The Ontario government has agreed to support part of Telesat’s Lightspeed constellation, which will commit some of its satellite capability to enhance communication links in the Canadian province. According to the Ottawa, Ontario-based satellite operator, the five-year arrangement, worth 109 million Canadian dollars ($87 million), concentrates on expanding cellular networks and high-speed internet to unserved and underserved communities.
Under the plan, Telesat’s Lightspeed low-Earth-orbit broadband constellation, which it hopes to launch in 2023, will provide internet service providers and cellular carriers significantly lower fees for a portion of its capacity. Telesat has a similar agreement for 600 million Canadian dollars with the Canadian federal government to support broadband services in rural areas.
Telesat will boost its Ontario-based personnel by roughly 35 percent, to around 400 highly trained jobs, as part of the acquisition announced Aug. 6. The corporation has also pledged to invest $20 million in the province’s infrastructure, including a modern gateway landing station and extended corporate headquarters.
“Through Telesat’s local investments in employment opportunities and technology innovations, this collaboration with the Government of Ontario would not only achieve the province’s goal of linking everyone, irrespective of where they reside, to budget-friendly high Internet speed but will also position Ontario at the frontline of the highly decisive New Space Economy,” Telesat Chief Executive Officer Dan Goldberg stated in a statement.
COVID-19 has demonstrated how critical reliable cellular services and high-speed internet have become for society, according to Canada’s infrastructure minister, Kinga Surma. Telesat hopes to complete the deal over the next few weeks. In February, Quebec’s provincial government said that it would spend $400 million in Lightspeed and MDA, a Canadian space hardware company, to develop the network’s phased array antennas.
In April, Telesat borrowed $500 million in debt to help pay Lightspeed’s $5 billion price tag. However, plans to auction off its C-band spectrum to acquire cash for the constellation were shelved on May 21, when the Canadian government announced that it would conduct the auction instead.
While satellite operators in the United States are expected to receive billions of dollars through a C-band auction overseen by the Federal Communications Commission, Telesat’s amount of compensation via Canada’s procedure remains unknown. To support Lightspeed, Telesat wants to offer shares on the stock market in the 3rd quarter of this year. It has also stated that it is in discussions with export credit institutions about raising additional finance to support the project.