Wednesday, February 28, 2018

"Big Winners" in Tuesday's Federal Budget

         By Henry Stewart

The big winners of Tuesday's Federal budget, at least as far as the space industry is concerned, might just be the firms planning to develop constellations of low Earth orbiting (LEO) satellites intended to bring internet services to rural parts of the country.

As outlined in the February 28th, 2018 Space News post, "Canada budgets a boost for LEO broadband constellations," Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced the $100Mln Cdn initiative in the 2018 Federal government budget released Feb. 27th, 2018.

The Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants to extend internet service to rural areas in the country and believes that constellations of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites providing low latency access to internet services could prove to be the solution.

As outlined in the post, the Finance Minister "didn’t get into specific details on how the funds would be dispersed or whether the Canadian Space Agency would be behind those decisions."

According to the February 28th, 2018 Los Angeles Times post, "SpaceX's Elon Musk dares to go where others failed with space-based web," there are a number of corporations which could benefit from the Canadian funding, including Hawthorne, CA based SpaceX, UK based OneWeb and Ottawa, ON based Telesat Canada.

SpaceX has it's own rocket fleet, which will cut costs associated with launching it's approximately 4,000U+ satellites into orbit, but OneWeb, last profiled in the May 3rd, 2016 post, "OneWeb Goes to Gatineau" went so far as to outline it's plans to Canadian officials during the April 25th, 2016 public meeting at Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) headquarters in Gatineau, PQ.

That meeting included OneWeb founder Greg Wyler and policy director Marc Dupuis, plus then Richmond, BC based MacDonald Dettwiler (MDA) Information System Goup CEO Don Osborne and director of government and public affairs Leslie Swartman.

But MDA is now a part of  San Francisco, CA based Maxar Technologies and Telesat, as one of the only real Canadian options in the current market, might have the inside track at accessing the new Federal funds plus some made in the US advantages as well.

As first reported in the September 11th, 2017 post, "New FCC Rules a Defeat for SpaceX, But May Signal Opportunity for OneWeb & Telesat," a series of proposed (and now implemented) Federal Communication Commission (FCC) regulations may have given a competitive advantage to smaller satellite constellation proposals from firms such as Telesat and others as they attempt to compete with SpaceX and its proposed 4000 plus army of super-fast internet satellites.

As outlined in the February 28, 2018 Telesat press release, "Telesat Applauds Government’s Support in Budget 2018 of LEO Satellite Constellations to Deliver Advanced Rural Broadband Services" the company "welcomes the Government of Canada’s commitment in Budget 2018 to support investment in new Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite constellations for rural broadband communications."

Other, smaller Canadian providers may also receive some of the Federal funds.

For example, Woodstock, NB based Xplornet Communications has also been focused on improving rural broadband services by subcontracting bandwidth from the EchoStar 19 (launched in December 2016) and the ViaSat-2 satellite (launched in June 2017).

Henry Stewart is the pseudonym of a Toronto based aerospace writer

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