Viasat's long-awaited Inmarsat merger multiplies satellite fleet

Viasat completed its acquisition of London-based Inmarsat just a week after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) knocked back a competition complaint filed by SpaceX. The two satellite service providers will quickly merge to have a combined fleet of 19 satellites in space covering Ka-, L- and S- bands and around 8,000 employees.

“The combination of Viasat and Inmarsat brings together two organizations with highly complementary technology assets, resources, capabilities and service portfolios to create a global communications provider that is more than the sum of its parts—broadening the global fixed and mobile services available to customers,” a Viasat spokesperson told Fierce.

Viasat services commercial aircrafts with in-flight connectivity for Wi-Fi, as well as fixed broadband subscribers in the U.S., commercial networks and government and defense systems.

The company has long lauded Inmarsat’s strong distribution channels in the mobility, government, IoT and enterprise sectors. Viasat Vice Chairman Rick Baldridge said the combined company will set the foundation for significant positive free cash flow and potential upside from revitalizing L-band and IoT service growth.

Inmarsat’s portfolio of global L-band spectrum and space resources also might help Viasat enter the emerging direct-to-device market and evolve its assets to support a multi-orbit, 5G mobile market that “observers envision as one of the largest growth opportunities for satellite communications,” the company’s spokesperson said.

“The broader organizational structure and leadership team will be determined within the first 100 days post close. As we look at the combined company, our new scale and scope create new opportunities,” they added.

Rajeev Suri, Inmarsat CEO, and Andy Sukawaty, Inmarsat chairman, will be joining Viasat’s board of directors and the combined company will continue to be led by Mark Dankberg as chairman and CEO and Guru Gowrappan as president. Viasat also reconfirmed that its new global international business headquarters will be in London, while its corporate headquarters will stay in California.

The integration process is moving “as anticipated,” according to the Viasat spokesperson, although there is “no set deadline for completion and in an industry as dynamic as ours, the process of adaptation and change will be an on-going feature.”

A hard-fought battle for acquisition rights

The deal between California-based Viasat and Inmarsat was first agreed upon over 18 months ago but had been delayed because of reviews in both the U.S. and U.K.

The completion of the deal means that Viasat got the go-ahead from the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority and European Commission (EC) after both conducted competition reviews. The FCC also issued “unconditional” clearance for the merger after Viasat rival SpaceX submitted a filing about competition concerns.

SpaceX had been granted $886 million in broadband funding from the government's Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) when Viasat campaigned against the funding with a series of public objections. In the September 2022 filing to the FCC, SpaceX called Viasat's actions a "misguided campaign."

"Viasat is transparently attempting to have the Commission impede competition at all costs to protect its legacy technology," SpaceX wrote, adding that Viasat had violated commission rules by breaching license terms.

The Inmarsat acquisition will provide Viasat with the “innovation capabilities, spectrum, satellite and terrestrial assets” needed to compete in the fertile yet contentious satellite market, the company’s spokesperson said, adding it will offer an even broader range of advanced and reliable satellite communication services to its direct customers and channel partners.