SpaceX Satellite Internet is set to launch by the year 2019.  With Google’s $ 1 Billion funding, the SpaceX Internet will cater the commercial and home Internet market around the World. With 1 GBPS average connection speed per user.
SpaceX Satellite Internet SpaceX Satellite Constellation
Artistic Depiction of SpaceX Satellite Constellation Project Credit Techscoop Art

The SpaceX Satellite Internet

Officially known as the SpaceX Satellite Constellation Project, the SpaceX satellite Internet may become reality very soon. SpaceX filed the request for a license with the FCC for launching Non Geostationary satellites.  Elon Musk plans to launch about 4,425 Non-Geostationary Satellites. These Satellites are targetting a global high-speed satellite Internet service market.

The SpaceX Satellite Constellation Project will offer higher speed & low latency than existing Internet network. As initial instalments of Satellites, SpaceX plans to launch 800 satellites by the year 2019.

The SpaceX Internet will cover entire globe with thousands of non-geostationary satellites. Elon Musk is planning Satellite Internet since 2015 since the SpaceX successfully tested their Falcon 9 rocket.

The SpaceX Satellite Internet will become a global phenomenon as most of the Internet traffic uses underwater cables for Intercontinental transmission. These cables link continents with high-speed channels that require constant maintenance and monitoring. Submerged cables float on the bottom of the ocean, from every continent to other except Antarctica.

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Elon Musk wants to use their satellite technology to establish a more inclusive and cheap Internet network. The Internet we get is expensive thanks to the monopoly of few Industries and high maintenance cost of Submarine Cables.

SpaceX Satellite Internet vs Submarine cables
Submarine cable Network Credits submarinecablemap.com

SpaceX Satellite Internet will be faster than its terrestrial cable Internet counterpart. Since the Speed of Light is 40 % faster than that of the speed of signals through cable wires. The maintenance of Satellites is less than cables, as they suffer the wrath of ocean currents, corrosion etc.

Global Internet Market is set for disruption and Google knows it. Google has also shown interest in SpaceX’s plan to disrupt Internet business. According to SpaceX, the whole Satellite Internet business model require $ 10 Billion.

Why SpaceX wants to become an ISP?

Actually Elon Musk’s dream project SpaceX is set in future. It is quite a possibility that commercialization of Earth-Mars flight may take more than three decades. What Elon is doing with SpaceX is something an old man does when he plants a seed. That seed will become a tree for future generations.

Elon Musk is quite possibly not doing the SpaceX project for profit because there is none. SpaceX is bringing a lot on the table but there are only a few customers. Most of them are government agencies. Government Agencies with heavy funding like NASA, US – DOD, DRDO India, ISRO India, CNCA China, Roscosmos Russia etc. They do not care for funds when it comes to success and secrecy of projects, mostly because it’s not their money. Entire business model of SpaceX relies on reusability of Rockets to cut down costs. So it’s already hard for SpaceX to get government agencies as customers.

In order to fund their business, SpaceX needs to explore other avenues where they can use their existing resources. SpaceX Satellite Constellation Project seems to be a step in that direction only.

SpaceX’s Blueprint to launch Satellite Constellation Project

SpaceX plans to launch about 4,425 satellites by the year 2023. These satellites will be pushed into low-Earth orbits, at an altitude range of 1160 ~ 1320 KM above sea level.

SpaceX claims that they can reduce latencies to be between 25 and 35ms. Which is approximately similar latencies for wired Internet services, but far less than present satellite ISP. The current ISP who provide satellite Internet have latencies of 600ms and great.

Greater Bandwidth due to the wider channel. High Internet speed of 1 GBPS per connection. Low Cost per GB. High availability. The satellite, gateway, Earth Stations, Terminals, Access Points etc. devices will be manufactured and distributed by SpaceX itself. The Internet AP (Access Point) will abstract all technical details from a home user. It will be just like a plug and play system.

Each satellite is able to provide downlink capacity of 17 to 23Gbps. SpaceX requested FCC to allow them to use frequencies in the Ku and Ka bands. The Ku and Ka bands range between 10GHz and 30GHz.

The Challenges ahead of SpaceX

SpaceX currently faces some early stage problems any unique venture faces. It’s the completion and other is Government Regulations. The Government Regulation by US FCC is pretty much binding and from the cold war era. The said regulation put a lot of restrictions on private ventures, such as SpaceX.

But there are some progressive steps from FCC that allows SpaceX to launch more Rockets per year for commercial purposes. Most regulations are more than two decades old and do not support possibilities of the current space industry.

Another Challenge is Funding. Only 1.5 percent of all government funding for the Internet is for Satellite Broadband Infrastructure. Apart from funding, there are telecom lobbyists that lobby against spectrum allocation and usage. Such issues are present in politics throughout the world.

Who Else wants to capture the Satellite Internet 

Existing Satellite Internet provider, The HughesNet is the biggest satellite communication service provider from the US and serves worldwide. The HughesNet can provide speed up to 25 Mbps. Satellite of HughesNet is 35500 KM from sea level. That causes latency in their network.

There are few other companies like OneWeb, Samsung and Amazon are also planning to launch their own Satellite Networks into low orbit by the year 2020. SpaceX however, is way ahead of its competitions.

Conclusion

So it’s clear that in coming years we will see mind-blowing technical advances. Something like people in the middle of the 20th century saw, like the advent of TV, Air Travel, Medicine etc. SpaceX looks way ahead in the race but it is sure that it’s not going to be free lunch for them, as Amazon, Boing, Samsung and OneWeb are gearing up for battle.

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