How do you connect to the Internet? Probably you have a home Wi-Fi network or you are using a mobile network for sending and receiving data with terrestrial providers. This may change in the coming years, thanks to new space satellite Internet services from companies such as SpaceX and OneWeb, which promise to bring billions of people online by 2021.
When we have a space Internet?
According to various estimates, about 3.3 billion people have no access to the Internet, but Elon Musk wants to change that. Thursday, may 23, after two cancelled launches last week, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites on the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the mission for the dissemination of inexpensive high-speed satellite Internet around the world.
SpaceX is one of nine companies who are planning to launch a huge constellation. The company Mask, at least, will launch 12 000 to provide global coverage of the planet to access the Internet to earth from space using radio waves.
“The number of people worldwide that do not have regular access to the Internet, is simply amazing. And ground company interest to meet the needs of these rural customers,” says Caleb Williams of the U.S. consulting firm SpaceWorks. “Space Internet services can help to reduce this gap and bring billions of people online”.
In this race — in addition to the American SpaceX and OneWeb — LeoSat are also from the Netherlands, Kepler Communications and Telesat Canada, as well as several others, each of which has been approved by the Federal communications Commission (FCC) in its constellation. Others, such as Amazon, which introduced its constellation Project Kuiper with 3000 satellites in the beginning of this year, also plans to launch similar services.
None of the nine companies with the approval of the FCC has still not revealed how exactly that will work their services and how much they will cost. We know that to connect to one of these constellations, you’ll need a dish on earth that is not similar to satellite television, and probably worth hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the region.
“The terminals that end users will use to connect, constitute a huge barrier, because it is very expensive,” says Palerm lluc-Serra, senior analyst at Northern Sky Research in Spain, noting that in many countries there are also strict regulatory system in which companies need to exist in order to provide services to satellite Internet. “The launch of the global service is very difficult. None of the ISP’s ever done that before, because all are usually focused on one country”.
This highlights one of the key issues already arising on the subject of the Internet services space. While many declare their goal is to connect the whole world with a network — how many people can afford it? All want to be online? In June of 2018 Facebook has postponed plans to build its own drone, which he intended to use to transmit Internet to rural areas. Earlier, a drone crashed.
“If you are trying to connect the really poor regions of the world where people struggle to meet basic needs such as food, water, electricity, the concept of the need of the Internet is not completely clear,” says Manny Ball, head of analysts in Bryce Space and Technology in London. “The demand for these services remains to be proven”.
Itself satellite Internet is not new. Several companies such as Hughes Communications and ViaSat and the United States, are already offering satellite Internet services that allow people to connect to the Internet on the plane. The first of these operates two satellites in geostationary orbit at the altitude of 35 000 km; and the third to be launched in 2021. The company has 1.3 million customers in the United States.
What’s new megasize hope to surpass the existing system is the speed, coverage and, possibly, price. Currently, satellite Internet will cost from 40 to 80 pounds (5-6 thousand) per month depending on where you live and what download speed you need. It is unclear how much will cost a new service, but the key factor is competitiveness.
“None of the companies that currently want to create a large satellite constellation for space Internet, are unable to provide a comprehensive guide to their pricing models,” says Williams, who believes that SpaceX might charge about 50 pounds in a month. “The gold standard will be competition with terrestrial providers. If not to compete, will have to rely on customers who have little land-based alternatives, such as living in rural and remote regions.”
Even if they can’t compete on price, they will certainly be able to compete on coverage. Current satellite Internet is limited to areas over which revolve the satellites and bandwidth is limited by the number of users connecting to one satellite. Companies like SpaceX and OneWeb are hoping to change this by offering continuous broadband coverage anywhere on Earth, even in Antarctica, with its huge constellation of satellites.
While at lower elevations from 500 to 1200 km, they will also be able to reduce latency — the time required for sending a signal to the satellite and back, limited by the speed of light. This may not be enough to play online, but enough to support audiobased via the Internet.
Existing satellite Internet is also not yet able to overcome the barrier of download speeds of 100 Mbps. while SpaceX keeps the speed of your service a secret, OneWeb advertises possible speed up to 2.5 Gbit/S. the Company hopes to begin to run from 30 to 36 satellites with a missile each month until the end of 2019, and in total will be 650 or more.
The management of these constellations in orbit is also a problem, especially the risk of collision with other satellites and removal of space debris from orbit. At the moment in orbit, only about 2000 active satellites, but if you run all scheduled satellite Internet constellation, this number will reach or exceed 20000.
The United Nations requests satellite operators to withdraw their satellites from orbit within 25 years, to prevent the accumulation of space debris, but it is unclear how these nine companies will do it. Many seem to rely on their inboard engines, but they often break and satellites remain in orbit. The launching of thousands of satellites and no way of removing them may seriously aggravate the problem of space debris.
At low altitudes (500 km) orbit naturally degrade in a few years due to air resistance, but at high altitudes in 1200 miles they will remain in orbit for thousands of years, if they are not to be output from the orbit.
Ultimately, it is unclear who will use the space Internet, how it will work (including the cost) and whether a market exists for such a large number of different companies. In addition, the defense Ministry stated that disrupt the global free Internet satellite Mask or from any other sources.
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