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A 35-50% decline in stock prices among several major satellite operators is likely indicative of deeper concerns than the coronavirus, according to Northern Sky Research. Smaller business backlogs, shorter capacity contracts and limited product differentiation are other factors that likely spooked investors, the research firm said. NSR estimates that negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, which have battered stocks in and outside of the satellite industry, will continue for at least two to three financial quarters. Businesses focused on satellite connectivity to aircraft, ships and oil and gas sites will feel greater financial stress from COVID-19, while satellite TV, consumer broadband and cellular backhaul are likely to see higher demand, NSR said. [NSR]
ArianeGroup is adding an eighth observatory to its GEOTracker network for tracking satellites and debris. GEOTracker started in 2017 with six telescopes — two in France, two in Australia, one in Spain and one in Chile. Last year ArianeGroup added a seventh site in Germany, near Munich. Its eighth site will be located at the Centre for Appropriate Technology in Northern Australia. Though called GEOTracker, ArianeGroup’s telescope network can monitor geostationary and medium Earth orbits. [ArianeGroup]
The UN’s International Telecommunication Union on March 23 established an information platform for countries and companies to share best practices on keeping networks running during the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing numbers of people teleworking and relying on digital infrastructure is making it more important for nations and private companies to ensure communications networks are usable during the crisis, the ITU said. The agency’s Global Network Resiliency Platform initially serves as an information tool around the COVID-19 pandemic, but will be developed into a more expansive information sharing platform, the ITU said. [ITU]
Australian communications company Telstra has started offering remote internet connectivity using capacity from NBN’s twin Sky Muster satellites. Telstra’s NBN-enabled service is geared toward customers in agriculture, education, government and mining. The service offers up to 30 megabits per second of downlink connectivity. [CRN Australia]
Globalstar’s effort to repurpose some of its S-band satellite spectrum for terrestrial 5G services passed an important international review. The company said March 23 that 3GPP, a global consortium that sets communications standards for 5G, approved a 5G variant of Globalstar’s Band 53. “New networks around the world will be built utilizing 5G’s advanced technology and our resource will now work in those networks,” Globalstar Executive Chairman Jay Monroe said in a news release. [Globalstar]
Venezuela’s only government-operated communications satellite is tumbling in an unusable orbit. VeneSat-1 left its orbital slot in geostationary orbit March 13 and is currently tumbling in an elliptical orbit slightly above GEO. VeneSat-1’s operator, the Venezuelan space agency ABAE, had issued no status reports on the satellite. VeneSat-1 was built by China Great Wall Industry Corporation and launched in late 2008 with a planned 15-year lifetime. [SpaceNews]
A Eutelsat subsidiary aims to connect 3,600 private schools across the Congo in the next 12 months through partnerships with two organizations. Konnect Africa signed an agreement with educational platform Schoolap and financial messaging network Flash Services to bring internet access to the schools using Eutelsat satellite capacity. Longer term, the group seeks to connect tens of thousands of additional schools. Eutelsat is supporting its Konnect Africa subsidiary through capacity on Yahsat’s Al Yah 3 satellite. Eutelsat will expand that service after the expected autumn launch of the Eutelsat Konnect satellite on an Ariane 5 rocket. [BroadcastProME]
Hong Kong-based satellite operator APT Satellite blamed regional competition for a decline in revenues. The company said revenues fell 14% in 2019 as new satellites for Bangladesh and Indonesia started operation, increasing the supply of satellite capacity and driving down prices. APT Satellite said that while it is making inroads in China, it sees continued “oversupply and keen competition” in the market in 2020. [SpaceNews]
The FCC has granted SpaceX a license for up to 1 million user terminals. The terminals would be used as part of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband megaconstellation. SpaceX has disclosed few details about those terminals, although Elon Musk described them as a “thin, flat, round UFO on a stick” that can be simply pointed at the sky and plugged in. [GeekWire]
SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.