- Bringing superfast Internet connection to the masses
- SpaceXP Internet promises global coverage
- Catering to emerging markets worldwide
- SpaceX is a Content Distribution Network in itself
- Broadband speeds with low latency goodness
Wherever you go, you can see people clutching their smart gadgets, whether they’re texting, checking email, or just browsing the Internet. Some argue that we’ve become too dependent on the Internet – and we can see the truth of that when we try to picture our lives without it. From online shopping to holiday planning to keeping in touch with our kids; the Internet saves us time and makes life easier.
Indeed, the Internet has not only shaped the way we communicate and socialise, it has also forever altered how business is conducted. It’s now indispensable to the point of approaching an ethical right. Even the United Nations recognised this in a 2016 declaration in which they emphasised the necessity of ”applying a comprehensive human rights-based approach when providing and expanding access to the Internet and for the Internet to be open, accessible and nurtured.”
It’s troubling, then, that the majority of the world lacks access to the Internet, and that even among those who enjoy connectivity, quality and choice are often non-existent.
Connection, connection, connection
The Internet took decades to develop. The idea of sharing information between computers was first introduced in the 1960s. A few years later, the first message was sent from one computer located at UCLA to another at Stanford through the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). The following decade, experts worked on sending mail between different users on the ARPANET to make it easier for the scientists involved to collaborate. With the birth of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, anyone connected to the Internet had access to the network and its vast information. Recognising the shape of things to come, phone companies developed dial-up, making it more accessible to a larger population by connecting millions of Internet modems with telephone lines. From these humble beginnings, the Internet has evolved to become the global means of communication we know today.
The Internet gap between rich and poor
As dependent as we are on the Internet, we’re always eager to see improvements in speed, quality and access. For the developed world, the Internet is a given, but globally, that’s not the case. Statistics provided by the United Nations Broadband Commission may surprise you. According to their report, the majority of the human population (50%) don’t have access to the Internet for a wide range of reasons: bad infrastructure, hard-to-reach areas and overall poverty. However, the number of connected people is still staggering: more than 3.8 billion people. But that shouldn’t blind us to the need to connect everyone else.
Elon Musk strikes again
Meeting this kind of need is the stuff inventors live for, and Elon Musk has a dream of connecting the world. His private rocketry company, SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation), is determined to make global Internet a reality by providing access to high-speed Internet with satellites. “Once fully deployed, the SpaceX System will pass over virtually all parts of the Earth’s surface and therefore, in principle, have the ability to provide global Internet.” This means that even the remotest places “on the Earth’s surface will see, at all times, a SpaceX satellite.” Imagine ”fast Internet on the North Pole, the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the top of Mount Everest — anywhere.”
Musk’s goal is to become a leading Internet provider for the US, and perhaps globally as well. To finance this dream, Musk and his team will need at least $10 billion. Google Inc. and Fidelity Investments have already come on board, providing SpaceX with $1 billion. Musk believes this is just the beginning.
Bringing superfast Internet to the entire world
Elon Musk’s satellite system isn’t just everywhere — it’s better than existing systems, too, as it ensures greater speed and lower latency than existing satellite networks. This latency is the result of the distance between the Earth and the satellites, causing a significant delay in communication. Launching more than 4000 satellites into low-Earth orbits should reduce this problem, and Musk thinks his satellites will provide latency between 25 and 35ms – almost like wired Internet services.
According to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) measurements, current satellite ISPs have latencies of 600ms or more, which means that SpaceX’s satellite system will be capable of delivering a comparatively impressive amount of data per second, eliminating the limits usually imposed by Internet providers. SpaceX explained that, once completed, “the system will be able to provide high bandwidth (up to 1Gbps per user), low-latency broadband services for consumers and businesses in the US and globally.”
And demanding consumers welcome this change, especially Millennials. Watching trending YouTube videos while streaming your favourite TV show can be a bit frustrating if you’re getting only 10 Mbps. At 1 Gbps, however, downloading an Ultra High-Definition (4K) video would only take a couple of seconds. Ultra HD video content, live VR and 360 degree streaming require an immense amount of bandwidth, and this is where at least 10% of urban areas in the US, including some 40% of rural users, won’t be able to access 4K content from services that don’t meet these advanced bandwidth requirements. But this is going to change, not just in the US, but worldwide.
Promising truly global coverage
SpaceX is expected to ‘make everything from scratch,’ designing their own satellites and gateway terrestrial stations. And the plan for ensuring that everyone receives fast and reliable Internet is rather simple. Having ‘low-profile user terminals’ mounted on the roof of a building or house, every Internet customer will have access to high-speed, low-latency coverage. Even with only its initial 800 satellites, SpaceX will ensure international broadband connectivity, and at full capacity, the system will manage to provide Internet access everywhere.
And though you may think this will benefit only the developing world, you’d be wrong. Patricia Cooper, VP of Satellite Government Affairs explained how “millions of Americans outside of limited urban areas lack basic, reliable access,” adding that, “even in urban areas, the 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.”
Catering to emerging markets worldwide
Seemingly unquenchable demands for broadband services and Internet connectivity continue to grow at warp speed. According to a 2016 Cisco report, Internet Protocol traffic exceeded the zettabyte threshold. We’re talking about stupendous amounts of information. Existing satellite-based Internet could reportedly handle only 50% of the backhaul portion of the network and only 10% of larger cities Internet traffic.
The more companies from developing countries come online, the bigger the chances for success. With SpaceX Internet access, developing markets will become digitally visible and accessible, ensuring easier communication with potential business partners and customers worldwide. It’s expected that SpaceX ‘Space Internet’ will fuel an economic boom in the developing world.
Becoming a Content Distribution Network in itself
SpaceX’s Internet shows great potential to surpass the rest of the Internet service industry. However, we still face the problem of file storage. In other words, we’re still going to need data stored in a centre, wherever that might be. When we send a file request, it will first reach the satellites, then that satellite will communicate to a base station that stores the core asset files and serves as a ‘cloud,’ ensuring low latency. Moreover, with the ability to store the core asset files, SpaceX will become a content distribution network (CDN) in itself, thus managing to provide a low latency and high bandwidth satellite Internet connection.
SpaceX Internet: broadband speeds with low latency goodness
Increased demands for better Internet service inspired Elon Musk to reimagine Internet access, prompting him to send more than four thousand satellites into orbit. The project is welcomed by demanding consumers and by those denied access now — the majority of the world’s population.