Intelsat Corporation
Traded asI
Russell 2000 Component
IndustrySatellite communication
FoundedAugust 20, 1964
Key people
David McGlade (Executive Chairman)
Stephen Spengler (CEO since April 1, 2015)[2]
RevenueIncrease $542.0 million

Intelsat Corporation—formerly INTEL-SAT, INTELSAT, Intelsat—is a communications satellite services provider. Originally formed as International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO, or INTELSAT), it was—from 1964 to 2001—an intergovernmental consortium owning and managing a constellation of communications satellites providing international broadcast services.

As of March 2011, Intelsat operates a fleet of 52 communications satellites, which is one of the world's largest fleet of commercial satellites.[3] They claim to serve around 1,500 customers and employ a staff of approximately 1,100 people.[4]


An Intelsat IVA Satellite

John F. Kennedy instigated the creation of INTELSAT with his speech to the United Nations on the 25th of September 1961.[5] Less than a year later, John F. Kennedy signed the Communications Satellite Act of 1962. INTELSAT was originally formed as International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (ITSO) and operated from 1964 to 2001 as an intergovernmental consortium owning and managing a constellation of communications satellites providing international broadcast services. In 2001, the international satellite market was fully commercialized, and the US predominant role in INTELSAT was fully privatized after 2001 as Intelsat was formed up as a private Luxembourg corporation.

International Governmental Organization: 1964–2001

The International Governmental Organization (IGO) began on 20 August 1964, with 7 participating countries.[6] The 1964 agreement was an interim arrangement on a path to a more permanent agreement. The permanent international organization was established in 1973, following inter-nation negotiations from 1969 to 1971. The most difficult issue to "resolve concerned the shift from management of the system by a national entity to management by the international organization itself."[7]:46

On 6 April 1965, INTELSAT's first satellite, the Intelsat I (nicknamed Early Bird), was placed in geostationary orbit above the Atlantic Ocean by a Delta D rocket.

In 1973, the name was changed and there were 81 signatories.[8] INTELSAT was "governed initially by two international agreements: The Agreement setting forth the basic provisions and principles and structure of the organization, signed by the governments through their foreign ministries, and an Operating Agreement setting forth more detailed financial and technical provisions and signed by the governments or their designated telecommunications entities."—in most cases the latter are the ministries of communications of the party countries, but in the case of the United States, was the Communications Satellite Corporation (COMSAT)[9] , a private corporation established by federal legislation to represent the US in international governance for the global communication satellite system.[7]:47 INTELSAT at that time directly owned and managed a global communications satellite system, and structurally consisted of three parts:[7]

  • the Assembly of Parties—meeting every two years and concerned with aspects "primarily of interest to the Parties as sovereign States."[7]:48—with each country having one vote.
  • the Meeting of Signatories—meeting annually and composed of all the signatories to the Operating Agreement—primarily working on financial, technical and program matters, with each countries' signatory having one vote.
  • a Board of Governors, meeting at least four times each year, making decisions on design, development, establishment, operation and maintenance of the in-space assets, appointed by signatories, but weighted to each signatories "investment share" in the space assets.

The 1973 Agreement called for a seven-year transition from national to international management, but continued until 1976 to carve out "technical and operational management of the system [to the US signatory] the Communications Satellite Corporation [which had also] served as the Manager of the global system under the interim arrangements in force from 1964 to 1973."[7]:49 Later phases of the transition resulted in full international governance by 1980. Financial contribution to the organization, it's so-called "investment share," was strictly proportional to each member's use of the system, determined annually; and this corresponded to the weighted vote each would have on the Board of Governors.[7]:50

As of 2018, Intelsat provides service to over 600 Earth stations in more than 149 countries, territories and dependencies. By 2001, INTELSAT had over 100 members.[10] It was also this year that INTELSAT privatized and changed its name to Intelsat.[clarification needed]

Since its inception, Intelsat has used several versions (blocks) of its dedicated Intelsat satellites. Intelsat completes each block of spacecraft independently, leading to a variety of contractors over the years. Intelsat’s largest spacecraft supplier is Space Systems/Loral, having built 31 spacecraft (as of 2003), or nearly half of the fleet.

The network in its early years was not as robust as it is now. A failure of the Atlantic satellite in the spring of 1969 threatened to stop the Apollo 11 mission; a replacement satellite went into a bad orbit and could not be recovered in time; NASA had to resort to using undersea cable telephone circuits to bring Apollo's communications to NASA during the mission.[11] During the Apollo 11 moonwalk, the moon was over the Pacific Ocean, and so other antennas were used, as well as INTELSAT III, which was in geostationary orbit over the Pacific.[12]


By the 1990s, building and launching satellites was no longer exclusively a government domain and as country-specific telecommunications systems were privatized, several private satellite operators arose to meet the growing demand. In the U.S., satellite operators such as PanAmSat, Orion Communications, Columbia Communications, Iridium, Globalstar, TRW and others formed under the umbrella of the Alliance for Competitive International Satellite Services (ACISS) to press for an end to the IGOs and the monopoly position of COMSAT the US signatory to Intelsat and Inmarsat. In March 2001, the US Congress passed the Open Market Reorganisation for the Betterment of International Telecommunications (ORBIT) Act[13] to privatise COMSAT and reform the role of the international organizations. In April 1998, to address US government concerns about market power, Intelsat's senior management spun off five of its older satellites to a private Dutch entity, New Skies Satellites, which became a direct competitor to Intelsat. To avert the US government's interference with Intelsat, Intelsat's senior management unsuccessfully considered relocating the IGO to another country.[citation needed]


On 18 July 2001, Intelsat became a private company, 37 years after formation. Prior to Intelsat's privatisation in 2001, ownership and investment in INTELSAT (measured in shares) was distributed among INTELSAT members according to their use of services. Investment shares determined each member’s percentage of the total contribution needed to finance capital expenditures. The organisation’s primary source of revenue was satellite usage fees which, after deduction of operating costs, was redistributed to INTELSAT members in proportion to their shares as repayment of capital and compensation for use of capital. Satellite services were available to any organisation (both INTELSAT members and non-members), and all users paid the same rates.[citation needed]

Today, the number of Intelsat satellites, as well as ocean-spanning fibre-optic lines, allows rapid rerouting of traffic when one satellite fails. Modern satellites are more robust, lasting longer with much larger capacity.[citation needed]

Intelsat Americas-7 (known formerly as Telstar 7 and now known as Galaxy 27) experienced a several-day power failure on 29 November 2004.[14] The satellite returned to service with reduced capacity.[15]

Intelsat was sold for U.S. $3.1bn in January 2005 to four private equity firms: Madison Dearborn Partners, Apax Partners, Permira and Apollo Global Management. The company acquired PanAmSat on 3 July 2006, and is now the world's largest provider of fixed satellite services, operating a fleet of 52 satellites in prime orbital locations.

In June 2007 BC Partners announced they had acquired 76 percent of Intelsat for about 3.75 billion euros.[16]

BC Partners has since sold all their share and Intelsat is a stand-alone company.

Intelsat S.A. (Luxembourg)

In April 2013, the renamed Intelsat S.A. undertook an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange, raising a net $550 million USD, of which $492 million was paid immediately to reduce outstanding company debts of $15.9 billion USD. In May, the company announced it would be purchasing four new high-performance Boeing EpicNG 702 MP satellites.[17] [18]

There were talks that Intelsat was to merge with Softbank-backed OneWeb.[19] However, on 1 June 2017 it was announced that the bondholders would not accept the offer and the merger would be terminated as of 2 June 2017.[20]

In 2015 Intelsat reincorporated in Delaware and became Intelsat Corporation.


Intelsat maintains[when?] its corporate headquarters in Luxembourg, with a majority of staff and satellite functions. Administrative headquarters is located at the Intelsat Corporation offices in Tysons Corner, Virginia.[21] A highly international business, Intelsat sources the majority of its revenue from non-U.S. located customers. Intelsat's biggest teleport is the Teleport Fuchsstadt in Germany.[22]

Other Languages
العربية: إنتل سات
azərbaycanca: INТЕLSAT
تۆرکجه: اینتل‌ست
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čeština: Intelsat
Deutsch: Intelsat
español: Intelsat
فارسی: اینتل‌ست
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한국어: 인텔샛
Bahasa Indonesia: Intelsat
italiano: Intelsat
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Lëtzebuergesch: Intelsat
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polski: Intelsat
português: Intelsat
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