Satellite Internet of the Future

When I first read Bill Gates mention in his book “The Road Ahead” in 2005 that we would have internet via satellites, I wanted to imagine how complex it would be to put them into space and then get us all connected. After watching documentaries on the Discovery Channel showing laser tests for sending Terabytes of information in milliseconds from the stratosphere to the Earth and hearing that it was something powerful, but unstable and very expensive, which could be a reality in many years, I become aware of its complexity.

Latin America is still a bit behind the rest of the world when it comes to 5G. Yet, there are signs that this situation could improve at some point in the future. Find out how.

A few years later, in 2012 to be exact, I had the opportunity to witness an ambitious project, to provide satellite internet in Peruvian territory. At that time, the land competition was fixed internet xDSL and 3G for cell phones.

But quickly, the terrestrial technologies began to improve their service. So in 2020, we have HFC internet with DOCSIS 3.0 (up to 120Mbps) and 4.5G for cell phones, which can exceed 150Mbps and theoretically can go up to 300Mbps. Something that forced satellite internet providers to present better service proposals, managing to offer speeds for the home of up to 50Mbps, putting it back to compete in the market.

Its most significant advantage is being able to reach any place where the seasonal satellite coverage radius can reach. To be benefited from the service, you only need a satellite antenna at home. It also has a strong low point: latency. The other terrestrial technologies, due to their proximity to the final equipment compared to a satellite, can achieve up to 10ms of latency in the best case. GPON internet offers up to 1ms latency and 5G as well. At this point, the satellite internet begins to lose the battle. Since the distance to the Earth and the meteorological changes usually increase the latency drastically.

Thus, companies like Google, Amazon, OneWeb, and SpaceX have currently joined forces to give initiatives that revolutionize the satellite internet.

The main objective of all of them seems to be to bring the satellites as close as possible to the Earth’s surface, in some way shortening the latency. Another point in common is to understand that recently nanotechnology has been favoring the telecommunications industry, allowing equipment to be made increasingly smaller and with greater capacity that can be put into orbit. And finally, let’s not forget how important SpaceX’s achievements were in designing a simple launcher and reusing the same barges for future launches, resulting in the lowest cost to date of kilograms to space. This allows NASA with private companies to project more manageable costs and to develop a more acceptable and digestible plan for potential investors. Each, in their own way, wants to build a network as a constellation and connect them simultaneously, allowing anyone on the planet to connect directly to the service. It may not even be required in some of these projects to use a satellite antenna and a modem.

All these projects are already in the pipeline, and I hope that soon we will achieve the service of these new technologies. It should be noted that not everyone will be able to survive the great changes and costs; even more so now, with the spread of Covid-19 and the impact the pandemic is having on the world’s economy. OneWeb has lost many contracts and has not gotten the expected funding, that’s how it surprised in March 2020, declaring bankruptcy under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy code in the US Bankruptcy Court for the southern district of New York.

Latin America is still a bit behind the rest of the world when it comes to 5G. Yet, there are signs that this situation could improve at some point in the future. Find out how.

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