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The Critical Link

Satellite connectivity closes the digital gap in Latin America

Many countries with broad swaths of rural landscape struggle to provide internet connectivity. For example, it has been estimated that among the 26 countries in Latin America, 72 million people who live in rural areas don’t have access to high-speed internet, according to a report from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation of Agriculture (IICA).

Although individuals in these regions may have some level of connectivity, the connections are often slow and intermittent. The IICA study found that geographic terrain is often the cause. It can be expensive, and sometimes impossible, to deploy fiber and other telecom infrastructure in rugged or mountainous areas.

Consider, for example, Colombia. It has a diverse landscape that includes the mountains and volcanoes of the Andes, rainforests in the Amazon, as well as deserts and grasslands. Among the country’s populace, 70% of households in urban areas have internet connections compared with 28.8% in rural areas, according to a study by the National Administrative Department of Statistics and the ICT Ministry. Even where rural connectivity is available, many household residents (48.6%) have said they cannot afford it.

However, we have seen that cost-effective and high-performing connectivity is possible in regions with challenging geographic terrain. It just requires partnerships between governments, local telecom providers and satellite operators.

It’s important to note that Telesat works with regional telecom operators and service providers that have a local presence and knowledge of the markets. Telesat does not sell services directly to consumers, but instead provides resilient backhaul connectivity to unserved and underserved communities that don’t have access to a fiber backbone.  The local telecom operators provide last-mile connectivity and installation to homes, businesses, and government institutions, along with localized support, billing and customer service.

For example, Telesat has extensive experience working with local providers to bridge the digital divide in rural Latin America. We have worked with leading telecom operators and service providers to implement geostationary (GEO) connectivity in the region including rural schools, healthcare organizations, and government institutions. Our reliable GEO satellite capacity is supporting several universal connectivity programs, including:

  • The Ministry of Education of Peru (MinEDU)’s rural school connectivity program:  Telesat has been providing connectivity for approximately 2,000 rural schools serving 135,000 students in unserved and underserved areas since 2011.
  • The Internet para Todos (IpT) “Internet for All” connectivity program in Peru: Service provider partner Telefónica leverages Telesat Ku-band capacity to bridge the digital divide in Latin America and bring mobile broadband to remote populations where conventional telecom infrastructure deployment is not economically feasible. IpT is an open-access wholesale rural mobile infrastructure operator launched by Telefónica, Facebook, IDB Invest and the CAF (Development Bank of Latin America).
  • The Colombian Ministry of Telecommunications’ (MinTIC) Digital Centers program: Telesat provides high throughput Ku-band capacity to bring internet connectivity to remote schools, health posts and government institutions under a contract from Sencinet Colombia. This project will create 14,745 digital centers that will be connected via terrestrial and/or satellite connectivity. The program is in the implementation phase and approximately 5,000 digital centers have commenced operations.

Telesat’s advanced, next-generation Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite network, Telesat Lightspeed, will connect the world’s hardest-to-reach communities to the internet, with unprecedented service levels and economics.  Telesat Lightspeed will deliver cost-effective, fibre-speed connections with lower latency and higher data rates, thanks to the constellation’s closer proximity to Earth than today’s current GEO satellites. Telesat Lightspeed will provide superior connectivity with 30-50 millisecond latency and multi-Gigabit per second speeds.

We believe that Telesat Lightspeed will play a vital role in eliminating Latin America’s connectivity gap, and in partnership with regional providers, rural internet connectivity will be as affordable and reliable as in major metropolitan cities.

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