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Lightspeed coordinates with Kuiper

September 23, 2022

Two upcoming major would-be broadband-by-satellite operators Canada’s Telesat Lightspeed and the Jeff Bezos-backed Project Kuiper say they have successfully agreed to coordinate their planned mega-constellations.

Amazon’s Kuiper says it had wrapped frequency and orbital coordination for their constellations, and this is undoubtedly good news for Telesat’s Lightspeed and removes an element of doubt over the operator’s planned access to frequencies and coverage. Telesat has been very slow in confirming that it has the financial backing to move ahead. It has yet to confirm who would be building the Lightspeed satellites, for example.

At the recent Paris World Satellite Business Week organised by Euroconsult, Telesat’s president and CEO Dan Goldberg told delegates that his company had “tons of money” and stressed that it had continually been deliberately transparent about its cash-raising exercises.

“We’ve got $1.5 billion on our balance sheet right now, we’ve got another $1.5 billion pledged to us from the government of Canada and the government of Quebec. We’ve got about another $500 million in other financing that’s already been arranged. So, we’re north of $3.5 billion of cash that’s already available to us for the project. And we’ve got about $750 million of contractual backlog,” said Goldberg.

But Goldberg also admitted that the supply side of the satellite business, affecting many operators and not just Telesat, is still suffering the after-effects of Covid.

“Put all those things together and it gives us a lot of confidence that we’re going to get the project going. If there’s anything that has slowed us down it’s been some of the supply-chain issues that have impacted not just our industry but a whole lot of industries,” he added.

The coordination agreement covers the pair’s Ka-band satellite systems and in essence also agrees an element which states it will “ensure the coexistence” of both Lightspeed and Kuiper.

Neither has yet started populating their constellations – other than a few test satellites.

Telesat’s Lightspeed calls for a network of an initial 198 satellites (which it has already trimmed from the original much larger 298 satellite plan). Ofcom, the UK regulator, has stated that Lightspeed will start launching in Q3/2025 and start transmissions a year later.

The Kuiper constellation plans for an initial 3,236 fleet of satellites.

Both, however, are now under some strict timetables. Lightspeed must bring into use at least some of its fleet by 2026 and says it will comply. But Kuiper must get half of its massive fleet aloft by July 2026.

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