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posted by LaminatorX on Tuesday January 20 2015, @11:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the cloud-above-the-clouds dept.

Ars Technica On Sunday reported that Elon Musk (of SpaceX and Tesla fame) and Sir Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic, etc.) are each preparing to launch LEO (low earth orbit) constellations of satellites to provide world-wide internet coverage:

It was an interesting week for ideas about the future of the Internet. On Wednesday, satellite industry notable Greg Wyler announced that his company OneWeb, which wants to build a micro-satellite network to bring Internet to all corners of the globe, secured investments from Richard Branson's Virgin Group and Qualcomm. Then in a separate announcement on Friday, Elon Musk said that he would also be devoting his new Seattle office to creating "advanced micro-satellites" to deliver Internet.

[...] OneWeb, formerly WorldVu Satellites Ltd, aims to target rural markets, emerging markets, and in-flight Internet services on airlines, the Wall Street Journal reported. Both Branson and Qualcomm Executive Chairman Paul Jacobs will sit on the company's board, but Wyler did not say how much Virgin and Qualcomm invested in his company.

Wyler said that his company's goal is to create a network of 648 small satellites that would weigh in at around 285 pounds each. The satellites would be put in orbit 750 miles above the Earth and ideally cost about $350,000 each to build using an assembly line approach. Wyler also said that Virgin, which has its own space segment, would be launching the satellites into orbit. “As an airline and mobile operator, Virgin might also be a candidate to resell OneWeb’s service,” the Journal noted. Wyler has said that he projects it to take $1.5 billion to $2 billion to launch the service, and he plans to launch in 2018.

[...] On the other hand there's Musk, who's a seasoned space-business launcher that's starting fresh in the world of satellite Internet services. The Telsa and SpaceX founder announced his plans to launch 700 satellites weighing less than 250 pounds each in November.

His satellites would also orbit the Earth at 750 miles above. Musk spoke to Bloomberg on Friday evening explaining that 750 miles above the Earth is much closer than the tens of thousands of miles above the Earth at which traditional telecommunications satellites operate.

Then it got even more interesting.

Ars is now reporting Google might pour money into SpaceX — that it really wants satellite internet:

The Information reported on Monday that, according to “several people familiar with the talks,” Google is considering investing in SpaceX to support its plan to deliver hundreds or thousands of micro satellites into a low (750 mile) orbit around the globe to serve Internet to rural and developing areas of the world. The Information's sources indicated that Google was in the “final stages” of investing in SpaceX and valued the company at “north of $10 billion.” SpaceX is apparently courting other investors as well.

[...] The Information added another interesting tidbit that was not widely reported in previous discussions of SpaceX's plans for global Internet service: “Mr. Musk appears to be trying to get around his lack of spectrum rights by relying, in part, on optical lasers.”

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  • (Score: 2) by Leebert on Wednesday January 21 2015, @03:01AM

    by Leebert (3511) on Wednesday January 21 2015, @03:01AM (#136580)

    Still beats me why a frickin farmer in the bush needs "satellite Internet" services compared to the basic internet they already have, which in many cases is already subsidised by the govt.

    You're assuming that everyone has basic Internet, or that it's always a reasonable approximation of reliable. Ubiquitous connectivity is extremely helpful.

    The farmer, for example, is implicitly likely to live outside of a population center where mobile connections are available or reliable. (FORGET about anything attached to a cable. Especially a copper cable...) But being able to do research on farming techniques can pay major dividends in crop yields.

    Even if it weren't helpful for the locals, having spent a fair bit of time on a mission in Haiti, I can assure you that such connectivity is extremely helpful for aid workers to be more effective and efficient in providing basic needs. Things like allowing mission doctors to consult with far away specialists, or even helping poor me look up the wiring diagram on a control system for circulating water in an aquaculture system that grows fish for people to eat.

    How about the mobile phone-based electronic payment systems have taken off like crazy in Africa?

    There's plenty of other reasons why having ubiquitous communication is helpful to underdeveloped areas. You're right that, ultimately, basic needs are critical. But things like this are critical building blocks to improving the delivery of those basic needs and constructing a more robust society.

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