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GEO operator SES buys Intelsat for $4.7bn

GEO satellite operator SES is set to buy rival Intelsat for US$3.1 billion (AU$4.7 billion).

It comes as GEO operators globally face fierce opposition from a new generation of LEO constellations, such as SpaceX-backed Starlink, which promises faster download speeds despite requiring far more satellites.

“In a fast-moving and competitive satellite communication industry, this transaction expands our multi-orbit space network, spectrum portfolio, ground infrastructure around the world, go-to-market capabilities, managed service solutions, and financial profile,” Adel Al-Saleh, SES’s chief executive, said.

“It’s about optimising the future of multi-orbit satellite investments and fleets.


“We just don’t need to spend as much money as we were spending separately. The combination will give us the opportunity to reduce that.”

The two companies between them have more than 100 satellites, along with medium Earth orbit O3b constellation from SES.

David Wajsgras, Intelsat’s chief executive, added that his firm had executed a “remarkable strategic reset” over the past two years.

“By combining our financial strength and world-class team with that of SES, we create a more competitive, growth-oriented solutions provider in an industry going through disruptive change.”


It comes as Australian telcos continue to pivot towards LEO constellations.

In March, Space Connect reported how Telstra became the first of the big two telcos to make Starlink available to residential homes in remote areas.

Previously, access to the SpaceX-backed internet service was only available through Starlink directly or via smaller third-party providers such as Sky Mesh, Activ8me, or Ipstar.

Telstra announced it had opened the service up to home users after “months of comprehensive testing”, with typical peak speeds of 50Mbps download and 10Mbps upload. It follows the telco releasing it to business customers late last year.

Starlink provides its service via thousands of LEO satellites as opposed to the two geostationary satellites that power the rival NBN Sky Muster service.

LEO satellites operate closer to earth, reducing the latency found via traditional geostationary satellites, equalling quicker speeds for users.

Telstra’s move significantly comes before Optus begins its own Starlink service straight to mobiles, beginning later this year.

The agreement is unique because it will not require customers to obtain any specific hardware and will instead work on all compatible handsets.

Currently, the telco’s traditional service is unavailable in 60 per cent of Australia, but the new tie-up will boost connectivity to almost 100 per cent.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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