High-Speed Internet Service for All?

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You might know him as the CEO and CTO of his spacecraft company SpaceX, an organization with lofty goals like establishing greenhouses on Mars. Maybe instead you know him as the CEO of Tesla Motors, known for their electric vehicles like the Model S P85D sedan, which recently received the highest safety rating of any car Consumer Reports has ever tested. Or, perhaps you know him as the mind behind the Hyperloop concept – a tube that would transport humans at high speed.

Regardless, technology leader Elon Musk has a new idea: launch 4,000 satellites into space that will supply high-speed Internet service to the entire world (and, one day, to Mars colonists).

The concept

Though he’s not the first to have this kind of idea – Bill Gates thought of it back in the 90s, and Mark Zuckerberg conceptualized a plan in 2014 – this is the first time it’s actually had a possibility of success due to better technology and reduced costs.

Musk has filed a request with the FCC to begin testing as early as 2016.

Unsurprisingly, large ISPs do not relish the thought of lower-priced competition. However, Musk has garnered support from giants like Google. It remains to be seen what will come from the FCC’s decisions.

Musk’s plan calls for 4,000 SpaceX satellites to beam Internet from a low-Earth orbit (between 100-1,250 miles above the surface). According to Wired.com, “By bringing their satellites closer to home than other satellites, SpaceX … could cut latency from 500 milliseconds to 20 milliseconds, which is about what you’d expect from a fiber optic home internet connection in the US.”

The obstacles

One obvious hurdle is money. But by creating and manufacturing the satellites in-house and taking them into space using his Falcon 9 rocket, Musk believes he will save money by eliminating third parties and using cheaper, smaller devices. It’s still an incredibly expensive endeavor — $10-billion to be exact.

Another problem is worldwide acceptance. It’s likely, if not certain, some countries will not want or allow this type of Internet access. To date, that issue remains unresolved.

And yet another difficulty in Musk’s plan is competition. Competitor OneWeb, financially backed by The Virgin Group, is working on a similar plan. In their favor, OneWeb’s founder already owns a large portion of the wireless spectrum.

As innovators, we are always eager to see new technological ideas put into action. We specialize in customized solutions and handle everything from design to manufacturing to testing. Contact us to find out more.

And let us know in the comments what you think of the plan to provide cheap, high-speed Internet access to all.