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Canadian Government to Invest in Telesat Satellite Broadband Program

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
July 24, 2019
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Credit: Telesat

OTTAWA (Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada PR) — Canada’s future depends on connectivity. In today’s digital world, access to high-speed Internet is a necessity for success. That is why the Government of Canada is investing in innovative satellite technologies to help improve high-speed broadband access for all Canadians, particularly in rural and remote regions.

Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, announced an $85 million investment in Canadian satellite company Telesat to build and test innovative technologies for its low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. Telesat’s constellation will significantly improve global connectivity and expand high-speed Internet coverage to rural and remote regions throughout Canada, including the Far North. 

The Minister also announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with Telesat to secure broadband Internet capacity over Canada from its planned LEO satellite constellation. Under this agreement, Telesat will be able to deliver affordable high-speed broadband services from coast to coast to coast, addressing connectivity gaps in rural and remote communities.

“Access to high-speed Internet is essential for the economy of tomorrow, and all Canadians should have access, regardless of where they live. Rural and remote areas need this service to do business, pursue educational opportunities and build stronger communities,” Bains said.

“The project announced today will maintain Canada’s leadership in satellite communications, and it provides us with a glimpse of the future of connectivity in rural and remote communities. It will also ensure that innovative Canadian companies, like Telesat and its partners, remain world leaders, creating highly skilled jobs in Canada,” he added.

The Government of Canada intends to commit up to $600 million over 10 years, subject to reaching definitive terms of a contribution agreement. This initiative will help the Government reach its target of providing 95% of Canadian homes and businesses with access to Internet services at speeds of at least 50/10 Mbps (megabits per second) by 2026, and to all Canadians by 2030.

“Affordable high-speed Internet and mobile wireless coverage is critical to the continued vibrancy and success of rural Canada,” said Bernadette Jordan, minister of Rural Economic Development. “Our government is leveraging innovative and disruptive technologies to improve rural connectivity and to ensure that Canadians in all areas of the country have access to the latest technologies. LEO satellite technology will substantially increase capacity and offer better speed and signal strength for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.”

Thanks in part to this federal investment, Telesat will create and maintain 485 jobs over the next decade and invest $2.4 million in activities and scholarships in the areas of space and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) for young Canadians. Telesat will also create 40 new co-op learning opportunities for post-secondary students and expand collaborations with Indigenous communities to address broadband service gaps and needs. 

“Telesat LEO is the most ambitious global broadband infrastructure program ever conceived and will revolutionize how Canadians, and everyone else in the world for that matter, experience and leverage the Internet,” said Telesat CEO President Dan Goldberg.

“This program will help achieve Canada’s goal of universal connectivity, ensuring that Canadians, regardless of where they work or live, have affordable, high-quality high-speed Internet. Telesat LEO has garnered substantial interest from commercial enterprises and governments around the world,” he added.

“That interest, together with the funding received from the Strategic Innovation Fund and Canada’s long-term commitment to secure LEO capacity for Canadians, underpins Telesat’s plan to fully bridge the digital divide with the advanced Telesat LEO constellation,” Goldberg said.

Quick facts

  • A Crown corporation until 1998, Telesat is now a Canadian-controlled privately held corporation. It has employees in five provinces and in Nunavut. 
  • Satellites in LEO operate 36 times closer to the earth than traditional telecommunications satellites. This means they take less time to send and receive information, leading to better and faster broadband service, even in rural, remote and northern areas.
  • The memorandum of understanding is the next step in implementing Canada’s Connectivity Strategy.
  • This federal investment of $85 million aligns with Canada’s space strategy, Exploration, Imagination, Innovation. One of the strategy’s five pillars is to harness space technology to solve everyday challenges—such as the lack of high-speed Internet—for Canadians.
  • The investment in Telesat is being made through the Strategic Innovation Fund, a program designed to attract and support high-quality business investments across all sectors of the economy.
  • Additionally, Budget 2018 announced funding of $100 million over five years for the Strategic Innovation Fund to support projects focused on LEO satellites and next-generation rural broadband.  
  • Budget 2019 announced investments to secure new, advanced, low-latency LEO satellite capacity to help bring reliable high-speed Internet access to even the most challenging rural and remote homes and communities in Canada. 
  • Canada’s space sector contributed $5.6 billion and 10,000 well-paying jobs to our economy in 2017.
  • In addition to the Strategic Innovation Fund, there are hundreds of programs and services to help businesses innovate, create jobs and grow Canada’s economy. With its simple, story-based user interface, the Innovation Canada platform can match businesses with the most fitting programs and services in about two minutes.