OTTAWA, Canada: Canadian satellite communications company Telesat has set its sights on launching a low-earth-orbit satellite constellation to provide high-speed broadband services from space, a move that will put it in direct competition with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who have also announced satellite internet projects.
Tesla CEO Musk is currently racing to launch the satellite internet system Starlink LEO with his company Space X, while Amazon founder Bezos has unveiled a space internet project called Kuiper.
While Musk's Starlink already has about 1,200 satellites in orbit, Telesat is aiming to launch its first group of 298 satellites for its Lightspeed constellation in early 2023, Reuters reported.
Telesat inked a launch deal with Bezos' aerospace company Blue Origin in 2019. Discussions are also ongoing with three other companies - Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Europe's ArianeGroup and Musk's SpaceX, said David Wendling, Telesat's chief technical officer.
"Starlink is going to be in service much sooner ... and that gives SpaceX the opportunity to win customers," according to Caleb Henry, a senior analyst at Quilty Analytics, as quoted by Reuters.
However, Telesat chief executive officer Dan Goldberg points out that Starlink's "first mover" advantage gives it at most 2 years and "no one's going to lock this whole market up in that amount of time".
Founded in 1969, Telesat has been in satellite services much longer than its rivals, and its Lightspeed constellation is estimated to cost half as much as the SpaceX and Amazon projects.
"We think we're in the sweet spot," Goldberg remarked.
Also, instead of focusing on the consumer market, as does SpaceX and Amazon, Telesat is looking to target business clients.
"You have two heavyweight players, SpaceX and Amazon, that are already pledging to spend $10 billion on satellite constellations optimized for the consumer market. If Telesat can spend half that amount creating a high-performance system for businesses, then yeah, they stand to be very competitive," said Henry.
Telesat also has another trump card - industry experience.
"We've worked with many of these customers for decades ... That's going to give us a real advantage," said Goldberg.