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posted by martyb on Monday April 29 2019, @03:03AM   Printer-friendly
from the Kessler-was-an-optimist dept.

The FCC has approved a modification to SpaceX's plan to loft 1,500 low orbit satellites to provide internet service to all parts of the globe.

In November, SpaceX sent a request to the FCC to partially revise plans for the company’s satellite internet constellation, known as Starlink. Under SpaceX’s original agreement with the commission, the company had permission to launch 4,425 Starlink satellites into orbits that ranged between 1,110 to 1,325 kilometers up. But then SpaceX decided it wanted to fly 1,584 of those satellites in different orbits, thanks to what it had learned from its first two test satellites, TinTin A and B. Instead of flying them at 1,150 kilometers, the company now wants to fly them much lower at 550 kilometers.

And now the FCC is on board. “This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans to deploy its next-generation satellite constellation and connect people around the world with reliable and affordable broadband service,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.

"“This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans.”"

SpaceX argues that by operating satellites at this orbit, the Starlink constellation will have much lower latency in signal, cutting down transmission time to just 15 milliseconds.

The first batch of satellites is already at the launch site and is expected to liftoff sometime in May. SpaceX plans to launch a total of nearly 12,000 satellites to build its Starlink satellite constellation, although most of these will be in higher orbits.

Not everyone was happy about SpaceX’s updated plans, though. OneWeb, another company developing a large satellite internet network, and satellite operator Kepler Communications both filed petitions to deny SpaceX’s request for a change to the FCC. They both argue that since SpaceX uses similar frequencies, the Starlink satellites could interfere with their satellites if moved to a lower orbit. But ultimately, the FCC did not think interference would be an issue.

There are other companies undertaking similar projects. Previously-mentioned OneWeb has already launched the initial six satellites of an eventual buildout of 650 satellites. Amazon has announced its own internet initiative called Project Kuiper which will put another 3,236 satellites in orbit.

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  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Runaway1956 on Monday April 29 2019, @04:49AM (5 children)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 29 2019, @04:49AM (#836172) Journal

    Nice link, which prompted me to go looking. Found a page with some explanations, and a video. Phase1: Expected latency from New York to London, about 50 ms, but latency is expected to be variable. Meaning, a stream of packets might take 50 ms, then as the routing changes, it might go up to 75, and then decrease to 50 again. San Francisco to London, about 80 ms, "which is better than the best fiber optic" according to the video. "London to Singapore takes about 80 ms" and "generally, the further you go, the greater the gains over using fiber optical" London to Johannesberg, not so good, because they aren't (initially, at least) concentrating on north to south routing.

    Phase2 plugs the "holes" in the north-south routing, bringing latency down, and making it far less variable. At the same time, Phase2 lowers latency somewhat on more east-west routing.

    The video promises that from anywhere, to anywhere, there will be about 20 different routes, all of which offer better latency than the best existing internet. []

    A number of search results offer hints at what end-user hardware will look like. Those "earth stations" are the end users. This is probably the best link of the several that mention end-user antenna: []

    No mention of cost, anywhere I've looked.


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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Monday April 29 2019, @05:37AM (1 child)

    by takyon (881) <{takyon} {at} {}> on Monday April 29 2019, @05:37AM (#836188) Journal
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29 2019, @11:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 29 2019, @11:50PM (#836446)

      End users will be targeted unless they learn to duck.

  • (Score: 2) by pkrasimirov on Monday April 29 2019, @11:44AM

    by pkrasimirov (3358) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 29 2019, @11:44AM (#836229)

    > there will be about 20 different routes
    Duude... now we will get to know what does it mean UDP out-of-order packet delivery, duplications etc.

  • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Monday April 29 2019, @07:16PM (1 child)

    by captain normal (2205) on Monday April 29 2019, @07:16PM (#836367)

    "Cost..." How much have you got?

    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts"- --Daniel Patrick Moynihan--
    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Monday April 29 2019, @07:27PM

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Monday April 29 2019, @07:27PM (#836370) Journal

      Not sure that's the right question. It's more like, "How much can we wring out of 50 to 75 million Americans?" I suspect that I won't be able to afford it. They're certainly going to charge a good deal more than any of the existing sat services, right? More than cable. More than DSL. Of course, when I browse around looking at fiber prices in the larger cities, that's under $100. If SpaceX can do that, then I can afford it.