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Viasat and Inmarsat deal receives landmark approval

The satellite communications sector is evolving rapidly, with new players entering the market
(photo: CC0 Public Domain)

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has officially approved the expected merger of satellite operators Viasat and Inmarsat. The deal is valued at $7.3 billion.

The news comes two months after the CMA said it was unlikely to approve the deal and around 16 months after the merger was first announced by the companies. Initially, the British regulator believed that such a pooling of assets would worsen competition and make Wi-Fi more expensive for airplane passengers.

However, the CMA has now concluded that as new competitors enter the market, the issue is becoming less relevant, Reuters notes. In particular, Starlink has already launched thousands of satellites into orbit and signed agreements to provide Internet with a number of airlines and even mobile operators such as T-Mobile.

According to the CMA, the satellite communications sector is developing rapidly, new businesses are entering the market, more satellites are being launched into space, more deals are being made. America’s Viasat and Britain’s Inmarsat already offer a variety of satellite services, from telephony to Wi-Fi on commercial flights.

All indications are that the sector will continue to grow, and a closer look at the terms of the deal suggests that UK airlines and customers will continue to enjoy the benefits of active collaboration between different carriers.

It is worth noting that the British government, for its part, has already approved the deal, assessing it from the point of view of threats to national security, without finding any risks.

However, similar risks were seen in the European Union. In February, the European Commission said it had launched a detailed investigation into the merger, saying the deal would allow Viasat to “reduce competition in the air transport broadband market”. So while the latest news is encouraging for Viasat and Inmarsat, the companies still have to fight to get all the regulatory approvals.

The strong competitor of both companies is primarily the Starlink service delivered by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Viasat has already tried to file a lawsuit in the US to ban the launch of new satellites on the pretext of environmental threats, but failed.

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