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Telstra Looks to Use LEO/MEO Satellite Coverage to Improve Service, Exec Says

By | September 23, 2022

Via Satellite illustration.

Telstra, one of Asia’s largest telcos, is looking forwarding to deepening its relationship with the satellite industry as it looks to embrace new satellite tech over the coming years. Sri Amirthalingam, Telstra’s Commercial Engineering executive, told Via Satellite that over the last two to three years, Telstra has been excited to see the new Low-Earth Orbit and Medium-Earth Orbit technologies and constellations become reality.

“We are aiming to exploit these new technologies to provide better services to our customers in regional areas. Further, we will also support LEO/MEO providers build their terrestrial network for their ground segment and connectivity requirements,” he said.

Amirthalingam believes multi-orbit solutions present more choice for the industry, in terms of different bandwidth capability, latency, and cost economics. “This will benefit satellite users as it allows operators to better tailor solutions to address various user needs, whether it be using LEO, MEO, or GEO [Geostationary] or a combination of the three,” he said.

Telstra is always interested in investing in the right types of technologies to service its customers. This includes satellite capacity, where the company will invest for regional connectivity where it is appropriate for cellular backhaul and fixed services.

Amirthalingam sees that new constellations are a “positive step towards bringing improved satellite capabilities to end users – promising higher speeds and lower latency services. However, we also see a continued need for traditional GEO satellite technologies which have their own unique characteristics compared to LEOs.”

Earlier this year, Telstra signed a deal with OneWeb to explore new solutions for improved digital connectivity across Australia and the Asia Pacific region. The partnership complements Telstra’s T25 ambition to grow and extend its network leadership position and boost mobile coverage across the country. It is an example of how it could work with the satellite industry going forward.

Australia has a rich and diverse geography with its population scattered in remote territories. Telstra, as one of the main telcos in Australia, is focusing on delivering more connectivity to regional areas and is open to leveraging this experience to partner with satellite providers.

“For satellite operators, partnering with telcos and leveraging the benefits of existing terrestrial and subsea assets that they own and have spent decades building up – including fiber networks, IP backbones, satellite teleports and data centers – means they can gain critical ground infrastructure. That is critical because any byte transmitted to a satellite has to transverse some type of terrestrial connection,” Amirthalingam said.

He believes satellite operators can reduce the cost and need for additional personnel required to develop, install, and maintain their own terrestrial infrastructure over the long term. A provider like Telstra can also more easily secure licences as it has an extensive track record working with in-country regulators based on its telco business.

One of the big questions over the next few months, and even years, is whether satellite players will increase and improve their relationships with telco players. Will we see more progressive partnerships as telcos look to realize the vision of 5G?

“From a global perspective, we can expect to see more agreements being struck between satellite operators and telecoms providers into the future. Our announcement in March this year with OneWeb, is an example of how we’re expanding our presence in the satellite telecommunications market. It’s critical that service providers such as Telstra continually invest in new types of infrastructure,” Amirthalingam said.

5G is set to be a big focus for the operator as it looks to bring cutting edge digital services to people across Australia. Telstra’s 5G network covers around 80 percent of the population with 3.5 million 5G capable devices already connected. “Telstra has Australia’s largest 5G network across cities and regional areas for both business and residential customers. 5G continues to be a big focus for Telstra, as we deploy new technologies to offer a better and even more reliable service to our customers,” Amirthalingam said.