FIRST UP Satcom | Telesat inks first LEO customer, LeoSat gains customer agreement

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Telesat signed a trial partner as the first customer for its future constellation of low Earth orbit communications satellites. OmniAccess, a maritime connectivity provider who demonstrated service with Telesat’s prototype satellite, signed a “major, multiyear contract” for broadband service from the constellation. Telesat said the contract includes some limited exclusivity for OmniAccess to serve the superyacht market using Telesat LEO, which is expected to enter service in 2022. Telesat is planning a constellation of around 300 satellites. [Telesat]

Another low Earth orbit company announced a customer agreement, but didn’t call it a contract. Washington-based LeoSat said it signed an agreement with Skyband, a satellite communications and network solutions provider in Saudi Arabia, for services from its planned constellation of 108 Ka-band satellites. LeoSat, which has been designing its constellation with Thales Alenia Space, anticipates a first launch in 2020. The company says prelaunch customer commitments exceed $1.5 billion. [LeoSat]

Lockheed Martin and Paris-based chipmaker Sequans Communications teamed up to develop technologies that let 4G LTE devices connect straight to geostationary satellites. Scott Landis, a director at Lockheed Martin, said Sequan modified computer chips that work with “a new LTE-to-satellite communication specification developed by Lockheed Martin.” The ability to communicate directly to satellites using the cellular standard brings greater opportunity to connect machine-to-machine and Internet-of-Things devices, Sequans CEO Georges Karam said. [Sequans]

MORE STORIES

Satellite communications company Norsat released a new suite of filters and signal converters designed to combat interference from 5G signals within satellite C-band spectrum. Regulators in the U.S. and around the world are considering repurposing parts of C-band, spectrum often used for television broadcasts, for upcoming high-speed 5G mobile networks, a process that has elevated concerns about signal interference. Canada-based Norsat said its products can be installed on satellite antennas to mitigate the impact of 5G. The company will begin shipments in the second quarter of this year. [Norsat]

Thales Alenia Space is close to winning a contract from the government of Nepal for a communications satellite. Thales Alenia Space said it signed an agreement, but not a finalized contract, with the Nepal Telecommunications Authority for the proposed satellite, which would have C- and Ku-band payloads and operate from 123.3 degrees east in geostationary orbit. Nepal’s government is interested in a satellite in order to provide broadband internet access to the 30 million citizens of the mountainous nation. [SpaceNews]

Satellite capacity prices slid 18 percent over the past 12 months, with data services like backhaul and fixed broadband driving the steepest declines, according to Northern Sky Research. An abundance of cheap high-throughput satellite capacity is the most significant influencer of new pricing structures, rendering older satellites increasingly obsolete. Northern Sky Research said prices dropped 24 percent for data services, 13 percent for mobility services like internet for boats and planes, and 7 percent for video broadcasting. Backhaul, cruise ships and other broadband services are fueling demand, but at lower prices, the firm said. Northern Sky Research expects prices to continue declining this year and into 2020. [AP]

Space communications startup Audacy is studying potential cooperation with radar satellite constellation company Iceye. The companies said they signed a memorandum of understanding to see how Audacy’s planned data relay satellite system could support Iceye’s constellation of SAR satellites. That cooperation would focus initially on using Audacy’s satellites to relay tasking commands to the Iceye constellation, but could later expand to transmitting radar imagery from the Iceye satellites. [SpaceNews]

Panasonic Avionics plans to switch all customers to its third-generation satellite communications network by the end of 2019. The upgrade includes a new modem from Newtec, replacing a legacy system previously described as a choke point for Panasonic’s Ku-band satellite services to aircraft. Panasonic is conducting the modem installs through its technical services business unit or through customer airlines’ maintenance, repair and overhaul centers. Panasonic’s third-generation network uses high-throughput satellite capacity from Intelsat, SES, Eutelsat and others. Ian Dawkins, Panasonic Avionics senior vice president of network operations said Panasonic expects to add capacity in Asia through APT Mobile Satcom’s upcoming Apstar-6D satellite early next year, and is planning additional capacity commitments over Europe and the Americas this year. [Runway Girl Network]

SpaceNews Senior Staff Writer Jeff Foust contributed to this newsletter.