The mystery of Helios Wire’s silence is now over. EchoStar announced it has purchased the satellite IoT company, including its Australian subsidiary holding S-band worldwide spectrum rights.
Space IT Bridge reported in August Helios Wire had gone dark, with its CEO and CTO listing other jobs on LinkedIn. Helios Wire CEO Scott Larson said the company was “looking at a transaction” in response to an August 19 email query and provided no other details, citing the need for a quiet period.
“This acquisition advances our strategy and further lays the foundation for a global S-band solution for the future,” said Anders Johnson, Chief Strategy Officer, EchoStar via press release. “Our aim is to develop S-band technologies that will dramatically reduce the cost of satellite IoT, including machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, public protection and disaster relief (PPDR) and other end-to-end services worldwide.”
In a separate statement posted on Linked In, Larson said “I am very happy to announce that we have successfully completed our sale of Helios Wire to Echostar Corp. We incorporated Helios here in Vancouver just over 3 years ago and were able to get our first satellite launched in about 15 months from startup, which might in fact be a global record. We proved our business model, signing $100 million of annual LOI’s with customers around the world and put together a world class team.”
Exactly how much EchoStar paid for Helios Wire was not disclosed on its press release, but it probably got the assets at fire sale prices. “The acquisition occurred by way of a court approved plan of arrangement under the Business Corporations Act (British Columbia),” is the last sentence in the EchoStar press statement before stock boilerplate on who EchoStar is and the lengthy “Safe Harbor” statement for publicly traded companies announcing acquisitions and other events of significance. The reference to a “court approved plan of arrangement” is Canadian-speak for a bankruptcy proceeding, implying that Helios Wire had declared bankruptcy and needed the courts to approve of its assets being purchased.
Helios Wire’s most valuable asset is arguably the S-band global spectrum rights, held by its Sirion Global subsidiary located in Australia. Clear and unambiguous access to spectrum is key for satellite IoT services.
With the purchase of Helios Wire, EchoStar adds one 12U cubesat flying in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) to a fleet of nine Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (GEO) satellites, including a pair of S-band satellites over Europe. EchoStar’s intention to expand IoT services around the globe may include building more Helios-style cubesats and leveraging Hughes Network System experience in operating managed services and building end-user hardware. EchoStar is much more capable of
Today’s purchase of Helios Wire is likely to accelerate interest in and anxiety for startup satellite IoT ventures. Such firms are promising lower-cost IoT services, driving prices down to a penny per message or a few dollars per year per device for data collection. However, EchoStar enters into this field with established government and enterprise customer relationships, plus experienced sales and marketing arms.