Credit: OmniAccess

PARIS — Maritime connectivity provider OmniAccess, a longtime customer of satellite fleet operator Telesat Canada, has signed a “major, multi-year” contract to purchase capacity on Telesat’ LEO constellation of low-orbiting broadband satellites.

OmniAccess is the first commercial customer for Telesat LEO, which is optimistically scheduled to enter commercial service in 2022. Telesat is expected to select a prime contractor for the LEO network later this year.

OmniAccess did not immediately respond to questions about whether it had taken an equity stake in Telesat LEO, whose financing remains unclear, or had agreed to a take-or-pay contract. The network is expected to cost several billion dollars.

The two companies said in a statement that OmniAccess “will become an important partner for Telesat LEO, and the agreement provides OmniAccess with certain limited exclusivity to serve the super-yacht market.”

Based in Lama de Mallorca, Spain, OmniAccess has been a regular customer for Telesat’s geostationary-orbit capacity for several years, well before the maritime service provider became part of the larger Marlink Group, in March 2018.

In late 2016, OmniAccess booked capacity on Telesat’s Telstar 12 Vantage high-throughput satellite for customers in the Caribbean. It has also booked capacity on Telstar 11N and Telstar 14R. Its VSAT-based service uses capacity on more than 30 satellite beams in C- and Ku-band with up to 500 mbps of throughput to certain customers.

OmniAccess was an early supporter of Panasonic Avionics’s planned XTS, or Extremely High Throughput, network, whose status is unclear.

Marlink has an extensive service portfolio that also uses Iridium, Inmarsat, Thuraya and Telenor satellite capacity for its customers. Marlink has 1,000 employees and reported 2017 revenue of around $500 million. It said OmniAccess would continue to operate as an independent company focused on the yacht and small-cruise-line markets.

OmniAccess said its customer base includes more than 350 vessels.
OmniAccess founder and Chief Executive Bertrand Hartman said Telesat LEO’s architecture will offer “ultra-low latency that rivals, our even exceeds, the fastest of today’s land-based fiber connections.

“For the first time in history, on-board systems and services will no longer be restricted by the limits imposed by today’s GEO and MEO-based technologies, finally bridging the digital divide that has held back on-board IT applications for so long,” Hartman said. “This will be a major game-changer for the maritime industry.”