Anxiety has set in over the space industry ever since the world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, revealed Project Kuiper: an idea to put 3,236 satellites in orbit to provide high-speed internet throughout the world. Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX is similarly energetic: it’s just received a clearance to place 12,000 satellites in orbit at various altitudes in the Starlink constellation. Not to mention other projects in the pipeline that have less financing or aren’t yet as defined. Is there enough room for three even, four, five, or even more space-based internet providers?
At the Satellite 2019 international conference in Washington this week, specialists from the sector said they feared an expensive bloodbath — particularly if Bezos, the founder of Amazon, decides to crush the competition with ultra-low prices. Matt Desch, the CEO of Iridium Communications. Iridium knows about bankruptcy. 3 a minute. Barely anyone subscribed at the dawn of the mobile era.
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The company eventually relaunched itself and has just finished renewing its entire constellation: 66 satellites offering connection, however, not broadband, with completely global coverage to institutional clients including boats, planes, businesses, and militaries. And if “you spend billions so you get it wrong, you end up creating the type of a nuclear winter for your industry for a decade. We do that,” he added.
Having internet beamed in from space is more of important for isolated zones than it is for metropolitan areas, where users have fiber-optic or internet connections. With satellite constellations, no matter what your location is in the world: an antenna is all you need to get broadband. Al Tadros of Maxar, which develops satellites.
The other benefit of the recently announced constellations are their relatively low orbit, which is very important to reducing latency, key in curbing lag in video calls or video games, for example. Isolated areas might be where in fact the technology is necessary, but there may not be customers to make the endeavor profitable enough.
That’s why OneWeb has reduced its sights and can first target providing internet services to planes (imagine getting Netflix on your next long-term) or even to ships, where there’s a huge demand. Shagun Sachdeva, an older analyst at Northern Sky Research, told AFP. Sachdeva expects the majority of the companies to die off, adding that the market will eventually have room for “maybe two” which space-delivered internet services won’t be commonplace for at least five to a decade. Amazon is getting off the bottom just and faces the hurdle of acquiring privileges to the regularity spectrum.
By arriving late, they’re already behind the curve, said Michael Schwartz of operator Telesat, which is building its own constellation to be utilized by companies. But Amazon’s many advantages are abundantly clear: the group has a formidable IT infrastructure on the floor that can support the satellite network. And Bezos budget his own rocket company, Blue Origin, which should be able to secure him a competitive price for the dozens of launches needed for the constellation.