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Elon Musk has earned himself quite a reputation for pioneering in the tech industry, founding or co-founding a number of successful businesses including Paypal, Tesla Motors, and SpaceX, just to name a few. His latest idea is to launch the largest network of communication satellites into space, to greatly improve internet speed and reduce the cost for people in remote locations around the world. Musk himself mentions the huge benefits it would offer to approximately 3 billion people in the world who have poor access to the Internet.

The, as of yet, unnamed space internet venture would require the launching of hundreds of satellites into orbit. These satellites would be in orbit about 750 miles above earth. This would be much closer than the 22,000 miles that most of the existing communication satellites, allowing them to relay messages much faster due to the shorter distance the signals will travel. This system could rival fiber optic cables in speed, and would be available in areas where laying down fiber cables is infeasible.

Musk does not expect this network to be operational any sooner than 5 years, and at a cost of about $10 billion dollars.  However he sees it as a long term source of income that can help fund a colony on Mars, which he has long dreamed about. In fact he intends to eventually expand the satellite network, by sending satellites into orbit around Mars, so that the colony will have internet access as well.

Another entrepreneur, Greg Wyler, announced a similar plan with his startup, OneWeb, which also seeks to launch hundreds of communications satellites into space to reach remote ares. Wyler has a bit of a head-start on Musk. While Musk is still in the process of assembling a team of engineers to work on this venture, OneWeb already has a team of 30 engineers designing the satellites and software, and they expect it to be up and running by 2018, a couple years sooner than Musk’s 5 year estimate for his own venture. However Musk expects the manufacturing techniques from his SpaceX company to give him an advantage over OneWeb.

Do you think the benefits of these ambitious plans will outweigh the costs? What do you think will be the global effects of these space networks, if they are successful? Leave your comments below.

 


Max Michael

Senior Writer

I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.



  • Lin

    Internet… IN SPAAAAAAAAAAAACE.

  • not only would this be great for people in remote locations, these space internet ISP’s will be competing with every ISP on the planet! at the very least this will mean better service for less money, just so they can remain in competition with these space ISP’s. whats even better is that no one company will have the monopoly in space ISP to! cause there is already competition inb4 the first space internet subscription is sold.

  • Cy

    So how long before Comcast and Time Warner use their government connections to regulate this into infeasibility? They’re not gonna give up their monopoly without a fight.

  • draconian139

    Should make online gaming actually feasible with satellite internet if my assumption that latency would be directly proportional to distance from Earth is correct. I’m using 1,000ms as worst case and 638ms as best case for current satellite internet latency obtained from FCC statements http://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2013/02/satellite-internet-faster-than-advertised-but-latency-still-awful/

    Using this and the new distance I’m finding that the latency for the new satellite internet would be somewhere in the realm of 22-34ms. (750/22000)*638 to (750/22000)*1000. This would be comparable to average terrestrial latency of 30ms though still worse than average fiber latency of 18ms.

    My assumption could be off base though and there could be some obvious factors I’m not aware of.