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    • SpaceX's Starlink, the plan to create a mega-constellation of communications satellites, gained a new competitor yesterday when OneWeb, a UK based startup, successfully launched 6 satellites on a low-earth orbit trajectory. They are currently on track for having over 800 satellites in orbit by end of 2020, providing access to the internet anywhere on Earth. Could this modern "Space Race" spark a revolution for developing nations?

    • Welcome to Cake, 123!

      What a world we live in where this gets tried several times, the companies who tried raised huge sums, declared bankruptcy, and yet here we are with someone new bold enough to raise $3 billion to give it another shot. 🤯

      That made it sound like I'm not excited but I am. This has to work for some company sometime. Perhaps now that satellites are down to just $1 million apiece, this is the time. 💪

    • The simple fact that satellite mega-constellations and routine, reusable rocket launches have now become passing stories in the media is a testament to the incredible period that we are living in. At the end of 2015, SpaceX amazed the world when they landed their first stage booster. Now, just over 3 years later they are preparing to send crews to the ISS and it has barely generated any public attention. I doubt we can even fathom what technology will progress to in another decade.

    • There's certainly a need for world-wide satellite coverage--or at least, it sure would be nice. One thing I've never understood is the interface requirement on the ground. My laptop's WiFi transmitter can barely make it to my entire apartment, so what would it need to communicate with a satellite at high speed and low packet loss? Would that sort of transmitter work in a cell phone without killing the battery or frying our bodies?

    • It's a fascinating question, Richard, that I thought would be easy to search Google for and answer, but maybe I was too dumb to know what to search for. I am assuming we have to have a ground-based transceiver to talk to the satellites and local wifi infrastructure to connect your laptop to the transceiver. @kevin and @jpop must know the details.

      In the meantime, I read a lot about OneWeb and SpaceX's Starlink. The scale of ambition is staggering. Must says they will need 12,000 satellites at a cost of $10 billion, triple the total of all satellites in orbit today. OneWeb has gone through 4 CEOs and a lot of drama raising monies.

    • Sorry for the late reply. I have been using a device like this with 100% success. Now, that's not exactly answering what you were asking, because it only does text and GPS / mapping functions. But it does it two way which at the time, for the cost, not many if any other devices have been able to do it. The battery is very long lasting, and the entire device is IPX7 rated - which is to say it's rugged enough to be used outdoors and not needing to be pampered.

      I guess where I am getting at with this, is that it's likely only a matter of time before such technology (already available from HughesNet et al) will become even more affordable as to be able to have a working internet connection, without "breaking the bank".

    • Thanks, Chris, that makes sense. I'm sure it's going to be a blessing for many people who lack adequate access today, though I hope that at some point they manage to shrink the uplink hardware so that it is portable and works in the wild.

    • I don't think this will ever be able to replace current on-the-ground cellular networks in places where you already have good (4/5/xG) coverage. Bigger cities have thousands of BTSs (base transceiver stations - devices your phone connects to) to achieve acceptable coverage and bandwidth. To have comparable coverage and bandwidth for the whole world you'd need not thousands, but millions of satellites. I don't think that's a realistic proposition.

      But, constellation like this will have significant advantages outside metro areas, where you cannot get good coverage right now. Also, for planes, ships and potentially autonomous vehicles, this will be great. Another potential use-case is long-distance, backhaul connections. Speed of light is non-marginally greater in vacuum than over fibre so your packet will get to the other side of the world faster than through cables and glass. This is critically important for certain applications (high-speed trading, for example) where customers will readily play steep prices to shave a couple of milliseconds of packet round-trip time.

    • This guy did an amazing simulation of how Starlink will work. In the top right corner, he shows the round-trip time of various paths like London-Singapore in Starlink (89 milliseconds) versus the current Internet (159 milliseconds). Impressive.