TAMPA, Fla. — Four of the six O3b mPower broadband satellites that SES had planned to launch this year with SpaceX will not be ready until early 2023, the company said on Nov. 3 as it posted strong growth in its networks business.
While the launch for the first pair of O3b mPower satellites has been “locked in” for December 15, SES CEO Steve Collar said the delays pushed the debut of next-generation services from the second to the third quarter of 2023.
Collar said the Boeing-built satellites took longer than expected to be tested and prepared for the Falcon 9’s launch into mean Earth orbit (MEO).
It expects the next two satellites to be launched in the first fortnight of January, with the third launch of two satellites coming “probably in February”, although that mission is still being finalised.
SpaceX was originally scheduled to begin launching an O3b mPower constellation comprising 11 satellites in total in 2021.
O3b mPower is designed to provide significantly more capacity than SES’s current low-latency O3b network in MEO, which the fleet manager says is necessary to meet growing demand from government and mobility customers, including aviation and shipping.
According to Collar, SES will be able to start monetizing O3b mPower immediately after the launch of services by leveraging the foundation already laid by O3b’s “classic” constellation.
SES has invested heavily in the networks side of its business, which is also supported by the SES-17 satellite that entered service from geostationary orbit in June.
Collar said SES-17 — with a focus on the commercial aviation market in the Americas, the Caribbean and the Atlantic — will anchor the company’s growth over the next several years.
Airline and cruise markets recovering from a pandemic slump helped revenue for their networks business rise 2.7 percent to 636 million euros ($620 million) in the nine months to the end of September, compared with the same period last year, when adjusted for changes in exchange rates.
This is despite a 7% drop in government revenue due to the rapid US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.
Meanwhile, video revenue fell 5.6 percent to €763 million amid a gradual decline in the broader satellite TV market.
Total revenue fell 2.1% to €1.4 billion for the first nine months of 2022, adjusted for exchange rates and excluding recent acquisition of Leonardo DRSa provider of satcoms to the US government.
Adjusted EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, rose 0.7% to 829 million euros.
SES also said it was ahead of schedule to meet next year’s regulatory deadline to clear C-band spectrum in the United States for landline carriers.
Recent satellite launches gave the company a “clear line of sight” to receive $3 billion in revenue from the Federal Communications Commission, Collar said, meeting the regulator’s Dec. 5, 2023 deadline.
SES has already passed an initial milestone that entitles the operator to receive about $1 billion in additional spectrum clearing revenue from the FCC.
Separately, the company has agreed to a private C-band clearing deal with US carrier Verizon, which Collar says will generate an additional $170 million in revenue before the end of 2022.