, the Company unseated the incumbent by winning a $477 million IDIQ contract to supply the next generation of high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency Blue Force Tracking (BFT) equipment to the U.S. Army. By engineering a faster, more efficient, and lower cost system, entry was gained to this new business area, part of the Force XXI Battle Command Brigade and Below (FBCB2) Program.

As an extension of the firm’s high-capacity Ka-band strategy, an agreement was entered into with JetBlue to build the best in-flight broadband system for commercial airliners. This “in-flight broadband for the 21st century” is just beginning development and is designed to provide a completely new customer experience for in-flight broadband access and other services for customers on JetBlue’s entire fleet.

ViaSat’s worldwide mobile network subscription service continued its rapid expansion, including the addition of custom designed managed private services. Maritime and airborne subscribers are being added at a rapid pace coverage and available bandwidth is improved.

Major ongoing projects also kept us busy in 2010:
  • Tooway/KA-SAT and Yahsat — Along with ViaSat-1 in North America, an alliance of high throughput Ka-band satellite capacity around the world is being created. In Europe and Northern Africa, KA-SAT will be the first to provide coverage, with a launch scheduled for the end of 2010. In the Middle East, Yahsat will extend Ka-band coverage with the Y1B satellite scheduled for launch in the second half of next year. The SurfBeam system will provide common ground network infrastructure for each of these satellites, enabling availability for global and mobile Ka-band networks
  • RascomStar-Qaf — Based on ViaSat’s custom satellite terminal development, the pan-African satellite operator Rascom will soon be delivering satellite systems for high-capacity infrastructure communications carrying telephony and data between regional and national capitals and for rural telecommunications access across Africa.

Looking ahead, the transformational high-capacity satellite initiative is a potential driver of growth for almost all of the Company’s businesses. Here’s a brief explanation of how the satellite industry will evolve with this new technology at hand.

Traditional FSS satellite architecture has shown itself to be the Swiss army knife of satellite communications. At one time or another, FSS has been used for almost every satellite application. As a result of the success of FSS satellites, there has been very little incentive to innovate for about the past three decades.

However, while FSS satellites are relatively good at doing almost everything, they don’t do a lot of things really well. They are built for broadcast when today’s applications more often require two-way data communications. And, for broadband applications, “how much” data you deliver is just as important as “how fast.”

viasat_sm1210_g2 KA-SAT and our own ViaSat-1 are the first two satellites designed with a focus on total bandwidth throughput. Working with ViaSat, KA-SAT should achieve a total capacity of 70 Gbps and ViaSat-1 has shown in testing that its 130 to 140 Gbps throughput target is well within reach. That’s 10 times more total capacity than any previous satellite. The benefits are obvious for residential broadband, but the years ahead will also show those same benefits extending to enterprise, government, and mobile satellite services.
Enterprise — Satellite has been losing ground to terrestrial networking among enterprise users because of the high cost of Ku-band bandwidth. With high-capacity Ka-band, the economic model can be re-set and the inherent technology advantages of satellite – wide coverage, single service source, quick build-out, and tailored applications renewed. Recent live satellite demonstrations by ViaSat have shown just how good this service can be.

  • Government — The U.S. military and Allied forces acknowledge a significant and growing “bandwidth gap” between supply and demand. Even with new U.S. Department of Defense-owned Wideband Global Satcom and AEHF launches, the military is unable to keep up with increasing demand for SATCOM capacity. High-capacity Ka-band can make possible the economics, capacity, data speeds, and scale to accommodate the growing number of simultaneous users and widely-dispersed SATCOM terminals that the military needs
  • Mobile — Today’s air-to-ground and satellite mobile services are already bumping up against lack of capacity as more users try to share limited bandwidth. For mobile broadband customers around the world, improved transmission speeds, greater volumes of bandwidth per user, and substantially reduced costs per Gbps are being developed

viasat_sm1210_bio The ViaSat-1 satellite will be a catalyst in re-setting the current perception of what satellite communications can do across multiple markets. ViaSat-1 is just the initial breakthrough — it’s going to take a series of broadband satellites, with even more compelling bandwidth economics, to compete with the rapid improvements of terrestrial network technology. ViaSat believes the rewards of the Company’s work can pay great dividends for ViaSat and the entire satellite industry in the years ahead.