SpaceX’s Starlink Constellation Construction Begins.

2,200 Satellites Will go up Over the Next 5 years

Elon Musk has made a lot of crazy promises and proposals over the years, which inevitably leads people to pester him about deadlines. Whether it’s reusable rockets, affordable electric cars, missions to Mars, intercontinental flights, or anything having to do with his many other ventures, the question inevitably is “when can we expect it?”

That question has certainly come up in relation to his promise to launch a constellation of broadband satellites that would help provide high-speed internet access to the entire world. In response, Musk recently announced that SpaceX will launch the first batch of Starlink satellites in May 2019, and will continue with launches for the next five years.

This represents a major milestone for the company, which has effectively moved from the development phase of this project to production. Another was reached back in February of 2018 when the company launched two Starlink demonstration satellites. Nevertheless, there are still a lot of details about this constellation that are still unclear.

Continue reading HERE.

May is only weeks away, but we do not know when in May the launches are scheduled.  There are no missions listed in the SpaceX launch manifest HERE.

It will be interesting to track the first Starlinks as they whizz about the planet. Stay Tuned.

 

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Will Amazon’s Flywheel Consume the Rural Broadband Advantage?

What is the Amazon Flywheel? It is best described in a Bloomberg article examining Amazon’s Market Reach.

As Amazon grew, the company adopted a business school concept called the flywheel, loosely defined as a sort of self-reinforcing loop. Where possible, projects were to be structured to bolster other initiatives underway at the company.

Here is an example of the flywheel in action:

By the time Amazon began breaking out the revenue of Amazon Web Services in 2015, the cloud-computing unit had reshaped how businesses used technology. It was also Amazon’s biggest money maker, churning out billions of dollars a year in profit that the company could put to work investing in new services and expansion of its core retail business. Once again, the flywheel in action.

With the announcement that Amazon will be launching 3,236 low earth orbiting satellites to provide broadband internet services from space the potential competitors SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat and LeoSat took notice. The most vocal was Elon Musk who claimed Amazon was copying SpaceX.

Perhaps those that Amazon’s broadband network will impact the most, the mom and pop stores across the nation, may not have given the announcement a passing thought.

While the Amazon LEO satellites will be providing high-speed internet access to 14 million rural US citizens who do not have access now, they will also be providing these rural consumers access to Amazon’s e-commerce kingdom. While Amazon can offer cloud services to small business in rural communities at the same time, they could be stealing those small business customers with their lower cost e-commerce options.

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According to the Foundation for Rural Service study current rural broadband users account for $1.4 Trillion in an online transaction, 14% of all internet driven transition, or 7% of GDP. However, they’re 19 million users that do not have Internet access or have access too slow for effective e-commerce. Amazons LEO network will provide easy access to these unserved broadband customers and at the same time adding them to the Amazon e-commerce customer base. The flywheel in action.

While SpaceX, OneWeb, Telesat, and LeoSat are planning to provide broadband services, Amazon will be providing broadband service, but the primary goal is the creation of marketing and sales infrastructure, which is a far different business model than the service based competition.  The depth of Amazon’s offerings gives them an advantage.

The problem remains, will Amazon’s space-based broadband access be an advantage or detriments to rural communities? Given Amazon’s market penetration so far, it appears that a ubiquitous internet will transform communities, there will be more information based businesses and fewer street side shops selling commodities that Amazon can deliver for less.

Your thoughts?

Broadband Caucus Co-Chair To Push For Better Mapping

— Wittman (R-Va.), a new chair of the House Rural Broadband Caucus, is set to speak this morning at rural broadband trade group NTCA’s legislative and policy conference about the need to have better maps of broadband availability and stronger coordination among key agencies like the FCC and Commerce and Agriculture departments, according to an aide. He will also advocate for future-proofing telecom networks, with an eye toward building out more fiber (which can handle large volumes of data, including to push traffic to and from wireless cell sites) and simplifying the federal permitting process, the aide added.

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

It looks to me we are going to talk about the mapping problem into oblivion. Everyone agrees it is a big problem, with no workable solutions. It is impossible to solve the lack of broadband by throwing money at it if you cannot find where to through the cash. The users without broadband know where the problem is, why does the government have such a difficult time finding a solution? Crowd Source the solution. Send everyone who reports ten addresses without broadband a $10.00 gift card. Each user requests broadband from one or more providers and sends the reply denying availability along with the address lists to the FCC to collect the gift card. Yes, there will be fraud attempts, and they should be prosecuted to the maximum as a deterrent. Do you have a better solution?

About that FCC Rural Broadband Fund

— Pai grabbed headlines Friday by unveiling a $20.4 billion “Rural Digital Opportunity Fund” as part of a White House 5G event. But the fund, to be spent over a decade, is a rebranding of the FCC’s Connect America Fund program, which supports broadband deployment in hard-to-serve areas. The current funding term for the program ends in 2020, and Pai told reporters the rural fund will involve a “repurposing” of Connect America money. To get the subsidies, providers have had to offer broadband speeds of at least 10 Mbps, but the new funding could be used to upgrade service to 25 Mbps.

— The FCC’s Democrats, who said they didn’t have details of the fund, expressed skepticism. “It looks to me like they are dressing up an old program in new, Trump-era clothes,” Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said at the press conference following the FCC’s meeting Friday. “It doesn’t look like any new funding, but instead, same old, same old.”

— Commissioner Geoffrey Starks also said he wants to learn more. “It does seem to smell like something that is repackaging some of the money that we already have, because coming up with $20 billion from the FCC is not something that you just trip over.”

Source: POLITICO Morning Tech

A Cyber Economy: The Transactional Value of the Internet in Rural America

The above title is from an iGR White Paper on internet transaction and spending, including the spending by rural internet users. The details are in the study HERE and the Foundation for Rural Service infographic which provides an excellent summary if you are in a hurry.

From the website with links to the white paper and infographic.

This report examines the nature and quantifiable value of online transactions, and draws comparisons between online usage habits among urban and rural consumers. The report was produced by iGR, a market strategy consultancy focused on the wireless and mobile communications industry, and commissioned by the Foundation for Rural Service (FRS).

Major findings include:

  • Internet usage among urban and rural consumers is largely similar.

  • Rural consumers are responsible for approximately 15% of all consumer, internet-driven transactions annually, which equates to more than 10.8 billion online transactions altogether.

  • Internet-driven transactions make up nearly 50% of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) or $9.6 trillion annually. These transactions are estimated to grow to more than 65% by 2022, to $14 trillion per year.

  • The estimated value of rural online transactions is nearly $1.4 trillion—or 7% of GDP.

This is an impressive study with some interesting numbers, but it only looks at the transaction made by those with a broadband connection, what about the potential of the 14 million rural citizens that do not have any broadband connection?

I predict these 14 million unserved are future users of satellite broadband.

President Trump on 5G

What percentage of the population is without broadband Internet options?

The Eighth Broadband Progress Report finds that approximately 19 million Americans—6 percent of the population—still lack access to fixed broadband service at threshold speeds. In rural areas, nearly one-fourth of the population —14.5 million people—lack access to this service.
Eighth Broadband Progress Report | Federal Communications …

I watched to the President and FCC Pai and I am encouraged that Trump is showing leadership on the rural broadband issues.   However, the 20 billion rural initiative over a decade will only cover 6 million of the 14 million without broadband access, this is less than half. It is going to take a lot of costly fiber as every one of the 5G small cell towers requires a big pipe backhaul connection. In today’s world that is a lot of fiber.

There will soon be alternative backhaul options, the  LEO Sat business plans include 5G backhaul.  I am not sure the land-based infrastructure people in the WH meeting are aware of the change that is about to happen.  Is the government aware of the space-based networks and their potential to change the backhaul game?

 

President Trump to hold WH Meeting on 5G and Rural Broadband (Updated 04-12-19)

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Looking forward to seeing the results of this meeting.  Rural broadband needs all the public attention it can get.  In the scheme of things, rural communities will be the last to get 5G unless some government action is taken to change the ROI for the telecom providers.

Update 04-12-19:  From POLITICO Morning Tech

5G IN THE WHITE HOUSE — Pai is slated to head to the White House this afternoon for a 5G-themed meeting with Trump, as Margaret reported for Pros. The afternoon event will focus on U.S. efforts to build the next-generation networks and comes amid feuding by Trump advisers on how best to advance the technology. The meeting is also expected to include a rural broadband funding announcement, according to an administration official. Remember: Pai briefed Trump on American leadership in 5G last week, and Trump also heard from AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson about his company’s progress.