SpaceX applies for Canadian telecom licence as it looks to deliver internet to rural areas

Could SpaceX be one of Canada's next big telecoms?

Elon Musk smiling

Elon Musk’s SpaceX aerospace company has applied for a licence from Canada’s telecom regulator amid plans to offer high-speed internet to the country’s rural areas via satellite.

As first reported by The Globe and Mail, SpaceX’s application for a Basic International Telecommunications Services (BITS) licence was posted on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) website on May 20th.

The CRTC now has until Friday, June 19th, 2020 to comment on the application. That said, it’s unclear how long it will take for the regulator to come to a decision on whether it will actually approve the application.

SpaceX is seeking a licence for its Starlink startup, which aims to leverage an extensive network of hundreds of low-Earth-orbit (LEO) satellites to help provide internet across the northern U.S. and Canada.

As it stands, it’s unclear exactly how much of Canada Starlink intends to reach. However, the company says its ultimate goal is to provide “near global coverage” by next year.

It’s worth noting, however, that BITS licences aren’t actually necessary for internet providers that don’t offer voice-call services, as Samer Bishay, co-founder of Toronto satellite company Kepler Communications, told The Globe. 

What this means is that SpaceX might be covering its bases should it eventually decide to bundle internet with other phone-based services. While this by no means guarantees that SpaceX intends to just do that, it does, perhaps, suggest how the aerospace company may look to grow its business in Canada down the line.

It’s also worth pointing out that one of the notable aspects of the CRTC website is that it opens certain proceedings for comment, allowing members of the public to share their thoughts on given applications. With respect to SpaceX’s BITS license application, more than 1,200 comments have already been posted, which seems to suggest a general Canadian interest in the matter.

In particular, many of these comments express support for Starlink to come to Canada.

“I support greater internet accessibility, and more options, for all Canadian [sic],” writes Adam Gavin.

“I’m very highly in support of Space Exploration to be allowed to bring their innovative satellite internet services in Canada that will highly impact and push canadian businesses and rural communities forward [sic],” said Jasdeep Singh.

“Currently using a LTE data plan which is spotty and has a dreadfully low data cap. This will allow me to have proper internet at an affordable rate and setup cost,” said Robin Saunders. “This will allow me to work and live properly in the modern era. FULL SUPPORT.”

The full list of comments — as well as the form to submit your own — can be found here.

Source: The Globe and Mail

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