Will Google’s Loon help or hinder?

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Ottawa-based satellite operator Telesat has struck a partnership agreement with Google’s Alphabet business and in particular its ‘Loon’ division. The Loon project sees a fleet of high altitude balloons providing satellite-type links to and from the ground. Telesat clearly sees the relationship with Loon as helping in its expansion plans.

The full statement from Telesat and Loon says: “[We are] pleased to announce we have entered into an agreement under which Loon will deliver a network operating system design that Telesat can use to support its global low earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. The design will adapt and expand on Loon’s cloud-based, temporospatial software-defined network (SDN) platform that Loon uses today to deliver mobile data services over its fleet of stratospheric balloons.”

“Under the agreement, Loon will adapt its SDN platform design to enable Telesat’s LEO constellation to consistently deliver a fibre-like broadband experience on a global basis to both fixed and mobile terminals. The Loon SDN will be specifically customised for Telesat’s use, giving its innovative LEO constellation a powerful and highly differentiated capability for serving growing commercial and government markets. The effort will result in Telesat having access to a scalable and robust network operating system that Telesat can use to optimise capacity across its global fleet of LEO satellites while minimizing latency and ensuring reliable connectivity to end-users worldwide.”

“Loon’s cloud-based SDN platform is already managing services over the Loon high-altitude balloon network and Telesat is pleased to be working with Loon to have Loon optimize their solution for Telesat’s LEO constellation,” said Erwin Hudson, Vice President, Telesat LEO. “Loon has unique experience developing sophisticated network management software that assures delivery of reliable broadband services over highly dynamic networks that undergo constant change. The addition of Loon brings an entirely new set of capabilities to the world-class supplier team Telesat has built for our LEO program – capabilities that will give Telesat a powerful competitive advantage in our global broadband service offerings.”

In a blog posting from Loon’s Head of Engineering, Salvatore Candido, he explained Loon’s ability to extend the reach of the internet long distances by highlighting a test in which Loon established a connection that spanned 1,000 km across 7 balloons operating 20 km above the Earth. “Taking the internet from where it is now and bringing it closer to people who need it is key to the commercial deployment of Loon, which will begin this year,” he said.

Telesat said its LEO constellation “will leverage the company’s global, priority spectrum rights in Ka-band and proprietary LEO architecture to transform global communications. It will offer a combination of capacity, speed, security, resiliency and low cost with latency that is equal to, or better than, the most advanced terrestrial networks. Able to serve the entire globe, Telesat LEO will help satisfy many of the world’s most challenging communications requirements. It will accelerate 5G expansion, bridge the digital divide with fibre-like high speed services into rural and remote communities, and set new levels of performance for commercial and government connectivity on land and in key maritime and aeronautical broadband markets, which are among the fastest growing in today’s satcom industry.”


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