Ilon Musk himself began the race for the space Internet. But who needs it?

How do you connect to the internet? Probably you have a Wi-Fi network at home or you use a mobile network to send and receive data using land providers. This may change in the coming years, thanks to the emergence of new satellite-based space Internet services from companies such as SpaceX and OneWeb, which promise to bring billions of people online by 2021.

When will we have space internet?

According to various estimates, about 3.3 billion people are nothave access to the Internet, but Ilon Musk wants to change that. On Thursday, May 23, after two canceled launches last week, SpaceX launched 60 Starlink satellites on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida, as part of a mission to distribute inexpensive high-speed satellite Internet around the world.

SpaceX is one of nine companies thatplan to launch huge constellations of satellites. The Mask company, at least, will launch 12,000 of these to provide global coverage of the planet for transmitting the Internet to earth from space using radio waves.

"The number of people around the world who do not haveThe usual access to the Internet is simply amazing. And ground-based companies show little interest in meeting the needs of these rural customers, ”says Caleb Williams of SpaceWorks, an American consulting firm. "Space Internet services can help narrow this gap and bring billions of people online."

In this race - in addition to the American SpaceX andOneWeb - LeoSat from the Netherlands, Telesat and Kepler Communications from Canada, as well as several others, each of which received approval from the FCC for their constellations, also participate. Others, such as Amazon, which unveiled its constellation Project Kuiper with 3000 satellites earlier this year, also plan to launch similar services.

None of the nine companies approved by the FCC tohas not yet revealed how exactly their services will work and how much they will cost. We know that to connect to one of these constellations you will need some kind of dish on earth, not like satellite television, and probably worth hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the region.

"The terminals that end users will beuse for connectivity is a huge barrier because they are very expensive, ”says Luke Palerm-Serra, senior analyst at Northern Sky Research in Spain, noting that many countries also have strict regulatory systems in which companies need to exist to provide satellite internet services. “Launching a global service is very difficult. Not a single Internet provider has done this before, since everyone is usually focused on one country. ”

This highlights one of the key questions alreadyemerging on the topic of space internet services. Although many declare their goal - to connect the whole world to the network - how many can afford it? Does everyone want to be online? In June 2018, Facebook postponed plans to create its own drone, which he intended to use to transfer the Internet to rural areas. Earlier drone crashed.

"If you are trying to connect the really poorthe regions of the world in which people struggle to meet basic needs such as food, water, electricity, the concept of the need for the Internet is not completely clear, ”says Manny Shar, head of analytics at Bryce Space and Technology in London. "The demand for these services has yet to be proved."

Satellite Internet itself is not new. Several companies, such as Hughes Communications and ViaSat and the United States, already offer satellite Internet services that allow people to connect to the Internet on an airplane. The first of them operates two satellites in geostationary orbit at an altitude of 35,000 kilometers; the third will be launched in 2021. The company has 1.3 million customers in the United States.

What are the new mega stars hoping to surpassexisting systems are speed, reach, and possibly price. Currently, satellite Internet will cost from 40 to 80 pounds (5-6 thousand rubles) per month depending on where you live and what download speed you need. It is not clear how much new services will cost, but competitiveness will be a key factor.

"None of the companies that are currentlythey want to create large satellite constellations for the Internet space, could not provide comprehensive guidance on their pricing models, ”says Williams, who believes that SpaceX can charge about 50 pounds per month. “The gold standard will be competition with terrestrial service providers. If you fail to compete, you will have to rely on customers who have few terrestrial alternatives, for example, living in rural and remote regions. ”

Even if they can't compete on price,they will certainly be able to compete on coverage. Current satellite Internet services are limited to the areas over which these satellites rotate, and the bandwidth is limited to the number of users connecting to one satellite. Companies like SpaceX and OneWeb are hoping to change this by offering constant broadband coverage anywhere on Earth, even in Antarctica, with their huge constellations of satellites.

Being at lower altitudes from 500 to 1200km, they will also be able to reduce the delay - the time it takes to send a signal to the satellite and back, limited by the speed of light. This may not be enough to play online, but enough to support audio conversations via the Internet.

Existing satellite Internet services are alsohave not yet been able to overcome the download speed barrier of 100 Mbps. While SpaceX keeps its service speed secret, OneWeb advertises a possible speed of up to 2.5 Gbps. The company hopes to start launching from 30 to 36 satellites with a rocket every month until the end of 2019, and in total there will be 650 or more.

The management of these constellations in orbit is alsois a problem, especially the risk of colliding with other satellites and removing space debris from orbit. At the moment, there are only about 2000 active satellites in orbit, but if all the planned satellite Internet constellations are launched, this number will reach or exceed 20,000.

The United Nations is asking for satelliteoperators withdraw their satellites from orbit after 25 years to prevent the accumulation of space debris, but it is unclear how these nine companies will do so. Many seem to rely on their onboard engines, but they often break down and satellites remain in orbit. The launch of thousands of satellites and the lack of a way to eliminate them can seriously aggravate the problem of space debris.

At low altitudes (500 km) orbits of naturalthe image will degrade after a few years due to atmospheric resistance, but at high altitudes of 1200 km they will remain in orbit for thousands of years if they are not deactivated.

Ultimately, it is not clear who willuse space internet, how it will work (including cost) and whether there is a market for so many different companies. In addition, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation stated that it would jam the global free Internet - from the Mask satellites or from any other sources.

Do you need space internet? Share your opinion in our chat in Telegram.