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Nelco, Telesat conduct first high-speed internet trial with 35ms latency

Nelco, the Tata Group electronics and satellite communications company, has conducted its first trial of high speed broadband connectivity, delivered through the first phase of Canadian satellite operator Telesat’s Lightspeed low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellation. According to the company, the trial achieved “high speed, fibre-like performance”, with 35ms incoming and outgoing connectivity latency.

Over 50 entities, including government bodies, telecom operators and enterprises, were part of this proof-of-concept demonstration by Nelco and Telesat. Use cases demonstrated in this trial included real-time video conferencing over Microsoft Teams, live TV and YouTube video streaming.

Nelco and Telesat, operating in a partnership, is one of the many entities vying to launch services by using LEO satellites. Others, such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX-operated Starlink, Jeff Bezos’ Amazon-backed Project Kuiper, Indian telco Bharti Airtel and UK-based satellite operator OneWeb, as well as Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio and Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES, are among those that are in the space to offer satellite-based internet connectivity in India and around the world.

The Jio-SES venture, however, has sought to use geostationary equatorial orbit (GEO) satellites to beam down satellite internet connectivity to earth.

LEO satellites are typically deployed in orbits below 2,000km from earth. Starlink, for instance, is deploying satellites at 550km above the earth’s surface, while OneWeb’s constellation is placed at 1,200km above earth. The key advantage that LEO satellites offer over GEOs lie in latency. Given that they operate in a relay configuration, they are also capable of delivering high internet bandwidth – although new GEO satellites, such as the very high throughput satellites (VHTS) being developed by the likes of Hughes Network Systems, are also capable of delivering the same.

Telesat, the Canadian satellite operator, is in process of deploying a total of 298 LEO satellites as part of its Lightspeed constellation, which will offer global satellite internet services.

Experts have said that LEO-based internet services will largely target the enterprise segment, since for consumers, terrestrial internet services already offer affordable and stable internet connectivity. For users, LEO-based services could help connecting remote locations – where laying down fibre cables is a tedious and difficult affair.

In an interview with Mint in February 2022, Pradip J Nath, managing director and chief executive officer of Nelco, had said that the satellite internet market will likely operate as a combination of LEO and GEO in future.

“For instance, an ATM will never be in need of high capacities or low latencies. LEOs will only make sense in cases such as connecting a remote village, 5G backhaul or remote data centres – thereby expanding the market scope for satellite internet providers,” the executive had said.

According to reports, the Nelco-Telesat collaboration is expected to initiate commercial services by 2024. Livemint

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