US telecoms regulator Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai said in an official statement that he welcomed SpaceX’s plan to build a network of satellites for high-speed broadband internet.
The FCC as a whole has not yet given official approval for SpaceX’s plan, but that seems only a matter of time. Republican Chairman Pai has said he has called on his four other FCC members to vote for the SpaceX plan as well. Democratic FCC member Rosenworcel has also responded positively, saying that the FCC should embrace the plan quickly because of the extraordinary new opportunities it presents.
Pai argues that the American digital divide must be bridged with innovative technology and he thinks SpaceX’s internet satellite plan is a good example of this. According to him, this network of satellites can ultimately ensure that people in rural areas or in remote areas of the country, where there is sometimes no reach of telephone towers and no internet cables, also have access to fast internet.
Recently, a letter from SpaceX revealed that two test satellites from SpaceX with a Falcon 9 rocket will be launched on Saturday, February 17. This had already been authorized before. These two satellites are intended to test the different systems and see if the design is suitable for broadband internet. According to the plan, this will eventually require nearly 12,000 satellites: 4,425 satellites will arrive at an altitude of about 1100 to 1300 km, with another 7,500 satellites in lower Earth orbits. The Falcon 9 reusable rocket launches will last until 2024. The revenues from this network should help fund SpaceX’s Mars missions.
SpaceX wants to deploy the network not only for the United States, but also worldwide. The satellite network will be positioned many times closer to Earth than current satellite internet solutions, which should result in lower latency. The space company says it can limit the delay to less than 35ms, which is comparable to fixed connections. Current internet connections via satellites, which are positioned much higher, have a latency of 600ms or more.
The FCC has already approved more applications from companies in the past year to gain access to the US broadband Internet market using satellites in low Earth orbit. For example, OneWeb, Space Norway and Telesat have already been approved. For example, Telesat wants to have a total of 120 satellites in space by 2021.