While Google (GOOG) said imaging was the main reason it ponied up $500 million in cash for satellite start-up SkyBox Imaging this week, the deal also plays into the technology giant’s vision of enabling global high-speed Internet service via satellite. GOOG’s bold satellite moves illustrate a rapidly growing market opportunity that also bodes well for the right satellite companies.
First some quick facts: SkyBox builds low-cost imaging satellites that can capture enhanced pictures and maps; it has also developed software that can analyze massive amounts of imaging data. But for the world’s largest Internet search company, it’s hard to justify spending $500 million just to deliver clearer maps.
GOOG was already chasing satellite Internet — earlier this month it announced plans to spend at least $1 billion on 180 low-earth-orbiting (LEO) satellites to bring high-speed Internet services to areas of the world that don’t have wired or cellular connectivity to the Internet.
That said, the hottest opportunity for investors lies not with GOOG, but with publicly traded satellite companies that have deep expertise and assets in place. Some of these companies have been waiting decades for the “killer app” that would pay off big, and high-speed satellite Internet is it. That’s why the commercial communications satellite market will grow to $58 billion by 2022, according to a report from market research firm Forecast International.
Given the fast-growing opportunity for high-speed Internet via satellite, here are three satellite companies that are poised to take off now: