Telesat launches biggest satellite, providing 1 Mbps data services

The launch of the largest satellite ever made, Telesat Canada’s Anik F2, will test the commercial viability of broadband high-speed Internet in remote and rural North American communities, experts said.

The 5,950-kg. Anik F2 will be using Ka-band, a frequency running 28 GHz that promises to allow

two-way communication from an antenna just 66 centimetres in diameter. Data is expected to flow at 1 Mbps.

Telesat launched Anik F2 last month on Arianespace Flight 163 from Kourou, French Guiana, after three delays.

Ted Ignacy, Telesat’s vice-president of finance and treasurer, said approximately 75 per cent of the satellite’s capacity has been pre-sold. There are 45 spot beams in the Ka-band, 15 of which cover Canada. The Canadian Space Agency has approximately $50 million in a capacity credit in return for contributing to the Ka-band payload.

Satellite communications has a history of challenges and failures, including the bankruptcy of Iridium. But Ignacy said Telesat officials are optimistic that the unproven Ka-band technology will be attractive to what it estimates as the 25 per cent of the population that sits out of range of traditional Internet services.

“”DSL or coaxial cable will not cover the last 10 to 15 per cent of the population. They will always be second cousins in terms of getting access to the Internet,”” he said “”What high-speed allows you to do is offer access for students in remote learning environments (and) access to diagnostics.””

One of the conditions of licence to win the 118.7 degree slot was to make C-band capacity available to the government, two channels of which will be used in the federal government’s National Satellite Initiative, which was launched last year.

Gilles Leclerc, director general of space technologies at the Canadian Space Agency, said its capacity credit will be spread over 10 years and will be managed by Industry Canada through a call for proposals process.

“”It has to correspond to the government-wide priority of connecting all communities,”” he said. “”Certainly in education, access to modern tools in remote communities is a top priority.””

Leclerc said the Canadian Space Agency will also be using its capacity to support R&D in two-way communications, Internet access and telemedicine.

Max Engel, an analyst with research firm Frost & Sullivan, said Telesat may struggle to attract the subscriber base it is expecting.

“”Ka-band broadband was going to be the future, and it was going to be the future five years ago — by now we were supposed to be hip-deep in broadband,”” he said. “”It’s very helpful for having the amount of broadband you’d like to have, but it has problems with rain attenuation, as anyone will tell you.””

Other problems traditionally associated with Ka-band include gaseous absorption, cloud attenuation and melting layer attenuation. Ignacy said Telesat is mitigating the risk by carrying several other bands, including C-band and Ku-band, with which it is more experienced.

Capacity on the Anik F2 has been sold to Shaw Communications’ Star Choice and WildBlue based in Greenwood, Co.


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