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Global Internet coming soon...

Updated: Dec 17, 2018

The Economist reports on the race to provide internet connectivity to every corner of the globe:


Several companies, including SpaceX and OneWeb, are racing to provide satellite based internet connectivity to the whole world, including the 3.5bn people that lack access to the internet.

To do this, they companies will have to place constellations of hundreds or thousands satellites into low earth orbit (500-1500km above the earth). At this altitude, each satellite will orbit the earth a dozen or so times per day and from the perspective of a point on the earth, "[a] satellite overhead will sink below the horizon seven minutes later." Therefore, "to ensure that a satellite is always available to any user, a great many are required." In addition, "to talk to such a satellite you need an antenna that can track it across the sky."

Some companies aim to produce such ground-based antennas, which will be fixed "solid-state" antennas without moving parts and be approximately the size of a pizza, as consumer broadband terminals costing as little as $200. Other companies plan to focus on businesses, cellular networks, maritime and aviation customers instead.

In addition, SpaceX was granted approval by the Federal Communications Commission "to launch a constellation of 7,518 satellites into orbit. The approval is in addition to one that SpaceX received from the FCC in March for a constellation of 4,425 satellites. That means the company now has permission to launch its full satellite internet constellation called Starlink, which adds up to nearly 12,000 spacecraft."

"SpaceX’s approvals are conditional, though. In order to bring each mega-constellation into full use, the company needs to launch half of the satellites within the next six years. That means the clock is ticking to get nearly 6,000 satellites into orbit by 2024. SpaceX says it will launch its first batch of Starlink satellites in 2019."

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