Eighty-seven percent of consumers used satellite-based telehealth during the height of the pandemic, and many plan to continue doing so in the future.
U.S.-based satellite operator Viasat (NASDAQ:VSAT), which announced the results of its 2021 consumer connectivity survey Sept. 16, said it had surveyed more than 1,000 internet users nationwide.
Viasat’s survey focused on discovering data around internet usage during the pandemic, a spokesperson told Connectivity Business. The responses showed that satellite-based connectivity was critical for users located “outside the cable zone” to connect with their health care provider.
The survey points to enhanced use of satellite connectivity among consumers in rural and remote areas. Some 35% of rural-based respondents participated in tele-health appointments for the first time during the pandemic.
Of those users, 48% plan to use telehealth applications regularly in the future. And 66% of rural respondents said they plan to work from home post-pandemic, if allowed.
Respondents ranked email (29%) as the most used application for remote work. The other applications comprised video calls (21%), large document uploads (15%), large document downloads (15%), instant messaging (11%), VPN (8%) and other services (2%).
Email ranks as the most important satellite connectivity use during the ongoing pandemic, with 26% of respondents citing it as the most important internet activity. The others included browsing (20%), streaming video (11%), social media (9%), sharing pictures (8%), uploading and downloading files (7%), teleconferencing (6%), online school tools (4%), streaming radio (3%), online gaming (3%), VPN (2%) and other services (1%).
The company did not break out its health care connectivity data by revenue, the spokesperson said.
Viasat linked the trends in consumer connectivity to the launch of its ViaSat-3 constellation, which will provide broadband coverage to the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Africa. Each of the three satellites in the constellation will have capacity of 1 terabit. The first ViaSat-3 launch is planned in for H1 2022 with the constellation to be completed in 2023, the spokesperson said.
Health care connectivity futures
Satellite is increasingly carving a niche in digital health care, including France-based Eutelsat (EPA:ETL). In early September, the satellite connectivity company announced the signing of a contract with Lintasarta, a service provider, for capacity on the Eutelsat 172B satellite to support connectivity services in Indonesia, including health care as well as other services.
Italy-based ground operator Leaf Space announced in late July that it is part of a satellite connectivity chain for the EU’s CARES project, which entails a set of medical devices connected to smartphones that collect patient vitals and transmit them to health care service providers. As part of a pilot phase, the project is collecting the data of 30 COVID-19 patients who can recover in their homes while having the confidence that medical professionals are monitoring their progress.
Digital health care is a hot sector for investment, according to a recent analysis by U.S.-based venture firm Rock Health, with $14.7 billion in investment across 372 deals in the first half of this year. At the six-month mark, 2021 has already surpassed overall funding in 2020 of $14.6 billion, itself a record amount, and generating a variety of transaction types via M&A and special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), as well as traditional investment.