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Canada’s Telesat takes on Musk and Bezos in space race to provide fast broadband

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By Steve Scherer

OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada’s Telesat is racing to launch a low-earth-orbit (LEO) satellite constellation to provide high-speed global broadband from space, pitting the satellite communications firm founded in 1969 against two trailblazing billionaires, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.

Musk, the Tesla Inc CEO who was only a year old when Telesat launched its first satellite, is putting the so-called Starlink LEO into orbit with his company SpaceX, and Amazon.com Inc, which Bezos founded, is planning a LEO called Project Kuiper. Bezos also owns Blue Origin, which builds rockets.

Despite the competition, Dan Goldberg, Telesat’s chief executive officer, voices confidence when he calls Telesat’s LEO constellation “the Holy Grail” for his shareholders – “a sustainable competitive advantage in global broadband delivery.”

Telesat’s LEO has a much lighter price tag than SpaceX and Amazon’s, and the company has been in satellite services decades longer. In addition, instead of focusing on the consumer market like SpaceX and Amazon, Telesat seeks deep-pocketed business clients.

Goldberg said he was literally losing sleep six years ago when he realized the company’s business model was in peril as Netflix and video streaming took off and fiber optics guaranteed lightning-fast internet connectivity.

Telesat’s 15 geostationary (GEO) satellites provide services mainly to TV broadcasters, internet service providers and government networks, all of whom were growing increasingly worried about the latency, or time delay, of bouncing signals off orbiters more than 35,000 km (22,200 miles) above earth.

Then in 2015 on a flight home from a Paris industry conference where latency was a constant theme, Goldberg wrote down his initial ideas for a LEO constellation on an Air Canada napkin.

Those ideas eventually led to Telesat’s LEO constellation, dubbed Lightspeed, which will orbit about 35 times closer to earth than GEO satellites, and will provide internet connectivity at a speed akin to fiber optics.

Telesat’s first launch is planned in early 2023, while there are already some 1,200 of Musk’s Starlink satellites in orbit.

“Starlink is going to be in service much sooner … and that gives SpaceX the opportunity to win customers,” said Caleb Henry, a senior analyst at Quilty Analytics.

Starlink’s “first mover” advantage is at most 24 months and “no one’s going to lock this whole market up in that amount of time,” Goldberg said.

Telesat in 2019 signed a launch deal with Bezos’ aerospace company Blue Origin. Discussions are ongoing with three others, said David Wendling, Telesat’s chief technical officer.

They are Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, Europe’s ArianeGroup , and Musk’s SpaceX, which launches the Starlink satellites. Wendling said a decision would be taken in a matter of months.

Telesat aims to launch its first batch of 298 satellites being built by Thales Alenia Space in early 2023, with partial service in higher latitudes later that same year, and full global service in 2024.

‘SWEET SPOT’

The Lightspeed constellation is estimated to cost half as much as the $10 billion SpaceX and Amazon projects.

“We think we’re in the sweet spot,” Goldberg said. “When we look at some of these other constellations, we don’t get it.”

Analyst Henry said Telesat’s focus on business clients is the right one.

“You have two heavyweight players, SpaceX and Amazon, that are already pledging to spend $10 billion on satellite constellations optimized for the consumer market,” he said. “If Telesat can spend half that amount creating a high-performance system for businesses, then yeah, they stand to be very competitive.”

Telesat’s industry experience may also provide an edge.

“We’ve worked with many of these customers for decades … That’s going to give us a real advantage,” Goldberg said.

Telesat “is a satellite operator, has been a satellite operator, and has both the advantage of expertise and experience in that business,” said Carissa Christensen, chief executive officer of the research firm BryceTech, adding, however, that she sees only two to three LEO constellations surviving.

Telesat is nailing down financing – one-third equity and two-thirds debt – and will become publicly traded on the Nasdaq sometime this summer, and it could also list on the Toronto exchange after that. Currently, Canada’s Public Sector Pension Investment Board and Loral Space & Communications Inc are the company’s main shareholders.

France and Canada’s export credit agencies, BPI and EDC respectively, are expected to be the main lenders, Goldberg said. Quebec’s provincial government is lending C$400 million ($317 million), and Canada’s federal government has promised C$600 million to be a preferred customer. The company also posted C$246 million in net income in 2020.

Executing the LEO plan is what keeps Goldberg up at night now, he said.

“When we decided to go down this path, the two richest people in the universe weren’t focused on their own LEO constellations.”

($1 = 1.2622 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Ottawa; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

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Colonial Pipeline hackers stole data on Thursday

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The hackers who caused Colonial Pipeline to shut down on Friday began their cyberattack against the top U.S. fuel pipeline operator a day earlier and stole a large amount of data, Bloomberg News reported citing people familiar with the matter.

The attackers are part of a cybercrime group called DarkSide and took nearly 100 gigabytes of data out of Colonial’s network in just two hours on Thursday, Bloomberg reported late Saturday, citing two people involved in the company’s investigation.

Colonial did not immediately reply to an email from Reuters seeking comment outside usual U.S. business hours.

Colonial Pipeline shut its entire network, the source of nearly half of the U.S. East Coast’s fuel supply, after a cyber attack that involved ransomware.

 

(Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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Betsson Secures a 50% Stake in JDP Tech – Looking to Boost Growth in Latin America

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Swedish iGaming giant Betsson has recently invested heavily into expanding into new markets as it seeks to continue to grow its business. The online sports betting and casino operator acquired a 50% stake in JDP Tech, a company offering payment processing focused on the South American market.

Through Betsson Perch Investments, a subsidiary of Betsson, the iGaming operator paid a total of €8.8 million in shares to JDP tech in order to obtain a 50% stake. JD Tech is a software development company focusing on payment processing solutions, a vital part of any iGaming company.

According to Pontus Lindwall, CEO of Betsson, the deal is an integral part of Betsson’s long term strategy. He said: “This is a strategically important region for Betsson, and we see great potential for the company in the long term. With this major investment, Betsson is well-positioned to further expand our business in the Latin American online gaming market.”

Why Payment processing is Important for the Latin American Market

Payment processing is important in any market, with consumers preferring to use sites that offer fast and secure payments without complicated requirements or rules. In Latin America, the iGaming market is expanding rapidly, and there’s a need for sites offering convenient payments.

Latin American users expect to be able to deposit funds to their account quickly using their preferred method, and withdrawals should be fast and simple too. It’s important that iGaming sites listen to the needs of the consumers and ensure that a wide range of popular payment methods are supported. For this, good payment processing software is an integral part of a site.

Latin American consumers have a growing number of options to choose from when it comes to iGaming, so they’re likely to join a competitor if the site they’re using doesn’t offer the kind of service they expect.

How Betsson Aims to Expand in Latin America

Betsson has been targeted the Latin American market for some time now, and this recent acquisition represents part of the company’s long-term strategy in this area of the world. In 2019, Betsson purchased a 75% stake in Suaposta, a Brazillian sports betting operator. This move came shortly after Brazil passed new sports betting regulations and aimed to put Betsson in the best position for the deregulation of the sports betting market.

Last year, Betsson also entered the Colombian market, buying a 70% stake in Colbet as it looked to expand its South American operations. In addition to this, Betsson is aiming to obtain an operating licence in Buenos Ares, Argentina.

In Mexico, the Swedish betting giant entered into a partnership with Big Bola Casinos, aiming to launch a sports betting service in later 2021. Big Bola Casinos is one of the few gambling operators licenced by the government of Mexico, giving Betsson an excellent opportunity to establish itself in a relatively undeveloped market.

These moves show that Betsson is serious about entering the Latin American market and is looking to become one of the biggest sports betting operators in the area. Through continued investments and partnerships, Betsson has taken steps to grow its business and bringing safe and convenient sports betting to a wider market.

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After an initial slow start, Victorian over 50s are turning out to get their COVID jabs – ABC News

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Brenda Holt would have been at the front of the line to get her COVID vaccination this morning, except there was no line.

Brenda walked right on in to Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building vaccination hub, got her jab and left with a tear in her eye as she moved a tiny step closer to being able to visit her family in Texas.

Anyone over the age of 50 can now get the AstraZeneca vaccine at a mass vaccination clinic but, in Melbourne at least, it was a seemingly slow start.

Wait times of under 15 minutes were being reported for people who arrived without an appointment at all of the high-volume vaccination centres in Melbourne, Geelong and Ballarat this morning.

By midday, wait times had stretched to more than an hour at the Exhibition Building, the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, and the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital.

The state health department said the Royal Exhibition Building was booked out for appointments, and it was experiencing very high call volumes through its vaccine phone booking service.

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Brenda expected more people to be waiting in line early to get the jab when the centres opened.

“I just am shocked and really disappointed,” Brenda said.

“I think that we’re in a bit of a bubble here in Australia, we don’t understand how devastating it’s been, and it’s not real to us.

“We’ve been so lucky and we’ve handled this so well until the vaccination rollout, I have no idea why it’s taken so long.”

A middle-aged woman
Brenda Holt couldn’t understand why there weren’t more people queueing to get the COVID vaccine.(

ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier

)

Everyone who booked will be vaccinated 

Jeroen Weimar, Victoria’s COVID-19 Response Commander, said by lunchtime, 8,500 people had called the COVID-19 hotline to make a booking. 

“At the moment, what we’re seeing is a really healthy demand for people coming out who want to get vaccinated,” he said.

“Everybody who’s got an appointment today will be vaccinated today. Everyone in line will get a vaccination today.”

If the queues were too long at the end of the day, Mr Weimar said people would be asked to come back the next day.

Bookings queue sign at a vaccination centreBookings queue sign at a vaccination centre
The vaccination queue at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre grew steadily through the day. (

ABC News: Patrick Rocca

)

The Box Hill Hospital vaccination centre, in Melbourne’s east, was very busy in the morning and some people were asked to go to a nearby clinic at Ringwood East, Mr Weimar said.

He said there were wait times of up to 90 minutes for some people who had not booked appointments at the large vaccination centres.

With a staff of 700 people handling the calls, he said the operation would be scaled up as appropriate.

“We will quite happily put hundreds more people into the phone lines if the demand is there to book vaccinations,” Mr Weimar said.

“My request for Victorians would be, if you’re eligible, come forward now so we can get you vaccinated.

“Let’s have a really busy few weeks and months and then we can get on and get the rest of the community done.”

So far, 520,000 Victorians have received their first dose of a vaccine.  

There are now six high-volume vaccination hubs operating in Victoria, at the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, the former Ford Factory in Geelong, the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, Sunshine Hospital and Mercure Ballarat.

Another 15 vaccination centres have opened today at these locations:

  • Bendigo Hospital
  • Latrobe Regional Hospital – Traralgon Racecourse
  • Albury Wodonga Health – Wodonga Community vaccination clinic
  • GV Health – Shepparton Showgrounds, McIntosh Centre
  • Eastern Health – Box Hill
  • Eastern Health – Ringwood East Community Clinic*
  • Northern Health – Epping
  • Monash Health – Monash Medical Centre*
  • Monash Health – Dandenong*
  • Monash Health – Kingston*
  • Monash Health – Moorabbin*
  • St John of God Hospital – Berwick*
  • Peninsula Health – Rosebud Hospital*
  • Peninsula Health – Frankston*
  • Austin Health – Olivia Newton-John Centre*

(* Phone bookings only initially, no walk-ins)

Another mass vaccination hub will open tomorrow at the Cranbourne Turf Club.

There are about two million Victorians now eligible to get the COVID vaccination.

The majority being vaccinated now are receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, with a limited number of people under 50 in the 1a and 1b priority groups getting the Pfizer vaccine.

Epidemiologist Catherine Bennett said there may be some hesitancy to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, given reports of blood clots in a small number of people.

“As more people take up the vaccine, I think other people will then think yeah, there’s a lot of benefits of this, and my friends are fine, and I’m OK with this,” she said.

The Royal Exhibition Building with a section roped off for a COVID vaccination lineThe Royal Exhibition Building with a section roped off for a COVID vaccination line
The wait time for COVID vaccinations at Victoria’s mass vaccination hubs was less than 15 minutes this morning.(

ABC News: Stephanie Ferrier

)

Professor Bennett said the vaccination scheme was starting to gather speed after a slow start.

“We’ve actually had four times as many jabs go out in the last four weeks, as did in the previous first six weeks of the rollout,” she said.

“And in another two weeks, it steps up again, because that’s when they can also access the vaccine through their GP.”

Brenda said she understood the hesitancy some people might feel about the COVID vaccine, but the risk was small.

“Any of us who’ve taken any drugs at any time, I mean you take a risk and I think the risk of what this vaccine can do compared to what COVID could do to you are pretty stark,” she said.

Dianne McKenzie was also among those getting vaccinated at the Royal Exhibition Building, and said she felt a sense of relief.

“Gotta say I’m really grateful, because I’ve been trying to keep safe, trying to keep my elderly mum safe by staying away from people, and this feels like a little bit of extra protection so I can stop worrying about myself and worrying about her and relax a little bit after a hard year,” she said.

A woman smiles at the camera.A woman smiles at the camera.
Dianne McKenzie is encouraging other eligible people to get the COVID vaccine.

Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp urged people to follow the advice of doctors after receiving her vaccine dose at the Convention and Exhibition Centre.

“The scariest part is actually admitting publicly that you are 50,” she said.

“If that’s the scariest bit then we’re going to be OK. We know that all of the health experts have said that AstraZeneca is effective and I think it’s really important that we keep listening to that health advice.” 

The Victorian health department is also recommending people who have had the flu vaccine wait for two weeks before receiving the COVID vaccine.

The department said there was no evidence the two vaccinations interact with each other, but if a person does have a reaction, the 14-day time frame would make it clear which vaccine they have reacted to.

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