China Telecom and China Mobile invest in LEO satellite companies

Two of China’s state-owned telcos have taken stakes in new LEO satellite companies.

  • China Telecom has set up a new fully owned subsidiary, Tiantong Satellite Technology Co., registered in Shenzhen with 1 billion Chinese yuan (US$138 million) paid-in capital.  China Telecom, which is currently the only operator with a mobile satellite license, operates three Tiantong Geo orbit satellites, launched between 2016 and 2021, covering China, the western Pacific and its neighbors. 
  • In April China Mobile took a 20% stake in a new RMB4 billion ($551 million) state-owned company, China Shikong Xinxi Co., registered in Xiongan. China Satellite Network Group, the company behind Starnet, China’s biggest LEOsat project, will own 55%, and aerospace contractor Norinco, a 25% shareholder.

China Telecom will shutter its legacy satellite subsidiary, established in 2009, and transfer the assets into the new company.

The other new business, China Shikong, lists its scope as satellite communication, satellite navigation and remote sensing services.

The two investments come as China Starnet is readying to launch its first satellites in the second half of the year. It is aiming to build a constellation of 13,000, with the first 1,300 going into operation over the next five years, local media has reported. 

In addition to Starnet, two other mass constellations are planned – the state-owned G60 and a private operator, Shanghai Hongqing. Neither has set a timetable.  They will be playing catch up with western operators like Starlink and OneWeb, which are already operating thousands of commercial satellites.

Since foreign operators are forbidden from selling into China, it is not yet clear how China is going to structure its LEO satellite industry and what role precisely the new operators are going to play.


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