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Ofcom UK Review Telesat’s Planned LEO Satellite Broadband Network

Friday, June 24th, 2022 (1:10 pm) - Score 1,344
Telesat-Lightspeed-Satellite-Broadband-Platform

Forget about OneWeb, Amazon (Kuiper) and Starlink (SpaceX) for a minute. The UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has just received an application from Telesat for an Earth Station Network Licence that will be used to support their future “Lightspeed” constellation of ultrafast broadband satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

We haven’t talked much about Telesat’s plans for a new global broadband network before, which is partly because they’re a bit late to the party and haven’t told us much. Nevertheless, Telesat is now proposing to provide satellite broadband services to support enterprise and mobile backhaul, maritime and offshore platforms, aviation, and government services in the UK.

NOTE: Telesat’s Lightspeed constellation will consist of 198 satellites (with 10 spares), operating in two orbits – polar orbit (inclination of 98.98) at an altitude of 1,000km and inclined orbit (inclination 50.88) at an altitude of 1,350km.

The company plans to start launching its satellites in Q3 2025 and to commence initial services in the UK (as well as globally) in Q1 2026. The operator plans to use the ‘Ka band‘ (radio spectrum) for both its terminals and gateways, and has just applied to use the frequencies 27.5 – 27.8185GHz, 28.4545 – 28.8265GHz and 29.4625 – 30GHz.

Telesat launched the first early demo satellite for this new network back in 2018, which orbits at the lower altitude of 500km. One admittedly quite early test of this platform managed to deliver broadband download and upload speeds of 100.46Mbps and 95.62 Mbps, respectively, and a roundtrip latency of just 26.53ms (milliseconds). We’d of course expect the production satellites to be superior.

According to the spec sheet for Lightspeed, each platform will be built by Thales Alenia Space and weigh about 800 kilos. The combined capacity of the entire satellite network is 10Tbps (Terabits per second), with speeds of “up to” 7.5Gbps being possible to a single terminal and “up to” 15Gbps to a single hotspot site (e.g. a remote community or airport hub). Each satellite will have an operational life of around 10 years.

The new Ofcom application is to allow the deployment of user terminals to connect with the new network, which is the terrestrial equipment used by customers for a variety of different purposes. This can be on the ground, in the air or at sea. The licence places obligations on the satellite operator to ensure they can operate alongside other satellite constellations.

The regulator is now considering Telesat’s submissions, including whether they can coexist with other satellite systems in close proximity, and any potential risks to competition (Starlink, OneWeb, Kepler and others also use some of the same radio spectrum bands).

The regulator is currently inviting comments on the application by Friday 22nd July 2022 and will aim to publish their decision on 12th September 2022. We suspect that a network of this relatively small size will not cause too many headaches.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Yatta! says:

    In the voice of Brenda from Bristol “you’re joking.. not another one!”.

  2. Godelpus says:

    Ofcom, given powers over space now. God help us.

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