Satellite Internet Proves To Be The Ultimate Business Continuity – Every spring and fall, Dean Wells is tasked with telling Nunavut’s government officials the exact date and time that will throw them back into the dark ages of telecommunications. Internet connectivity for the territorial government, and much of its economy for that matter, is transmitted via a single geostationary satellite locked 36,000 km above Earth, and twice a year for a few days, at an angle to the Sun from the satellite. The signal is flooded with thermal energy, disrupting communications for up to 12 minutes at a time. “It may not seem like much, but if you’re trying to make a phone call or send a file, or even if you’re standing in line at a store paying for your items, Well, you just can’t,” says Wells, the government’s chief information officer.
It gets worse. While that satellite, the Telstar 19 Vantage, launched in 2018 by Ottawa-based Telesat, has brought moderately faster internet speeds than before, it suffers from high latency, or delay times, and has limited capacity. That government’s internet needs are six times more than satellites can provide. Internet rationing is the solution to this corner of the world’s ninth largest economy. High-priority files are transmitted during the day, but many other documents must be cached and sent overnight, when satellite usage is low. Never mind that getting video calling to work properly in Nunavut is a minor miracle. (Not when I talked to Wells in April.)
Satellite Internet Proves To Be The Ultimate Business Continuity
Still, for a man who spends his life traversing fragile networks, Wells is brimming with enthusiasm. A revolution is happening in the skies above, with companies competing to launch thousands of new satellites that will orbit much closer to Earth’s surface and be able to deliver lightning-fast broadband to the farthest reaches of the planet . “Nunavut,” Wells says, “will never be the same again.”
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Universal high-speed connectivity pits two of the richest and most powerful rocket jockeys on the planet, Elon Musk (net worth: $250 billion) and Jeff Bezos (net worth: $148 billion) against each other.
Since 2006, Goldberg has been CEO of Telesat, the world’s fourth largest fixed-position satellite operator. A few years ago, faced with the reality that their current fleet of bulky geostationary satellites in high orbit was not up to the task of high-speed internet, Goldberg hatched a plan to jump into the world of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). declare. Communications satellites, which orbit the planet several times a day, but at an altitude of 2,000 kilometers or less, which allows them to provide fast and reliable internet equivalent to fiber optics. And thus was born Lightspeed, a $6.5 billion constellation of 298 initial satellites intended to serve commercial customers such as governments, telecoms and companies in the maritime and aerospace industries.
If ever there was a moment for the impossible dream of closing the digital divide that has left a third of the world’s population without internet access – not to mention vast areas of rural Canada plagued by tortoise-like download speeds – this is it. Amidst the work-from-home revolution, the Internet of Things, and the growing metaverse, demand for high-speed, remote Internet that cannot be served by terrestrial fiber networks is exploding. According to Telesat’s own estimates, the total addressable market for LEO satellites will reach $430 billion in 2025, and the company believes it can capture 1% of that market. Even that portion would mean $4.3 billion in revenue for a company that posted $760 million in sales last year. “We’re spending a lot of money to do this, and it’s going to be transformative for Canada, for the world, and for the company as well,” says Goldberg. Front to secure the launchers for your satellites.
The only problem is that Telesat has not been able to build or launch a single commercial lightspeed satellite. Its main contractor for the project, France’s Thales Alenia Space, has been hit by similar supply chain delays for simple electronic components that have plagued car and home appliance buyers over the past year, and Telesat has been forced to work for Lightspeed’s commercial The date had to be pushed back. Launch by at least 2026. The company was also expected to confirm during the release of first-quarter results in early May (after this magazine went to press) that it would “reduce” the initial size of its Constellations from 298 to 188. Will do inflationary pressures. Neither Telesat has finalized funding for the ambitious project, although the federal, Ontario and Quebec governments have pledged $2.6 billion to the project. Since the start of trading on the Nasdaq and TSX last November, Telesat’s shares have lost nearly 70% in value.
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Add it all up and Telesat will face a galaxy of opportunities for its LEO satellites together, and a world of pain for doing so. Nothing less than a proper introduction of Lightspeed by Goldberg hinged on the future of the company.
With a cat-like bell, you may hear Goldberg before he arrives. A thump, a rattle, a thump. In March, while jogging with a group of friends, Goldberg’s right foot landed heavily on a patch of black ice as he swung his body. Before his brain realized what had happened to his bruised ankle, he heard a bang which was broken in three places. He has been on crutches ever since (although he has since removed the plastic brace from his leg during physiotherapy).
Goldberg, a 57-year-old with a coy smile, isn’t exactly a rocket scientist. He’s a lawyer who studied at Harvard (one of his colleagues was Barack Obama), but Goldberg has spent almost his entire career working around satellite companies in Europe and North America, first as in-house counsel at Panamsett and then Netsky in the Netherlands. where he rose to the position of Chief Operating Officer. After that company was sold, he decided to move his family back across the pond. Goldberg was asked to join Telesat, a former Crown company owned at the time by Bell Canada, where he was tasked with running the company’s sales. In 2007, the Public Sector Pension Investment Board of Canada and Loral Space & Communications of the US together bought the company for $3.3 billion. (Telesat’s listing in November last year followed its merger with Loral.)
While on an airline flight in 2015, grappling with how to keep telesats relevant in the high-speed digital age, he pulled out a cocktail napkin and began jotting down ideas for what would eventually become Lightspeed. Earlier that year, Musk revealed his low-Earth orbit plans for Starlink, a “giant global internet service provider” that would operate within his SpaceX rocket business. Telesat’s existing geostationary satellites, of which there are now 13, take about 800 milliseconds for signals to travel back and forth to Earth. With LEO, this will be reduced to less than 50 milliseconds. But the new venture would be costly to build and carry unpredictable execution risks. In the end, says Goldberg, the decision came down to what the company’s telecom, commercial and government customers clearly wanted: “a better, faster, more affordable, more flexible solution.” Only LEO satellites can offer this.
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Today, the industry is centered around four major companies. Along with Musk’s Starlink and Telesat, UK-based OneWeb has so far launched 422 satellites as part of its planned constellation of 648 satellites, while Amazon’s Kuiper project envisions a LEO constellation of more than 3,200 satellites. Is.
Starlink is by far the best known of the bunch. It’s no surprise when you have a showman like Musk as a founder. Starlink also received a wave of praise following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, when it worked with the US government to send thousands of satellite internet kits to the war-torn country, allowing residents there to protect themselves from Russia’s shutdown of other forms of communications. Got permission to stay connected later.
But Starlink’s high profile also stems from the simple fact that it has already sent so many satellites into space. According to the latest figures, Starlink has launched 2,400 LEO satellites out of a planned 40,000. So far this year, it has successfully launched nine rockets with 448 satellites. In March, the company said it had 250,000 customers in 25 countries.
The number of telesats’ planned satellites may seem small compared to Starlink’s, but it is well planned. For one thing, Lightspeed’s satellites will orbit at a higher altitude — most will orbit Earth at 1,000 kilometers, compared to 550 for Starlink. This allows the low satellites to cover a wider area of the Earth, but not so high that it creates signal delay. Telesat satellites will also be linked through optical laser links, creating a network capable of broadcasting capacity in areas where it is most needed. A 2021 paper by Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers analyzing the four main LEO competitors estimated Telesat’s satellite utilization rate once the initial satellite network is fully deployed, compared to 33% for the initial satellite network. Will be 73.4%.
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