Consider this an update to an article we ran two years headlined, “Three high tech giants plans to bring cheap internet to everyone in the world.” Those three companies are Google, Facebook and SpaceX.
To be blunt, SpaceX and Tesla-founder Elon Musk has never been afflicted with a shortage of audacity. In addition to owning Tesla, the world’s most advanced electric car company, he’s also building a fleet of reusable rockets, claims he’s going to colonize Mars, says he’s going to build his own personal tunnel under Los Angeles to make his commute easier, and wants to offer worldwide high-speed internet access by launching what he calls a “constellation” of satellites.
It’s that last item that we find most interesting. We’re not embarrassed to say that Musk has repeatedly proven doubters (like us) wrong over the years and he may just do it again with his “constellation” of broadband-providing satellites.
As phys.org reported, “In November of 2016, SpaceX filed an application with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a license to operate this constellation of non-geostationary satellites (NGS). And earlier this week, the US Senate Committee on Commerce. Science, and Transportation convened a hearing to explore this proposal for next-generation telecommunications services.”
Naturally, the hearings were given the kind of overly wordy title we’ve come to expect from government committees. In this case, the title was “Investing in America’s Broadband Infrastructure: Exploring Ways to Reduce Barriers to Deployment.”
Patricia Cooper, Musk’s VP of Satellite Government Affairs, testified that, “SpaceX sees substantial demand for high-speed broad band in the United States and worldwide. As the Committee is aware, millions of Americans outside of limited urban areas lack basic, reliable access. Furthermore, even in urban areas, a majority of Americans lacks more than a single fixed broadband provider from which to choose and may seek additional competitive options for high-speed service.”
According to the Federal Communications Commission findings, America trails other developed nations in terms of broadband speed, access, and affordability. The FCC also said that 34 million American lack access to 25 Mbps broadband service and another 47% of students lack service that meets the FCC’s goals. (While this is undoubtedly true, CheapInternet.com believes the FCC’s goals are unrealistically high and unnecessary.)
Musk and SpaceX want to solve these problems (and others) by launching a vast fleet of 4,425 broadband satellites.
Yes, you read this correctly. 4,425 satellites.
SpaceX says the first one will be put into orbit in 2019 and then the launches will continue until all 4,425 satellites have been put into orbit by 2024.
“Later this year, SpaceX will begin the process of testing the satellites themselves, launching one prototype before the end of the year and another during the early months of 2018,” Cooper told the Congressional hearing. “…The remaining satellites in the constellation will be launched in phases through 2024, when the system will reach full capacity…”
And that’s just the beginning. SpaceX plans to put an additional 7,500 satellites into lower orbits to increase broadband capacity in larger metropolitan areas.
If SpaceX can meet its very aggressive goals, it may be a solution to a problem that’s barreling down the highway in our direction. As phys.org said, “It is expected that internet use will reach proportions unheard of a few decades ago.”
Experts estimate that the number of internet users will jump to nearly 5 billion in the next few years. That’s up from a mere 1.7 billion users worldwide in 2010.
We wish Musk and SpaceX well. We hope they end up launching so many rockets that the skies look like a 4th of July fireworks celebration. And we hope that when the smoke clears, EVERYONE finds the kind of high-speed, low-cost internet access they need in today’s world.