Telstra is set to upgrade parts of its regional mobile network through a new partnership with Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite provider OneWeb.
Telstra has hundreds of mobile base stations that connect to the wider internet through a satellite connection. As part of the partnership, Telstra will migrate these base stations from traditional satellites to LEO satellites, increasing speed and capacity. Each base station will have up to 25Gbps of capacity, which Telstra says is enough to handle real-time traffic like video calls. These upgrades will start later this year.
Since LEO satellites are closer to the earth than the satellites used for internet solutions like Sky Muster NBN, speed and latency are both better. The downside is that thousands of LEO satellites are needed to deliver internet, while traditional satellite internet solutions only use between one and four. Elon Musk's Starlink also uses LEO satellites for connectivity.
Telstra also plans to use LEO satellites to help meet its commitment of delivering 100,000 square kilometres of new mobile coverage by the end of the 2025 financial year. Telstra will use OneWeb's LEO services for new mobile base stations where a satellite connection is the preferred or only viable option for connecting them to the wider internet.
Outside of the mobile space, Telstra says the OneWeb agreement will allow it to offer fixed broadband services to regional Australia in the future. This would see it directly competing with Starlink and NBN Co for those customers. Telstra, notably, does not currently sell Sky Muster NBN plans.
OneWeb isn't Telstra's only satellite-related partnership. Last year it signed a 16.5-year deal with satellite provider Viasat to build and manage ground infrastructure for its upcoming LEO constellation.