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posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday March 25 2020, @05:01AM   Printer-friendly
from the space-is-becoming-a-crowded-place dept.

SpaceX gets FCC license for 1 million satellite-broadband user terminals

SpaceX has received government approval to deploy up to 1 million user terminals in the United States for its Starlink satellite-broadband constellation.

SpaceX asked the Federal Communications Commission for the license in February 2019, and the FCC announced its approval in a public notice last week. The FCC approval is for "a blanket license for the operation of up to 1,000,000 fixed earth stations that will communicate with [SpaceX's] non-geostationary orbit satellite system." The license is good for 15 years.

[...] One million terminals would only cover a fraction of US homes, but SpaceX isn't necessarily looking to sign up huge portions of the US population. Musk said at the conference that Starlink will likely serve the "3 or 4 percent hardest-to-reach customers for telcos" and "people who simply have no connectivity right now, or the connectivity is really bad." Starlink won't have lots of customers in big cities like LA "because the bandwidth per cell is simply not high enough," he said.

SpaceX's main Starlink constellation competitor is running out of money

OneWeb, the only pressing competitor facing SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet constellation, has reportedly begun to consider filing for bankruptcy shortly before the London-based company completed its third dedicated launch.

Following the completion of its first full 34-satellite launch with a Russian Soyuz rocket on February 7th, OneWeb managed to complete a second launch on March 22nd just a few days after Bloomberg revealed its bankruptcy concerns. OneWeb now has 74 ~150-kg (330 lb) satellites in orbit – roughly 11% of its initial 650-satellite constellation. Like SpaceX, OneWeb's goal is to manufacture and launch an unprecedented number of high-performance small satellites for a per-spacecraft cost that would have previously been inconceivable.

[...] Requiring numerous revolutions in satellite manufacturing, antenna production, and launch vehicle affordability, as well as a vast and complex network of ground terminals, numerous companies have tried and failed to rise to the challenge over the decades. Original Globalstar, Teledesic, and Iridium constellations all raised more than $10 billion in the 1990s under the promise of blanketing the Earth with internet from space. All wound up bankrupt at one point or another.

See also: The true impact of SpaceX's Starlink constellation on astronomy is coming into focus

Previously:
SpaceX Seeks Approval for 1 Million Starlink Ground Stations, Faces Pentagon Audit
SpaceX and OneWeb Clash Over Proposed Satellite Constellation Orbits
OneWeb Joins the Satellite Internet Gold Rush this Week
OneWeb Launches its First Large Batch of Broadband Satellites, Plans March Launch and April Break
How Does Starlink Work Anyway?


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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday March 25 2020, @01:51PM (6 children)

    by takyon (881) <reversethis-{gro ... s} {ta} {noykat}> on Wednesday March 25 2020, @01:51PM (#975452) Journal

    Not very small. Terminal is 0.48 meters in diameter. From the Ars comments:

    Max Gains(s):34.6 dBi @ 14.2500 GHz 33.2 dBi @ 11.8300 GHz
    Maximum total input power at antenna flange (Watts) = 4.06
    Maximum aggregate output EIRP for all carriers (dBW)38.2

    Lower power than I expected. I was guesstimating around 10 to 15W. Still way too high for smartphone applications even if you didn't mind wearing a pizza shaped antenna-hat. Well maybe if you have a backpack for the batteries to go with your pizza-hat.

    All kidding aside lower is better especially for semi-mobile applications (rv, small boat, remote operation running on solar). The gains are good but not impressively so. SpaceX is using conventional mechanically steered antennas for their test ground stations (snopped by fans). Those are in comparison ~40 dBi @ 14.25 GHz.

    But then there is a competitor that wants to do smartphones:

    Megaconstellation startup raises $110 million to connect smartphones via satellite [spacenews.com]

    AST & Science’s demonstration nanosatellite, Bluewalker-1, launched on an Indian PSLV rocket last April. Built by NanoAvionics, Bluewalker-1 proved that it could link directly to cellphones, Avellan said.

    Either way, it might not be smart to use it to try to pierce the Chinese firewall. They might be able to detect you and hunt you down. Might work out better in less resourceful countries/dictatorships.

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  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday March 25 2020, @03:31PM (3 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 25 2020, @03:31PM (#975486) Journal

    Terminal is 0.48 meters in diameter.

    But officer, it's not an antenna, it's a new high tech electronic Wok for cooking my favorite Asian foods.

    --
    I need to spend more effort optimizing performance within while(false) loops.
    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday March 25 2020, @03:32PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 25 2020, @03:32PM (#975487) Journal

      . . . for cooking my favorite Asian foods.

      Like Tacos!

      Or Pizza!

      --
      I need to spend more effort optimizing performance within while(false) loops.
    • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Thursday March 26 2020, @02:11PM (1 child)

      by Immerman (3985) on Thursday March 26 2020, @02:11PM (#975873)

      I believe it's a flat phased array antenna rather than a dish. A dish would have to be constantly moving to stay pointed at the satellite, and temporarily lose connection every time it had to switch to a new one.

      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday March 26 2020, @02:17PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday March 26 2020, @02:17PM (#975880) Journal

        Not a dish. Maybe a fairly flat dome. I've heard it "looks like a UFO". But rumors are just rumors.

        --
        I need to spend more effort optimizing performance within while(false) loops.
  • (Score: 2) by Freeman on Wednesday March 25 2020, @06:51PM

    by Freeman (732) on Wednesday March 25 2020, @06:51PM (#975565) Journal

    I know there's definitely this capability with radio transmissions. Ham Radio clubs practice that sometimes. I would assume, tracking Satellite transmissions would be doable, but more difficult.

    --
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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 26 2020, @12:18AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 26 2020, @12:18AM (#975648)

    Half a meter isn't that bad for hiding if your creative.

    If subsidizing SpaceX is part of the purpose of this project, then they should probably open source the base station designs. My expectation is that if they did, they would sell more service contracts to people in totalitarian states. Free speech is at a premium over there (at least for now), so that is where the market is most profitable.