With its heavier-than-average-for-the-industry reliance on data revenues, Intelsat, as a public company is probably as irritated as most with the breathless nonsense talked in the press about the latest Greg Wyler spin-fest WorldVu, especially when arch spinner Richard Branson threw his hat into the ring. Tired no doubt of answering investor questions, Intelsat has removed a crucial supporting leg of WorldVu in an inspired piece of satisfying old school corporate manoeuvring.
For a constellation of thousands of satellites to work in low orbit, massive regulatory barriers would have to be overcome, and the system would have to constantly switch between satellites to avoid harmful interference with the GEO arc. This is probably impossible anyway, but in any case means that sets of traditional large gimbled antenna would be too large, pricey and complex to work. So WorldVu decided to rest its plans on a partnership with start up Kymeta, who proposes a Star Trek technology of shape shifting meta materials that can receive signals from any direction.
This technology has not been verified by any reliable public statements in a regulated document nor have we encountered anyone who thinks it is anything other than a pipe dream. But the very existence of a shadowy company that was claiming to have changed the laws of physics (even suggesting in a recent interview that it works inside tunnels!) gave World Vu some degree of credence in its spinning. Intelsat have cannily taken that way by signing Kymeta to an exclusivity agreement in the Ku band at which World Vu proposed to operate. Intelsat exec Jay Yass cautiously noted that the development could have an impact “in the long term” – so this will now be quietly buried and WorldVu will have to find another way to achieve the impossible. It also leaves Richard Branson in an increasingly foolish position. The industry knows that his space plane cannot even safely get tourists to 100Km let alone launch satellites to 500Km so he may soon be regretting his brush with Space PR in attempt to raise rescue funding for Galactic.