Telesat tests LEO broadband prototype in India

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TAMPA, Fla. — Telesat said May 18 it demonstrated high-speed connectivity in India last month using a four-year-old prototype satellite.

The so-called Phase 1 satellite connected through a teleport operated by local satellite communications provider Nelco, which is part of Indian conglomerate Tata. South Korea’s Intellian supplied the 85-centimeter parabolic antenna used in the April 25-29 demo.

According to Telesat, the prototype demonstrated fiber-like 35 millisecond roundtrip latency at speeds fast enough to support applications including video conferencing and streaming.

The Canadian operator’s Phase 1 satellite was launched to LEO in January 2018, and has been helping the company configure its delayed Lightspeed constellation.

Plans for Lightspeed were recently downsized by a third to 198 satellites following supply chain issues that have pushed out the service’s debut a year to 2026.

Telesat has so far secured about $3.3 billion of Lightspeed’s anticipated $5 billion cost.

Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s CEO, said May 6 the company is close to securing the remaining funds that it needs before it can sign an order contract with Thales Alenia Space to build the satellites.

India expansion

Telesat announced plans to partner with Nelco in September 2020, and other satellite operators have since made similar alliances with other local companies as the country looks to ease protectionist measures to encourage foreign investments.

SES said Feb. 14 it has formed a joint venture with Jio Platforms Limited, the holding company for the country’s largest telecoms operator, to provide multi-orbit connectivity there.

A month earlier, LEO startup OneWeb said it signed a distribution deal with India-based Hughes Communications India Pvt Ltd, a joint venture between U.S.-based Hughes Network Systems and Jio’s Indian telecoms rival Bharti Airtel.

Bharti Airtel is part of the Bharti Global Indian conglomerate that is U.K.-based OneWeb’s largest shareholder, and Hughes is a minority investor in the LEO startup.

SpaceX’s LEO network Starlink ran into trouble with India’s telecoms regulator late last year when it took deposits from potential customers before getting a license to operate in the country.