Analysts have cast doubts on satellite broadband services being able to attract support from institutional investors, following the third postponement of satellite company Inmarsat's flotation.
Inmarsat had hoped to gain a listing on the London Stock Exchange by the end of July, valuing the company at £1bn. But the flotation is now scheduled "for some time this year", according to a company spokeswoman.
Owned by a coalition of telcos, Inmarsat runs nine satellites in orbit and was looking to impress investors with plans for a new generation of satellite broadband services scheduled for 2004.
The company needs the flotation to meet regulatory requirements to operate in the US.
It has already had to ask the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for more time to complete because of the market's negative attitude towards technology and telecoms stocks, and still has another year to meet the FCC deadline.
Inmarsat's plans include the launch of two new satellites to support its $1.7bn Broadband Global Area Network (B-GAN).
This will allow for the delivery of internet and intranet content and solutions, video on demand, video conferencing, email and local area network access at speeds up to 432Kbps as well as voice across most of the globe.
B-GAN will be compatible with third-generation mobile phones, and Inmarsat said this week that it will link with Nokia to investigate satellite-based wireless access networks.
But a combination of anti-telecoms sentiment in the City, and rival broadband technologies enjoying a high profile, has left satellite firms struggling to sell their vision.
David Brown, chairman at telecoms analyst Schema, said: "I suspect they're going to find it hard to make an impression on the market.
"Satellite has lost a lot of its glamour, particularly with terrestrial services such as ADSL seeming to have taken off.
"What role does satellite have to play? It probably does have a role, but establishing the perception of what this is could come a little too late."
Martin Evans, consultant director at Ovum, added: "I think there is a market for satellite and I think [Insarmat] understands that this isn't a mass market.
"It's another component in niche markets. It is my concern that they don't have a strong story for what those niches are."
But some experts reject the idea that terrestrial broadband services are outshining satellite.
"Terrestrial broadband systems have greatly under performed on what they set out to do," explained Alan Brunstrom, an independent consultant specialising in satellite telecoms.
"There has been some movement on price for terrestrial broadband services but the prospects for satellite broadband have improved because it is now accepted that large parts of the world won't be covered by terrestrial broadband services."
Brunstrom also predicted that prices for satellite services would continue to fall.
"Engineers have many schools of thought but there is one that satellite can deliver broadband services almost as cheaply [as terrestrial]," he said. "Maybe not in heavily fibred areas, but certainly everywhere else in the world."
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