Space Systems Loral (SSL) has signed a contract to provide JUPITER 3 to Hughes Network Systems, LLC to be designated EchoStar XXIV. This is the third generation satellite to be delivered to Hughes, a broadband provider and subsidiary of EchoStar. SSL has built both of the previous JUPITER satellites for Hughes based on its 1300 platform.

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SSL to supplement Hughes’ EchoStar XIX with New EchoStar XXIV. Source: SSL

SSL says that the satellite includes transformational technology, calling it an Ultra High Density Satellite (UHDS). It will feature an entirely new architecture based on a broad range of technology advances including the miniaturization of electronics, solid state amplifiers, and more efficient antenna designs. SSL has patented 18 technology advances that were incorporated into the spacecraft design, enabling it to provide highly concentrated capacity in critical areas.

The satellite will operate in Ka-band and will have up to 500 Gbps throughput. According to EchoStar, it will be able to offer consumers up to 100 Mbps download speeds, making it competitive with terrestrial systems.

Once known for its conservative attitude toward technological advances, the satellite industry has been adopting new technologies more readily in recent years. Hughes was one of the first companies to acquire high throughput satellites (HTS), which use spot beams and frequency reuse to increase capacity. The introduction of an Ultra High Density Satellite seems to hold the promise of increasing capacity even higher.

These high capacity satellites are needed for data intensive applications, like high speed broadband connections. Satellite companies like Hughes, ViaSat, and Inmarsat are competing with each other for broadband business. Hughes and ViaSat are also competing in the consumer market against DSL and cable companies. While satellite typically cannot provide the same speeds and bandwidth that terrestrial companies can, they can provide a wider reach and are able to accommodate mobile applications. If EchoStar XXIV matches expected performance, it may close the gap between satellite service and terrestrial service, especially in rural areas, where deploying modern terrestrial networks is not efficient.