ESA funds new satellite project for European connectivity

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The European Space Agency is to develop infrastructure for a forthcoming project offering satellite-based broadband connectivity across the continent.

The agency has signed up to Project AIDAN, a €68 million public private partnership (PPP) with satellite company ViaSat.

ViaSat's Antenna Systems subsidiary is planning to build a platform that will comprise three satellites with network infrastructure across the Americas and Europe, Middle East and Africa, and Asia Pacific. It will launch in 2019.

The platform aims to deliver speeds of more than 1TBps, which ViaSat said would enable broadband speeds of more than 100MBps to any home within its target areas.

The project has gone live with €31.2 million of funding, partly provided by the ESA and public sector cash from the Netherlands, Romania and Switzerland.

The money will be used to build unspecified fixed and mobile user devices, and developing a phased array to provide residential broadband, in-flight Wi-Fi and connected car services. 

It will also be spent on constructing cloud-based ground equipment and gateways for the satellite network.

Magali Vaissiere, ESA Director of Telecommunications and Integrated Applications, said: “The PPP with ViaSat will bring ESA and industry together to quickly develop broadband products that will serve the needs of millions of consumers across Europe who are currently without adequate internet service.

"We believe this is a significant industrial opportunity that will keep Europe at the forefront of satellite and broadband technology development, giving Europe a leading position on the deployment of a next-generation broadband system with advanced ground networks and consumer equipment.”

ViaSat Antenna Systems Managing Director Stefano Vaccaro added: “With the support from ESA and its Member States, we are investing with industry in research and development programs that will focus on forward-looking broadband technologies and applications, enabling consumers and enterprises to optimise their communications infrastructure – whether on the ground, in the air or at sea.”

Telcos are turning to satellites in a bid to increase the kinds of services they offer. However, Mobile Europe revealed last month that the European Aviation Agency's plans to launch commercial in-flight Wi-Fi services have been delayed until 2018.