A frantic race between companies to provide satellite Internet services

It is expected that satellite Internet service, which has become a commercial reality, will intensify competition, as thousands of satellites are deployed in low Earth orbit, providing a broad band all over the world that dispenses with the burden of terrestrial infrastructure.

Amazon has made great progress on its way to deploying its Kuiper constellation, which aims to provide fast internet service.

The giant American e-commerce company seeks through this project to diversify its profitable activities in the field of information services, and to “provide broadband Internet service to a wide range of customers”, including those “working in places where there is no reliable Internet connection”.

“Satellite-based solutions are an indispensable supplement to fibres,” said Stefan Israel, CEO of Arianespace. He noted that “there are cases where the cost of fiber is very high compared to the satellite-based service, especially when the service needs to be provided to the residents of a remote area.”

In addition to the satellites themselves, Amazon is planning “minimal affordable customer devices”, building on what it started with its Echo smart speakers and Kindle e-readers.

The group confirmed that it would provide “affordable and accessible service to customers”, but did not immediately disclose more details in this regard.

Will Amazon’s striking power be able to establish itself and make a difference in a sector where competition has become fierce?

Satellite internet already exists, as does HughesNet and ViaSat in the US, while in Europe subsidiary Orange Nordnet uses the power of Eutelsat Konnect, among other technologies, to provide broadband to its customers.

Consumer prices start at less than 60 euros or 70 dollars per month, not counting the terminal and antenna, and increase according to the bandwidth required.

These services pass through satellites located in a geostationary orbit, at an altitude of more than 35,000 km, and although they are likely to provide speeds three to five times higher than the speeds of asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), but their presence at this distance means that they It cannot reach the performance of the fiber, and the delay between the request and the execution of the command is a hindrance. For this reason, HughesNet does not recommend its products to gaming enthusiasts.

As for the satellites that Amazon will deploy in the future, they will be the same as those currently deployed by the SpaceX company, Starlink, in Low Earth Orbit (LEO in English), that is, at an altitude of about 600 km.

More danger in low orbit

Stephen Israel noted, “What distinguishes the presence of satellites in low Earth orbit is that it reduces the latency period. Reducing the latency period allows for maximum utilization.”

On the other hand, the presence of satellites close to Earth makes it necessary to send many satellites into orbit, and from here the number of those belonging to “Amazon” will reach more than 3200, compared to thousands of “Starlink”, including 1500 currently operating.

The British company OneWeb has launched 428 of the 648 satellites in its constellation, also in low orbit, and plans to start operating its global Internet at the end of 2022.

As for China, it plans to deploy at least 13,000 Guang-type satellites, while Europe entered the game with an agreement in February to develop its own group of communications satellites.

Regardless of sovereignty issues, this high demand for the provision of Internet via satellite is accompanied by a significant increase in needs recorded recently.

And the International Telecommunication Union of the United Nations considered at the end of March that “internet connectivity, which was considered a luxury, has become critical for many people during the “Covid-19” pandemic, as people were forced to stay in their homes and many activities and businesses moved to the Internet. ».

A business executive interviewed by AFP this week in Colorado Springs (United States), on the sidelines of the largest trade fair for space technologies, said that “bandwidth needs have increased all over the world,” expecting that “the number of satellites will not be enough to meet the demand.” .

But this expert in marketing the frequency, who asked not to be named, also pointed out that the satellites in low orbit are more vulnerable than the geostationary vehicles, which was recently shown by a geomagnetic storm causing the disintegration of about 40 satellites from the constellation “Starlink”. upon return to Earth’s atmosphere.

Thus “it will have to be replaced constantly”, which is not bad news for the companies that handle the launches.


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