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Telesat seals $1bn low-orbit satellite deal with Canada

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Telesat and the government of Canada have struck a satellite deal worth nearly $1 billion as part of the county’s mission to position itself as the global leader of LEO – low-orbit – technologies.

The partnership, which will ensure high-speed internet connectivity across rural and remote areas of Canada, will generate revenues of $910 million over 10 years for the Ottawa-headquartered company, including a contribution of more than $500 million from the government to support the deployment.

“Telesat LEO is the most ambitious global broadband infrastructure programme ever conceived and will revolutionise how Canadians, and everyone else in the world for that matter, experience and leverage the Internet,” said Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s president and CEO. “Today’s announcement will help achieve Canada’s goal of universal connectivity, ensuring that Canadians, regardless of where they work or live, have affordable, high quality, and high-speed Internet.”

The company plans to launch and operate the Telesat LEO constellation of satellites to provide “reliable and economical high-speed, high-capacity broadband with global coverage”. It expects to begin offering broadband coverage to Canada’s far north in 2022 and all of Canada by mid-2023.

Telesat is a privately held company. Its main shareholders are Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board and New York-based Loral Space & Communications.

“Canada’s commitment to Telesat LEO – a new flagship programme for Canada in space – would also help further position Telesat and its planned constellation for global success,” said the government of Canada.

As part of the agreement Telesat will support approximately 500 jobs in Canada, invest $163 million in R&D over the next five years, and promote STEM jobs and education in Canada through a newly created scholarship, university partnerships and other initiatives, with a strong focus on creating opportunities for women.



Telesat LEO, Bridging the Digital Divide in Canada and Around the World from Telesat Canada on Vimeo.

The first Telesat LEO satellite has already been launched, in early 2018, and the full constellation will comprise 298 satellites. These LEO satellites will orbit at 1,000km above the Earth’s surface, resulting in a shorter trip for signals than from traditional geostationary satellites and making low-latency, fibre-like internet accessible anywhere in the world.

Goldberg added: “Telesat LEO has garnered substantial interest from commercial enterprises and governments around the world. That interest, together with the funding received from the Strategic Innovation Fund and Canada’s plan to secure Telesat LEO capacity on a long-term basis for Canadians, underpin Telesat’s plan to fully bridge the digital divide with this advanced Telesat LEO constellation.”

The government of Canada committed in its 2019 budget to setting a national target for 95% of homes and businesses to have access to internet speeds of at least 50Mbps download and 10Mbps upload by 2026 and 100% by 2030.

“Access to high-speed internet is not a luxury; it is essential, and all Canadians should have access to it regardless of where they live,” said Navdeep Bains, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. “Rural and remote areas need this service to do business, upgrade their education and build stronger communities.”

Capacity will be producing a satellite comms special report in its next edition. View our other special reports in Digital Issues.