Some New Year goodies for Boeing, on Wednesday it announced that it has received its biggest satellite order in nine years. The order came from Mobile satellite Ventures (MSV) funded by Motient Corp and Skyterra Inc and is valued anywhere between $500 million to $1 billion at the lower and higher end respectively.
For Boeing, this is one of the richest of its kind, the last such order came in 1997 when Thuraya Satellite Telecommunications Co., a Abu Dhabi based company signed a deal to buy two large satellites for mobile communications in the Middle East and beyond.
Under the new deal signed with MSV, Boeing will build three geo-mobile satellites, and will support what the companies describes as advanced and widespread voice and data coverage throughout North and Latin America.
According to Boeing officials the first Boeing 702 class satellite will be ready to launch in 2009 with the remaining to follow in 2010. According to MSV officials these satellites are compatible with a range of rockets. They will supply 11,000 watts of power with a primary antenna almost 75 feet across which will be about twice as large as any existing commercial satellite.
To strengthen the coverage in urban areas where often the signals are blocked, the network will use ground-based stations. According to Boeing the ground-based systems would provide “beam-forming flexibility and interference cancellation unprecedented in commercial satellite systems.”
According to Howard Rubel, an aerospace analyst at Jeffries & Co., Boeing is not investing in MSV but it appears that Boeing has offered easy-term financing for the project for a period of time. In a note to his clients he said, “This was probably an element to winning the contract,” adding that MSV had enough funds on hand to take it into late 2007. He cited signs of interest in funding the venture to completion in the cellular and video distribution market.
The new hybrid system will use MSV’s patented technology which will allow it to work with smaller wireless devices than those used by satellite networks, such as Iridium, often compared to a brick.
According to joint press released by the company, the handsets which will be used with the new hybrid system will be almost identical to today’s cell phones in terms of “aesthetics, cost and functionality”.