Telus, TerreStar and Skylo completed their first direct mobile-satellite connectivity test in Canada

As Canada prepares to make room for direct connectivity between mobile phones and satellites, Telus, TerreStar Solutions and Skylo have completed a trial to provide direct-to-mobile satellite connectivity to the company’s customers in Canada. The objective is to provide ubiquitous connectivity throughout the country by eliminating areas without coverage.

The trials, which began in October, combined non-terrestrial network (NTN) service provider Skylo’s technology platform, TerreStar’s spectrum and services platform that covers most of Canada’s geography; and Telus’ experience in building and operating mobile networks.

During the pilot, satellite connectivity was used to make voice calls. Through Skylo it was possible to send text messages between smartphones in addition to connecting to Internet of Things (IoT) devices. The Telus operator intends to offer these solutions on a commercial level in 2024, so it is attentive to the development of mobile chips that allow mobile connectivity to be combined with satellite connectivity directly and that, in addition, can be offered on a massive scale.

The expectation is that technology will be a guarantee of connectivity for those who are in remote or inhospitable areas, whether for work or personal reasons. Those who work in a mine or decide to take excursions in remote tourist areas can be sure of being connected via mobile phone in any situation . Although emergency situations are those that appear on the list of priorities when addressing mobile-satellite connectivity , having communication even when there are places that are sought after due to their solitary nature is an additional plus for those who carry out these activities.

This test was another example of the interest of companies in this country to continue leveraging technology and telecommunications to provide better services to citizens. Canada has the best levels of connectivity in America and it was the decision of its government, more than 20 years ago, to leverage telecommunications as a way to improve the linkage of its different areas given the geographical vastness that, at times, appears hostile when certain climatic conditions occur.

Made up of more than 35.4 million Internet users, 93 percent of the inhabitants of this country have an Internet connection, while 42 percent access through broadband, according to the latest known data, corresponding by 2021, with an average speed above 153 Mbps. This is equivalent to more than 16 million broadband users.

Mobile phone penetration is close to 90 percent, with more than 33.6 million users of this service. Canada has a population of more than 39.55 million inhabitants, as of January 1, 2023. The country is experiencing exponential population growth due to the immigration programs that are being promoted by the government.

The test led by Telus, the main mobile services operator, featured satellite connectivity from TerreStar, owned by Dish Networks, which has been using the available satellite spectrum to provide wireless connectivity. Skylo, meanwhile, is a start-up that emerged from MIT and Stanford University that has been developing connectivity at various levels, especially in the IoT segment for various verticals.

“This groundbreaking test demonstrates the power of satellite technology and advances Telus’ mission to provide vital connectivity to all areas of Canada. This collaboration with TerreStar and Skylo lays the foundation for a world where everyone has access to potentially life-saving connectivity, and where businesses and institutions can operate more sustainably and efficiently in remote regions. Through this innovative technology, we hope to ensure that even more Canadians can connect with what matters most,” said Darren Entwistle, president and CEO of Telus, in a statement.

In addition to providing backup connectivity for emergency situations, including those times when natural disasters impact networks and cell towers, this development is intended to improve employee safety and reduce costs for those industries that have with activities in remote areas. Also for the monitoring of critical operations, the monitoring of fleets in the logistics sector, and the availability of data in real time so that agriculture is carried out with greater sustainability.

The test carried out this time by these actors adds to that developed by AST Space Mobile and other players in the sector who are committed to finding new forms of entry into this technological link in addition to guaranteeing the ubiquity of connectivity. It will also be one of the topics on the agenda of the next WRC-23.

By Andrea Catalano

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