Franco-Italian group Thales Alenia Space has won a multi-billion dollar contract for a huge constellation of telecom satellites for the Canadian group Telesat.

Telesat is to spend around $3.0 billion for almost 300 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites that will allow it to provide high-speed internet and communication services, a statement said.

The group already operates a network of geo-stationary satellites that orbit the earth at an altitude of 35,000 kilometres (22,000 miles). The new constellation, dubbed Lightspeed, is to comprise 298 satellites, the statement said.

"We will be able to provide full global service in 2024," Telesat chief executive Dan Goldberg claimed, adding that the project's final cost is estimated at $5.0 billion.

Thales Alenia Space is majority owned by the French group Thales, with the Italian company Leonardo holding a minority share.

"With this historic contract, Thales Alenia Space confirms its position as the industrial benchmark in global satellite constellations," a group statement said.

LEO satellites are much lighter than geo-stationary ones and can provide large bandwidth coverage to telecommunications companies.

Thales Alenia Space chief executive Herve Derry said the group would build "the most advanced constellation network ever conceived.

"Basically we will offer fibre-like service across the globe," he said.

Goldberg, who confirmed it was his group's largest contract ever, commented, "We are focused on bridging the digital divide by providing very fast affordable links to mobile network operators and telephone companies.

"We're focused on providing much better broadband connectivity to airplanes and ships and government users," he added.