As a nation our goal is ubiquitous broadband coverage so every person, regardless of where they live, can obtain the fast, affordable, reliable Internet access necessary for modern times. For people in rural areas, where large national wireline providers don’t typically invest in the infrastructure for high-quality connectivity, satellite Internet access is often their only choice. In our Satellite Is Not Broadband fact sheet we address some of the reasons why depending on satellite Internet access to serve rural America is a mistake.
Download Fact Sheet HERE.
The data sheet is correct satellite broadband is expensive, it suffers from high latency and from weather interruptions.
Latency is the time it takes for a signal to get from the ground to satellite and back to the ground again. It is not a big issue when you’re sending emails or trying to view a static webpage. However, for online education, telehealth and virtual reality high latency can be a showstopper for any service requiring real-time communications.
SpaceX has proposed to reduce the latency issue with it’s Starlink Program. SpaceX’s idea is to put its satellites into much lower orbit than usual, in order to cut the latency of the services. A typical internet satellite in geostationary orbit is more than 22,000 miles above ground. According to SpaceX’s FCC filings, the company wants to put its Starlink satellites in low Earth orbit, between 684 and 823 miles in the air.
Space x wants to initially deploy 800 satellites in low Earth orbit, in order to cover “initial U.S. and international coverage.” Then it wants to throw over 7,000 more into the sky at “Very Low Earth Orbit” (VLEO, in this case around 211 miles up) to fill in the blanks as needed.
Also, SpaceX is not the only satellite company seeking to provide broadband services. OneWeb, Telesat, and Space Norway have also received the FCC’s go-ahead for similar low altitude satellite services. The competition should reduce the price and smaller low altitude satellites will reduce the latency problem, but all will have to deal with the weather.
Given the Telco focus on 5G which is not a rural friendly technology due to the low user density which makes the return on investment questionable, low altitude satellite may be the only options for rural communities for a long time. Getting taxpayers to pay for the fiber networks that 5G needs to cover rural communities are going to be a tough nut to crack.