SpaceX plans global ‘space internet’
March 17, 2017
SpaceX has applied to the FCC to launch 11,943 satellites into low-Earth orbit, providing “ubiquitous high-bandwidth (up to 1Gbps per user, once fully deployed) broadband services for consumers and businesses in the U.S. and globally,” according to FCC applications.
Recent meetings with the FCC suggest that the plan now looks like “an increasingly feasible reality — particularly with 5G technologies just a few years away, promising new devices and new demand for data,” Verge reports.
Such a service will be particularly useful to rural areas, which have limited access to internet bandwidth.
Low-Earth orbit (at up to 2,000 kilometers, or 1,200 mi) ensures lower latency (communication delay between Earth and satellite) — making the service usable for voice communications via Skype, for example — compared to geosynchronous orbit (at 35,786 kilometers, or 22,000 miles), offered by Dish Network and other satellite ISP services.* The downside: it takes a lot more satellites to provide the coverage.
Boeing, Softbank-backed OneWeb (which hopes to “connect every school to the Internet by 2022″), Telesat, and others** have proposed similar services, possibly bringing the total number of satellites to about 20,000 in low and mid earth orbits in the 2020s, estimates Next Big Future.
* “SpaceX expects its latencies between 25 and 35ms, similar to the latencies measured for wired Internet services. Current satellite ISPs have latencies of 600ms or more, according to FCC measurements, notes Ars Technica.
** Audacy, Karousel, Kepler Communications, LeoSat, O3b, Space Norway,Theia Holdings, and ViaSat, according to Space News. The ITU [international counterpart of the FCC] has set rules preventing new constellations to interfere with established ground and satellite systems operating in the same frequencies. OneWeb, for example, has said it will basically switch off power as its satellites cross the equator so as not to disturb transmissions from geostationary-orbit satellites directly above and using Ku-band frequencies.