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Is this the future of broadband?

16 June 2015 3117 Views

Is this the future of broadband?

One of the more out-there broadband stories came to light last week, namely the battle for satellite internet. Elon Musk, the innovative, forward-thinking inventor and entrepreneur behind Space X and Tesla electric cars, is aiming to create a satellite internet system that could reach Mars.

While the idea might sound ludicrous, broadband has taken to the skies before. Google has tested connectivity via weather balloons before now, and a number of companies, including Facebook and Amazon, have invested in internet-delivering drones. There is a big difference between the skies and space, though, but that hasn’t stopped Musk coming up with ideas on how to deliver broadband from space.

Satellite internet is already in existence, but Musk’s system wants to go much further. It would use thousands of micro-satellites, roughly ten times as many as the world’s largest satellite network, Iridium. Weighing around 113kg, less than half the mass of standard satellites, Musk’s new satellites will be launched into low Earth orbit, only 750km from the surface of our planet. This is considerably closer than current satellites, which orbit at a height of 35,000km. This would improve latency, a major drawback of existing satellite internet. From low Earth orbit, latency is expected to be roughly 30ms, comparing very favourably to the 500ms latency of current satellite internet customers.

Another possible plus point is cost. Micro-satellites are much, much cheaper. While it can cost tens of millions of dollars to build and launch larger satellites, the micro variety cost $350,000 (£229,000). Of course, getting them up into space is an entirely different matter, but Musk’s SpaceX are working to make this as cost-effective as possible.

Richard Branson announced a plan to build a similar network to Musk in early 2015, working in partnership with mobile technology specialists Qualcomm and satellite constellations company OneWeb. There has been plenty of toing and froing between the rival entrepreneurs, with both insisting their system is the best way to go. Things are now expected to hot up as they battle it out to win the broadband space race, hiring the best satellite engineers money can buy. The cost of it all is quite eye-watering – Musk anticipates the final cost of his project to be $10 billion – but he is insistent that this is the future.

Advocates of satellite internet say it will help bring internet access to the approximately three billion around the world who don’t already have it. With connectivity and online access becoming a necessity for people and economies on a global basis, high-quality broadband is no longer the luxury it might once have been.

It could also have an impact closer to home, with satellite internet one possible way of bringing broadband to hard-to-reach areas – i.e. rural Britain, where coverage can be intermittent or even non-existent at times.

While Musk’s proposals may still be light years away, back on planet Earth TenTel can deal with your broadband needs in the here and now. We’ve recently rolled out our new Fibre broadband bundles to make downloading, browsing and online streaming much quicker and more consistent for our customers. We also provide flexible, no contract broadband, with our unlimited package costing just £9.99 a month.

If you would like more information about the broadband packages we offer, please get in contact with us on: 03330 112 3211.

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