Elon Musk's Satellite Broadband Clears Crucial U.S. Hurdle

rgMekanic

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Bloomberg is reporting today that Elon Musk's SpaceX application to provide broadband services using satellite technologies was recommended by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today. Last year SpaceX requested authority to deploy and operate a constellation of 4,425 satellites operating 700-800 miles above Earth. The proposal now has to go before Ajit Pai's four fellow commissioners for approval.

If approved I have to wonder how ling it will take to deploy 4,425 satellites. While I love the idea of satellite internet, one thing that they still have not overcome is latency, we will see if the team at SpaceX can solve that problem. Thank you to cageymaru for the story.

“To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies,” Pai said in an emailed statement. “Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach.”
 

i960

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The answer to how they are going to solve the latency issue is right in your post. Normal satellites used for internet are about 22,000 miles from earth, and these will be around 800, so about 27 times closer. The latency is caused by how long it takes radio waves to travel to and from the satellite, which is the speed of light. Move it closer, and latency drops.
 

rgMekanic

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The answer to how they are going to solve the latency issue is right in your post. Normal satellites used for internet are about 22,000 miles from earth, and these will be around 800, so about 27 times closer. The latency is caused by how long it takes radio waves to travel to and from the satellite, which is the speed of light. Move it closer, and latency drops.
Did not know that the current ones were up that high, damn good to know, if this ever gets deployed in my lifetime, may be a great option
 

Rahh

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Go ahead and pollute the skies I mean we already got the Ocean covered!
 

JMccovery

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Gotta say, the faster I can get off of HughesNet, the better.

Kinda sucks when your only options for home internet service are either not-so-good cell service, or crap satellite internet.
 

Grimlaking

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The answer to how they are going to solve the latency issue is right in your post. Normal satellites used for internet are about 22,000 miles from earth, and these will be around 800, so about 27 times closer. The latency is caused by how long it takes radio waves to travel to and from the satellite, which is the speed of light. Move it closer, and latency drops.

I was going to say radio waves do not move at the speed of light... but they do in a vacume. Interesting.
 

oldmanbal

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The answer to how they are going to solve the latency issue is right in your post. Normal satellites used for internet are about 22,000 miles from earth, and these will be around 800, so about 27 times closer. The latency is caused by how long it takes radio waves to travel to and from the satellite, which is the speed of light. Move it closer, and latency drops.
In my experience, the speed of light typically doesn't balk at the difference between 22k miles and 800 miles, so that's not going to be an instant fix for latency issues.
 

Corvette

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In my experience, the speed of light typically doesn't balk at the difference between 22k miles and 800 miles, so that's not going to be an instant fix for latency issues.
According to Ars, the SpaceX satellites will orbit at about 1,200km of altitude and the current slow satellites orbit at about 35,400km.

At the speed of light (299,792,458 m/s) a radio signal takes about 8ms to travel 1,200km and back. It takes 29.5 times longer, or 236ms to travel 35,400km and back. That's only 0.2 seconds longer, but 200ms is a big deal in something like an online game. A quick Google search shows that microwaves are barely affected by air, but the difference grows the slower the signal travels.
 

Uvaman2

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This is excellent.. all the big ones (google ms amazo apple) should invest in making this a reality.. or they can risk being screwed with a flaccid penis by the ISPs.
 

WhoMe

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800 miles? So I wonder what the projected life span is for these, maybe they'll have a lot of propellant? Anyway, I suspect that since they mention cell towers, this is what they are planning on competing with, yeah a big jump for those still on dial-up, but I already get 4g which lets me steam SD stuff, well until I run into the 22GB cap.
 

nutzo

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The answer to how they are going to solve the latency issue is right in your post. Normal satellites used for internet are about 22,000 miles from earth, and these will be around 800, so about 27 times closer. The latency is caused by how long it takes radio waves to travel to and from the satellite, which is the speed of light. Move it closer, and latency drops.
Still going to have more latency than cable or DSL. Might not be a good choice for gaming.

However, they latency should be low enough for fast downloads and video streaming.
 

Grimlaking

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Yea but for all those that just want to stream video be that netflix, amazon prime, youtube or what have you... if this is cheap... and fast... the latency difference of 20ms will be meaningless to them. And really for the vast majority of gamers online... meaningless for them too unless your into highly competitive gameplay.
 

spugm1r3

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Falcon Heavys deploying arrays of drone satellites... that's my guess. I don't think the time frame will be all that long if they can get approval to deploy more than one satellite per trip.

By the way, I don't think the point is to create alternatives on par with wired solutions; the intention is to fill the gaps of wired service without having to cut through all the red tape of running cable across state lines. Space is a conceivably less regulated than interstate communications, and SpaceX already has the ability to deliver payloads into orbit. It's a natural next step for increasing the ROI of SpaceX.
 

dvsman

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Internet access (or lack thereof) is the only thing stopping me from moving to a cabin in the woods. If this new satellite thing can cure the latency issue and make cable and fiber irrelevant, I'm buying a few acres and checking the hell out.
 
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Bloomberg is reporting today that Elon Musk's SpaceX application to provide broadband services using satellite technologies was recommended by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai today. Last year SpaceX requested authority to deploy and operate a constellation of 4,425 satellites operating 700-800 miles above Earth. The proposal now has to go before Ajit Pai's four fellow commissioners for approval.

If approved I have to wonder how ling it will take to deploy 4,425 satellites. While I love the idea of satellite internet, one thing that they still have not overcome is latency, we will see if the team at SpaceX can solve that problem. Thank you to cageymaru for the story.

“To bridge America’s digital divide, we’ll have to use innovative technologies,” Pai said in an emailed statement. “Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach.”
I was about to say, latency is the suckage. And bandwidth limited. That's a lot of frequencies they will have to allocate. I would be surprised if spaceX got them all
 

LMT MFA

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The 4000+ number is an endgame scenario for worldwide coverage, they'll start with about 800 for offering service around the US.

This will triple the amount of satellites in orbit.

Their very low orbit means they'll decay rather quickly, all part of the plan, these are pretty simple and cheap things, and SpaceX will have relatively cheap launchcapacity, being SpaceX and all. I'm thinking they'll piggyback at least partially on existing launches, they'll be putting up two test sats soon, piggybacking on a commercial launch, sounds like a good way to get it done cheap.

No idea how they're gonna manage the spectrums they'll need, especially worldwide, but man, if they pull this one off cable and fibre are gonna have some serious competition, probably even here in Europe where cable seems to be pretty sweet. Also, I think, it's pretty much settled that this network is gonna have net neutrality.
 

Bowman15

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Ain't going to work. Too much latency and cost prohibitive. Yes I used to be a satellite ISP network administrator. Worst job ever.
 

tazeat

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Now put the chip in a cell phone and you can have broadband speed internet and cell coverage in any location with visibility of the sky. That will be a fucking game changer. Hunting and exploration changed forever. Sat phones and text services like Garmin InReach with super slow ass texts be damned.
 

i960

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I was going to say radio waves do not move at the speed of light... but they do in a vacume. Interesting.
Both light and radio are forms of electromagnetic radiation. Light is also slowed down in air, but not by much.
 

i960

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Still going to have more latency than cable or DSL. Might not be a good choice for gaming.

However, they latency should be low enough for fast downloads and video streaming.
It won't compete with land based internet in terms of raw speed and latency, but it will be fast enough for many uses, and way faster than current satellite options. Depending on pricing, this could disrupt some of the monopolies in the cable industry. I bet a lot of people would be willing to give up a little bandwidth and latency in order to ditch companies like Comcast.
 

nutzo

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It won't compete with land based internet in terms of raw speed and latency, but it will be fast enough for many uses, and way faster than current satellite options. Depending on pricing, this could disrupt some of the monopolies in the cable industry. I bet a lot of people would be willing to give up a little bandwidth and latency in order to ditch companies like Comcast.
Hopefully it will be competitively priced, and have a bandwidth/cap high enough to allow streaming.

Only thing I see suffering due to the latency is gaming, as it's low enough for everything else.
 

Balkroth

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These should be mini or microsats, so they'll be able to launch a ton at a time, and won't even need to use their own rockets for it, you're looking at things that weigh like ~100 lbs .
 

IdiotInCharge

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However, they latency should be low enough for fast downloads and video streaming.
Having used a portable satellite transceiver (and understanding the tech), I can state downloads and video streaming are pretty latency immune.
 

jedijeb13

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800 miles? So I wonder what the projected life span is for these, maybe they'll have a lot of propellant? Anyway, I suspect that since they mention cell towers, this is what they are planning on competing with, yeah a big jump for those still on dial-up, but I already get 4g which lets me steam SD stuff, well until I run into the 22GB cap.
At 800 miles they should last a long time. The ISS is only 248 miles up, at 800 the atmospheric density should be low enough to not induce too much drag. Normal internet satellites orbit at 22,000 miles because that is where they have to be to be geostationary.

At 800 miles they will be orbiting faster than the Earth rotates so you will be using the signals more like a cell signal than something like Hughesnet since you would need a tracking dish to follow a single satellite and it would disappear over the horizon and you would lose signal. At 8ms signal travel time you would probably end up with fast enough latency that it wouldn't be a problem for gaming.
 

Bowman15

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Significantly different than existing satellites due to their much lower orbit.
Distance in orbit is only one part of the equation. There is a lot more to the tech than just worrying about ground to satellite then back to ground latency. And with any satellite tech there will be bandwidth limitations and congestion.
 
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Balkroth

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At 800 miles they should last a long time. The ISS is only 248 miles up, at 800 the atmospheric density should be low enough to not induce too much drag. Normal internet satellites orbit at 22,000 miles because that is where they have to be to be geostationary.

At 800 miles they will be orbiting faster than the Earth rotates so you will be using the signals more like a cell signal than something like Hughesnet since you would need a tracking dish to follow a single satellite and it would disappear over the horizon and you would lose signal. At 8ms signal travel time you would probably end up with fast enough latency that it wouldn't be a problem for gaming.
Well less than 800 miles, maybe.

But you're also not depending on a single or a few satellites, it's a constellation of them (ultimately goes to the cubesat idea for much smaller satellites) , so you're not only dealing with decrease in time of vertical distance, but horizontal distance as well.

Handovers will be interesting, but they should be node linked if they're anythings like the ones I worked on in grad school.

Edit- I only did thermal work on them, so I probably was given limited knowledge on that part, and honestly it was irrelevant to me at the time.
 

chaos4u

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even if latency winds up not being an issue , (im still skeptical about that) how are they going to scale ? so far satellite internet has shown that it cannot cope with today demand for bandwidth .

so even if musks gets this up and going i will be really impressed if his company will be able to constantly keep up with the ever increasing demand for more bandwidth over time. While keeping the service affordable enough to pay for what most likely is going to be a huge infrastructure and maintenance cost . even with him owning the rockets it still has to be pretty pricey to launch and maintain a group of satellites in low earth orbit.
 

cjcox

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Elon would like to remind you that top speeds and reduced latencies are possible the closer you are to the central office. This one being in low earth orbit.
 
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