SSL Telesat LEO pathfinder (Source: SSL)

Telesat teams with General Dynamics for LEO user terminals

This week Telesat announced it signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with General Dynamics Mission Systems to work together to develop high-end user terminals for its low earth orbit (LEO) broadband constellation in support of government and commercial customers.

“We are very pleased to have signed this MOU with General Dynamics Mission Systems, the first company collaborating on the development of Telesat’s LEO constellation that specializes in government markets, “said Don Brown, Telesat’s General Manager, Government Services. “Combining their deep knowledge of government customer requirements with the innovations of Telesat’s LEO system will enable each of our companies to deliver a new generation of government communications capabilities.”

Telesat is building an initial constellation of 120 Ka-band LEO satellites to provide “fiber-like” broadband for commercial and government customers around the world, with global service start targeted in 2022.  The company currently has a pathfinder satellite in orbit and is conducting live, over-the-air service tests with Global Eagle Entertainment, OmniAccess, Optus Satellite, and others yet to be announced.

End users of Telesat’s LEO network will get speeds of up to gigabits per second along with round trip latency of anywhere from 30 to 50 milliseconds, giving the operator a service offering that handily beats existing geosynchronous earth orbit (GEO) networks and one that should be performance competitive with terrestrial fiber.

General Dynamics Mission Systems (GD) has been building and operating satellite ground systems for decades, with customers including the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and other government agencies.   The user terminals GD will be putting together won’t be cheap, but will be designed to deliver service in mission-critical applications, so expect to see a range of equipment from ruggedized, man-portable gear to larger hardware designed for permanent installations.

While Telesat has discussed providing satellite broadband services to underserved/unserved markets, initial teaming announcements have been as much high-revenue/high-value customers as consumer-grade.  Global Eagle Entertainment provides in-flight connectivity solutions for passenger aircraft and cruise lines.  OmniAccess caters to the “Super Yacht” industry.  GD’s MOU is the latest to suggest global LEO constellations are going to end up focusing on enterprise and government business as anchor customers to reduce financial risk.

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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