Single post

Internet 3.0 from the sky, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos’ new challenge!

On July 4, the American national holiday, Amazon solemnly submitted a request for authorization to the Federal Communications Commission for its ambitious Kuiper project.

This one aims to provide an Internet connection from the stars. Jeff Bezos’ company plans to deploy more than 3,200 satellites in total. Amazon aims to provide a broadband connection to geographical areas that today have to deal with a slow or even no Internet speed.

The online retail giant is far from being the only one with ambitions in this still burgeoning market. Its major rival, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, launched last May, in a pyrotechnic show that delighted spectators. The first sixty satellites of its Starlink constellation, which will have a total of 12,000 devices.

A matter of size

If the idea of a satellite Internet may seem familiar, it is because it has already been tried. In the 1990s, companies like Teledesic and Globalstar invested tens of millions of dollars in similar projects. But faced with prohibitive costs, they could not offer a connection at a competitive price, and therefore went bankrupt. If other actors now think they can take over, it is because the costs of access to space have dropped significantly since the early 2000s.

The launch of SpaceX first helped to reduce launch costs. Wendy Whitman Cobb, an analyst, specializing in the space market, notes that between the 1970s and 2000s, there was little change, with an average of $18,500 per kilogram. Today, for a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (those used, for example, to refuel the international space station), this cost has been reduced to 2,720 per kilogram. The result: “Before 2009, when SpaceX first launched a commercial satellite into orbit, there were a few dozen private companies in the space market. Now there are more than 400 of them,” says Chad Anderson, CEO of Space Angels, an investment fund specializing in space.

Bridging the digital world

While satellite television has existed since the 1980s, the Internet is now mainly provided by installations on the ground, including submarine and underground cables. While these infrastructures work very well for many of us, they leave half of humanity out in the dark.

As a result, 3.5 billion people today lack access to the Internet, according to Northern Sky Research, a consultant specializing in the satellite industry. For these individuals, the lack of Internet access is a significant disadvantage. And while many of the people concerned live in developing countries, rural areas in the wealthiest nations are not spared. More than a quarter of Alaska’s population lives in areas without an Internet connection or with a low-speed connection.

To provide inhabitants of these disadvantaged areas with a connection that rivals that of metropolitan areas, the various players are relying on the deployment of large fleets of satellites in low orbit, i.e., at an altitude of a few hundred kilometers. Traditional satellites, used for example for satellite television or GPS, are located about 36,000 kilometers from the Earth’s surface, where their rotational speed is more or less similar to that of the Earth.

They circle the Earth’s orbit once a day, and are more or less always above the same point relative to the Earth’s surface: these satellites are therefore called geostationary.

theme by teslathemes
2018 B-Com