What’s Happening? (Low Orbit? Constellation?)
In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new space race underway and this one is privately owned. Competing to perform a feat that is essentially, as Elon Musk put it in a Seattle speech from 2015, “rebuilding the internet in space”, in order to, as per OneWeb’s mission statement in a January press release, “connect everyone everywhere”, companies like Amazon, SpaceX and the aforementioned OneWeb are either currently launching or planning to launch low-orbit constellations of satellites.
This scene out of science fiction sees fleets of satellites working together, handing over via lasers (seriously - space lasers), for the purpose of bringing broadband connectivity to the widest service area ever seen, eliminating connectivity dead zones and improving connectivity in areas that are currently “unserved or underserved” (Project Kuiper) when it comes to broadband speeds and/or connectivity reliability.
Better coverage is certain. Many developing nations including India, sub-Saharan Africa and areas of Latin America still have very poor internet penetration with, according to some estimates, half of the world’s population still without internet access.
Moreover, FTTP connectivity is prohibitively expensive even for many of those in a developed country like the UK, where government incentives like the Gigabit Broadband Voucher Scheme are required to stimulate contributions from local communities, implying how expensive it can be for local authorities or ISPs to lay cable or erect masts, meaning that, for many of these developing nations, deep internet penetration for the general population via traditional means is still far off.
However, given that satellites are not bound by the same accessibility restrictions as cabling, which has to be routed through the ground in each and every location access is required, it seems hopeful that, once these satellite constellations are in orbit, broadband connectivity will be accessible to areas once burdened by slow and temperamental (or even non-existent) broadband connectivity.
As a VoIP provider, Yay.com are excited anytime we hear about improvements in connectivity since connecting people is our business! As the name VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) implies, you need an internet connection to transmit the voice data (ie, to make calls). If internet penetration is set to almost double with the new developments discussed here, then a lot more people could be using VoIP phone systems soon!
According to reports, better or comparable speeds are highly likely as well. OneWeb have made clear in their January press release that they are working with telecoms providers to bring “ubiquitous, high-speed satellite “fibre-like” broadband services coverage” to urban as well as “remote and inaccessible areas”.
Moreover, if SpaceX and Amazon are to compete with OneWeb, then they must offer a similar or better level of service. SpaceX has already allegedly demonstrated data throughput of 610Mbps to a US military aircraft in-flight so, if consumer speeds are not too far off this, it seems plausible that satellite-broadcast broadband could soon be delivering close-to-gigabit speeds even to remote regions.
Tune Back In!
That does it for part one. Check back next week for a discussion of when you might be able to start taking advantage of this new technology, as well as where we think the biggest impact will be seen.