ViaSat expands in Carlsbad

ViaSat expands in Carlsbad
Carlsbad’s largest tech employer, ViaSat, recently purchased a 23-acre swath of land across from its main campus on El Camino Real. Photo by Steve Puterski

CARLSBAD — One of the city’s largest employers is expanding again.

ViaSat, a broadband and technology company, has purchased 23 acres in the Bressi Ranch neighborhood east of El Camino Real and south of Gateway Road for its sprawling campus.

A purchase price was not disclosed.

The burgeoning company, which employs about 2,000 people in Carlsbad, acted quickly to purchase the land. ViaSat is also the largest tech and communications employer in the city.

“We had three buildings when we moved here,” Rich Baldridge, president and COO of ViaSat said. “It was hard to see what we were going to be back in 1999. It was the last contiguous property … and we had to reach out an grab it while we could.”

The land is a necessity for ViaSat’s future, which is becoming more entrenched in the commercial sector, while maintaining its roots in government services.

Baldridge said ViaSat, whose commercial Internet service is under the Exede banner, is preparing for its biggest challenge to date, with the largest broadband satellite set to launch next year. Hawthorne-based SpaceX will carry the satellite into space, and the reward would be a game changer for ViaSat.

The Carlsbad company entered the commercial Internet market in 2008 when it announced it developed the world’s largest capacity satellite and launched in 2011.

The company’s growth in the commercial market was bolstered by a pair of reports authored by the Federal Communications Commission.

In 2013 and 2014, ViaSat’s Exede service ranked No. 1 in delivering advertised Internet speeds. According to the report, ViaSat delivered “approximately 140 percent of its advertised upload and download speeds” consisting of 14 broadband providers representing 80 percent of U.S. connections.

In addition, ViaSat was the only satellite company who agreed to take part in the study.

“We expanded in the satellite market,” Baldridge said. “Since 2008, our revenue has more than tripled.”

In addition, ViaSat is the wireless Internet provider for airline carriers Jet Blue, United and Virgin American to deliver the service to each seat on board their jets. ViaSat covers all of Jet Blue’s fleet, while about half of United’s planes carry the service. Virgin America, meanwhile, installed the service on 10 new jets, although the number could grow based on positive results.

“It’s really based on the ability to stream live content to the plane,” Baldridge explained. “We provide 12 mbps (megabits per second) to each seat. That is the source of our growth. Our government growth will continue around 20 percent this year.”

ViaSat’s previous satellite launch, in 2011, provided airline Internet coverage throughout most of the contiguous U.S. With the new satellite, the coverage would expand across the Atlantic Ocean into Europe, south to Central America as well as the Middle East.

A gamble, but one, if successful, will result in true Internet download speeds of 25, 50 and 100 mbps. It will more than double the capacity of its predecessor, while Baldridge said the company has designs for a future satellite with 10 times the capacity.

“That is going to bring into play a completely new level of Internet service that people don’t understand,” he added. “We think that market is millions, if not above 10 million, subscribers we can address and be competitive with. We think we can compete with cable, we think we can compete with the best Internet services at home and certainly dominate the in-flight Wi-Fi business.”

While the airline connects are a launching point, ViaSat’s new target is millenials and “cord cutters,” those who are cancelling cable subscriptions in favor of live streaming and using websites such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon services online.

The key, Baldridge said, is providing a high quality product for those who are changing the market and viewing habits.

“Cord cutters is the perfect market for us,” he added. “We have an ambition to be the first truly global broadband provider … and to provide broadband anywhere on Earth.”

Yet for all the growth and ambitious projects, ViaSat employees also connect with the community and numerous organizations throughout the city and North County.

“We try to avoid policies, but one of the policies we have is that our philanthropy is on the heels of our employees,” Baldridge said. “So the things they support, we support. Those things tend to be embedded in the community.”

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