Internet Wish List

So Elon Musk is going to improve internet access for those of us without cable or DSL:

Elon Musk held a SpaceX event over the weekend at which he announced plans for a new Seattle headquarters and  unveiled a long-term proposal to build a high-speed, low-latency satellite system that would circle the entire planet with internet capability.

There are two kinds of people in this world — those who have never used satellite internet and those who loathe it. Potential slogans for satellite providers like HughesNet include: “Satellite: Sometimes better than no internet at all,” or “HughesNet: Occasionally, you’ll like us more than dial-up.”

The reason typical satellite internet has such a terrible reputation is partially because of the inevitable latency. Satellite providers tend to use geostationary orbits, which sit 26,199 miles (on average) above sea level. Typical minimum latency for an internet user tapping a geostationary satellite for connectivity is therefore in the 500-700ms range.


The advantage of using a geostationary orbit for satellite communication is that a relative handful of satellites can cover vast distances, and the ground arrays can use fixed dishes that don’t need to rotate to track the satellite’s position in the sky.

What Musk describes is something altogether different. Instead of a handful of fixed satellites, he’s proposed building an array of satellites in low-Earth orbit at an altitude of approximately 750 miles. This hypothetical system would be built at the new Seattle facility and is part of a long-term effort to revolutionize satellite design in much the same way that SpaceX has been attempting to reinvent rockets.

Musk thinks the entire network would require roughly 4000 satellites to operate at full capacity. The explicit focus of this approach is to create a large network of relatively simple devices as opposed to the current “Big Satellite” model in which extremely complex, heavy, and expensive satellites are lofted into orbit to share signal across much of the planet but at substandard latencies and very high costs.

I would like to add one more request.  Please make it with this technology:

This may be a quantum-leap year for an initiative that accelerates data transfers close to the speed of light with no hacking threats through so-called “quantum communications” technology.

Within months, China plans to open the world’s longest quantum-communications network, a 2,000-kilometer (1,240-mile) electronic highway linking government offices in the cities of Beijing and Shanghai.

Meanwhile, the country’s aerospace scientists are preparing a communications satellite for a 2016 launch that would be a first step toward building a quantum communications network in the sky. It’s hoped this and other satellites can be used to overcome technical hurdles, such as distance restrictions, facing land-based systems.

Physicists around the world have spent years working on quantum-communications technology. But if all goes as planned, China would be the first country to put a quantum-communications satellite in orbit, said Wang Jianyu, deputy director of the China Academy of Science’s (CAS) Shanghai branch.

At a recent conference on quantum science in Shanghai, Wang said scientists from CAS and other institutions have completed major research and development tasks for launching the satellite equipped with quantum-communications gear.

If you can sell high speed internet with none of the spying, you will have a HUGE market.  Also, if you make it open access, that is, without content providers being able to buy better access, then that will expand your market even further.


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