SpaceX Wants to Launch 4,425 Satellites to Provide Broadband to All

SpaceX wants to begin by launching about 800 satellites that would provide broadband in the US, Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands. Image: SpaceX

– The Catches? Lag and the $10b Cost

By Charles Hall

SpaceX, the privately-owned rocket launch service, has asked the US’ FCC for approval to operate a massive satellite network that would provide high-speed, global broadband coverage, according to documents filed with the FCC. SpaceX, owned and operated by Elon Musk of Tesla fame, wants to launch upwards of 4,425 satellites to provide broadband service to most everyone.

The major problem with satellite-based broadband is the lag time between users sending a request and getting a response. Satellite-based broadband services such as Hughes Net have only done well where there is no wireline broadband or wireline broadband service is very slow. They have done better in sparsely populated or rural areas but that can’t be what Musk is thinking for a network of 4,425 satellites that he estimated would cost upwards of $10 billion to launch. And perhaps he has in mind a new satellite-based broadband technology that will reduce latency – but the speed of light cannot be altered.

Musk first announced the service in January 2015. Boeing and OneWeb are developing a similar satellite-based broadband service…

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