September 28th was proclaimed as the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) at the United Nations level in October 2019. The 2023 global conference is taking place today at Oxford in the United Kingdom and will focus on the importance of the online space for access to information. One of the planned panels will look specifically at Internet accessibility and connectivity.
Universal access to information is a global imperative because of the transformative power of broadband connectivity. Broadband in the 21st century is as necessary a prerequisite for economic development and individual empowerment as electricity was in the 20th century. Sadly, a digital divide exists that cuts off communities and individuals from realizing their full potential.
Globally, 37 percent of the world’s population and 1.3 million Canadian households lack access to affordable and reliable broadband connectivity. Unserved and underserved Internet connectivity prevents populations from participating in and benefitting from today’s digital economy. This includes opportunities for education, job advancement, and access to health information.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) want to bridge the digital divide. But low population density and long geographic distances equate to high costs and low return on investment for terrestrial broadband providers. For many years, Geostationary- Earth-Orbit satellites (GEO) have served a valuable role of providing cellular backhaul to locations that cannot be feasibly served with terrestrial connectivity solutions. But GEO satellites typically have 600 milliseconds of round trip latency, making it ill-suited for high-speed Internet and applications.
That’s where Telesat Lightspeed, our Low-Earth-Orbit (LEO) constellation, comes in. It’s next-generation technology that makes universal connectivity possible. LEO satellites are 35 times closer to the Earth, so the round-trip signal to the satellite and back takes less than 0.03 seconds. Telesat Lightspeed was designed as the best non-terrestrial solution when deploying fibre is not cost-effective or feasible. This means every person, everywhere on the planet can have a fibre-like, high-speed and affordable connection to the Internet and participate in what it has to offer.
Telesat Lightspeed provides a highly flexible and scalable LEO backhaul network that connects remote communities to the core telecom network and puts service providers in control of where, when, and how they serve their rural customers. And Telesat also helps make the business case easier for our partners. Telesat has entered into significant partnerships with the Governments of Canada and Ontario to bring meaningful, dedicated pools of affordable capacity on Telesat Lightspeed for the specific use of underserved communities in Canada.
Telesat has developed a government partnership model in which the Government commits to purchasing a dedicated capacity pool at a discounted rate, which in turn is offered to ISPs and MNOs at a highly subsidized Mbps rate – to provide high-speed, affordable broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved populations, including communities in Canada’s far north. The subsidized backhaul capacity can be provided for up to 10 years, allowing ISPs and MNOs to open new markets and serve more customers.
In Canada, we partner with Indigenous-owned ISPs and community leaders in a consultative manner to deliver economically viable, high-quality network solutions. These services encompass community-wide connectivity, which links households, businesses, and institutions to services such as Internet, television, telephony, mobile, and public safety, as well as critical government services.
Telesat’s mission is to bridge the digital divide and make universal access a reality here in Canada and across the globe. Telesat Lightspeed will create an entirely new technical and economic paradigm for Internet connectivity, resulting in economic growth, expanded healthcare and education, and empowered communities. Working together with our service provider partners, we will contribute greatly to a more equitable world, where opportunities, and information, is accessible online for everyone.