LeoSat constellation (Source: Thales-Alenia Space)

Hispasat invests in LeoSat enterprise satellite constellation

LeoSat Enterprises has secured investment money from Hispasat to build its low earth orbit (LEO) broadband satellite constellation, joining SKY Perfect JSAT as anchor partners providing both funding and sales channels for the enterprise-focused business.  LeoSat will provide a “seamless” satellite-based VPN with low “fiber-like” latency for data and mobility markets.

“’Always-on‘ connectivity, increasing digitization and the move to cloud-based operations and smart data analysis and management, all require resilient and future-proof networks to deliver connectivity and services,” Mark Rigolle, CEO of LeoSat said in a press release this morning, July 10, ” Whilst the perception of satellite for data communications is often seen as a last resort, LeoSat will change that by pairing the speed of fiber with the ubiquity of satellite and adding a new dimension of ultra-security. Hispasat recognizes that we will not only bring a paradigm shift in expanding the existing satellite services market, we will open up new markets for space-based data networking for telecoms, tech and media across the globe.”

Size and terms of the agreement were not detailed.  Building the full LeoSat constellation of up to 108 satellites will cost around $3.6 billion, reported Via Satellite in March of this year.  Sky Perfect SAT, Asia’s largest satellite operator and based in Japan, committed to LeoSat in May 2017 and was        quietly hosting the company in its booth at the Satellite 2018 conference in Washington DC earlier this year.

LeoSat’s 108 satellites — described as  “MPLS routers in space” on the company’s website — will be interconnected through laser communications links, a high-speed optical network that should be 1.5 times faster than terrestrial fiber backbones says the company.  Unlike traditional geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) communications satellites parked at a “fixed” orbit at 22,000 miles above the ground, LeoSat’s rapidly orbit the planet at 870 miles.  Due to their distance from the planet, GEO communications satellites add round-trip latency of over half a second.

The company’s low-flying satellites will have round-trip latencies from ground to satellite in the tens of milliseconds range, but gain two speed advantages compared to terrestrial fiber.  Optical transmission — what the telecommunications world calls “free space optical” back on Earth — doesn’t have to travel through glass fiber strands.  In addition,  data will move on a shorter, straighter path in the constellation because it doesn’t have to follow multiple hops and sometimes meandering rights-of-way through multiple cities like fiber does when moving information from point A to point B in terrestrial networks.

Each satellite in the LeoSat constellation will have 10 Ka-band steerable antennas with each antenna providing up to 1.6 Gbps of symmetrical data connectivity, 2 steerable high-performance antennas providing 5.2 Gbps of symmetrical data connectivity and 4 optical inter-satellite links.  The first two pathfinder “Early Birds” are expected to be launched in 2019 and will provide gigabit class store and forward services.  Launch of the production constellation providing worldwide real-time, point-to-point connectivity will start in 2021 with full service expected to be available by 2022.

LeoSat has made it clear from the beginning that it is targeting the business to business (B2B)/ enterprise market space, separating it apart from OneWeb, SpaceX, and Telesat, all of whom plan to offer services to a larger market from individual consumers and small businesses to larger businesses and more traditional telecommunications service providers.   Markets LeoSat plans to go after include the energy industry, maritime, multi-national enterprise, government, and telecommunications.  Polar connectivity is also a selling point,  with LeoSat offering services to the National Science Foundation for moving data between Antarctica and the rest of the world.

Doug Mohney

Doug Mohney, a principal at Cidera Analytics, has been working and writing about IT and satellite industries for over 20 years. His real world experience including stints at two start-ups, a commercial internet service provider that went public in 1997 for $150 million and a satellite internet broadband company. Follow him on Twitter at DougonTech or contact him at dmohney139 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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