City Leaders in Bozeman, Montana, Declare Broadband Essential Infrastructure

In mid-April, city leaders in Bozeman, Montana, passed Resolution No. 5031 to officially declare broadband essential infrastructure for the city. The declaration comports with the city’s long-term goal to bring high-quality connectivity throughout the community.

All the details at Community Networks

Bangor, Maine, passed a similar resolution last summer. As communities make such formal declarations, they show their commitments to improving local economies and encouraging their constituents to consider connectivity an integral part of daily life.

Brookings Institute Metro Policy Paper, Signs of Digital Distress, in less than two decades broadband access has become one of the foundations of the American economy, joining water, sewer, power and energy as essential infrastructure.

It is encouraging that more city leaders are coming to recognize how vital broadband is to daily life and economic commerce. Let us hope your city leaders get the message “real soon now.”

SpaceX Starlink: How Will the Internet Satellites Work?

Inverse has the details:

Satellite internet promises broader access to a wider range of people than traditional cable-based networks, but latency has been a major issue. A 2013 analysis found satellite systems could reach latency of 638 milliseconds, around 20 times slower than wired. That means that while data could download at a comparable speed to regular connections, the slow response times would make gaming and other reaction-sensitive activities sluggish.

Musk claims Starlink will be lower latency enough to power video games. Access will be delivered to users through a ground terminal the size of a pizza box, differentiating it from other services that beam directly to the device. SpaceX filed with the FCC for permission in February for 1 million fixed-Earth stations that will communicate with the satellite array. These systems use steered antenna beams to communicate with the satellite it can see in the sky. SpaceX tested this setup in February 2018 by launching two test satellites communicating with six ground stations.

The new proposals make some key adjustments to these plans that could improve the long-term viability of the project. Mark Handley, a professor of networked systems at University College London, told Inverse in November 2018 that a lower orbit means the satellites will stay up for around five years once defunct before falling to Earth unlike the original design that could have led to satellites floating around for decades creating space junk. There’s also more space between each satellite, of 90 kilometers instead of 40, reducing the chances of collisions.

Overall, Handley explains, the system could halve communication times between London and Singapore, in part because light in a vacuum is 50 percent faster than light through glass, such as fiber optic, and also because fiber optic sometimes takes a less direct path. Starlink will use lasers to communicate with others in the array, forming a fast-moving global network.

Link to video HERE.

Operational launches start in May from Florida on a Falcon 9, but the majority of the Starlinks birds will be launched with the Falcon Heavy from Texas.  There are more details on the Starlink program and its goals at this LINK.

Radio Astronomers Not Happy About Constellations of LEO Satellites

Space Daily has some details:

Today, radio astronomy faces a new front of enormous satellite constellations, the big three being: SpaceX’s Starlink, OneWeb, and IridiumNEXT. The SpaceX Starlink satellite constellation aims to launch around 12,000 satellites to serve the purpose of a space-based Internet system. The OneWeb constellation’s end plan is to have almost 3,000 satellites in orbit to also serve the purpose of an Internet service. Iridium NEXT, like the original constellation, is a telecommunications satellite constellation consisting of 66 satellites. Of the three, Starlink obviously grabs the most attention and instills the most fear for obvious reasons. Harvey Liszt, astronomer and spectrum manager for the NRAO, reached out to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in February 2018 to express concern over SpaceX’s constellation.

“SpaceX, which plans to use the 10.7 – 12.7 GHz band for its downlink, has not yet fulfilled its obligations under US131. Coordination between SpaceX and the AUI observatories (together with NSF) trailed off inconclusively around the middle of 2017 after a tentative and rather preliminary treatment of radio astronomy’s concerns and the manner in which SpaceX planned to address them.”

Continue reading HERE.

As a former Amateur Radio Astronomer and visitor to radio astronomy observatories across the nation, I understand the magnitude of the problem.  I have visited the Green Bank Radio Observatory several times, and the Very Large Array was an excellent experience.

Very_Large_Array,_2012

We drove up to the VLR about three in the afternoon, and as we stood outside our vehicle, all the antenna is the array started to move, sweeping across the sky toward the sun. The sun is sometimes used by an astronomer to calibrate receivers, we have no idea if this was the case this time. We drove on to the central facility, and the doors were all lock, but we found some stairs and platform that let us look in windows of the observer station. It was vacant, no observers at the controls.  It was spooky watch the antenna move and knowing the control room was empty, no humans present. The VLA is monitored and controlled remotely.

CPUC to Hold Public Workshop on Expanding Access to Broadband

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), as part of its implementation of The Internet for All Now Act, will hold a workshop to consult with local governments, broadband providers, consumers, and other stakeholders on cost-effective strategies for expanding broadband access in unserved areas of the state. The CPUC welcomes attendance at this public workshop.

WHAT: Workshop on Expanding Access to Broadband
WHEN: Monday, April 29, 2019, 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
WHERE:
• . California Lottery Headquarters, 700 North 10th Street, Sacramento, CA, 95811
• . Also available via webcast at www.adminmonitor.com/ca/cpuc
•    Remote participants may email questions during the workshop to:
CASF_Application_Questions@cpuc.ca.gov

Full Press Release is HERE:

 

FCC Approves SpaceX’s Revised Starlink Satellite Plan; First Wave Gets Set For Liftoff

GeekWire has the details:

The Federal Communications Commission today [26 April] approved SpaceX’s proposed revisions in its plan to put thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit to provide global broadband connectivity, clearing the way to start launching satellites next month.

SpaceX already had authorization for 4,425 Starlink satellites that would use Ku- and Ka-band radio spectrum to beam internet data, but last November, the company asked the FCC to sign off on a plan that would put more than a third of the satellites in 550-kilometer-high (340-mile-high) orbits rather than the previously approved 1,150-kilometer (715-mile) orbits.

Eventually, SpaceX plans to add another wave of more than 7,500 satellites in even lower orbits to enhance the constellation’s coverage.

[. . .]

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer, praised the FCC’s action in an emailed statement:

“This approval underscores the FCC’s confidence in SpaceX’s plans to deploy its next-generation satellite constellation and connect people around the world with reliable and affordable broadband service. Starlink production is well underway, and the first group of satellites have already arrived at the launch site for processing.”

SpaceX says that first wave of satellites will be launched into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida no earlier than May.

[. . .]

SpaceX has said an initial version of its Starlink service could offer high-speed connectivity starting in the 2020-2021 time frame. SpaceX is required to put half of its constellation’s satellites into operation by 2024. To facilitate that task, SpaceX is laying the groundwork for its super-heavy-lift Starship launch system in Texas. [Emphasis added]

The full article is HERE

It is estimated that a super-heavy-lift Starship launch system could put 375 Starlink satellites on orbit per launch. Source

Here is an interesting Starlink video: https://youtu.be/QrI6aCGdB00

Facebook LEO to Compete with SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon

This is an introductory blurb from July 2018 TechRepublic, below is an update from Satellite Markets, March 2019.

Facebook creates high-speed satellite broadband to compete for popularity with others like SpaceX and OneWeb. [Amazon has since joined the game]

Facebook plans on launching its own internet satellite in 2019, according to a Wired report on Friday. Currently, many people connecting to the internet in remote places receive very slow and little connectivity, which results in a frustrating user experience, the report noted, but satellites like those Facebook is planning could help remedy that.

The new satellites from Facebook were confirmed via emails obtained from the Federal Communications Commission, said the report. Named Athena, the internet device will look like “constellations” in the earth’s orbit, continue the report.

Update:

PointView Tech LLC. A filing with the FCC of a multi-million-dollar experimental satellite from Facebook was confirmed last July 2018. The satellite, named Athena, will deliver data 10 times faster than SpaceX’s Starlink Internet satellites.

In early 2019, PointView’s Athena will also head out to LEO, on an Arianespace Vega rocket. Athena is about the same size and weight (150 kg) as SpaceX and OneWeb’s satellites, but Athena will use high-frequency millimeter-wave radio signals that promise much faster data rates. The company estimates its E-band system will deliver up to 10 gigabits per second. “PointView is aiming to understand whether a system using E-band spectrum can be used for the provision of fixed and mobile broadband access in unserved and underserved areas,” it wrote in the FCC application.

PointView specifies three ground stations in its application that will send data to Athena in orbit and receive it in turn. One is a so-called satellite ‘teleport’ near Ventura, Calif., that is shared by a number of satellite companies. The second is Mount Wilson Observatory in the hills above Los Angeles, another popular location for communications hardware.

There are technical barriers to using E-band radio from orbit, however. High-frequency millimeter waves fade quickly and are easily absorbed by rain or other particles in the air. Part of Athena’s two-year mission will be to test just how big of a problem that is. “PointView plans to publish many of its experimental findings, including atmospheric attenuation model validation data,” says its application.

PointView expects to get download speeds of around 10 Gbps at its ground stations, with uplink speeds topping 30 Gbps. But because Athena is in LEO, it will only fly above the three ground stations a couple of times each day, and for less than eight minutes at a time.

Continue Reading HERE.

OneWeb with six sats in space and SpaceX’s TinTin A and B have been in orbit for a year making them the leaders, as the Athena Project will spend two years testing the E-Band and Laser Communications.  Amazon is just started hiring satellite engineers in Bellvue, Washington.  SpaceX will start launching operational satellites in May 2019.

 

5G Could Finally Herald the Era of Wireless Surgery

Though it may still sound like science fiction, over the past 15 years, robotic-assisted surgeries have become practically commonplace. The vast majority of these operations are performed by the da Vinci surgical system, a four-armed, minimally invasive surgical robot controlled by a doctor sitting at a nearby console. In 2018, the da Vinci system was used in roughly 1 million surgeries. However, some experts see surgical robotics as just a stepping-stone to the next transformational surgery technology: telesurgery, or surgeries conducted by doctors located miles away from their patients.
Telesurgery procedures are still exceedingly rare, due in part to concerns around internet reliability and infrastructure. Controlling a surgery remotely is possible only if the data connection is broad and secure. But now, with the adoption of 5G communication networks, there’s reason to believe that mass-market telesurgeries are finally on the horizon. In fact, earlier this year, unconfirmed reports emerged that surgeons in China had conducted the world’s first 5G telesurgery on a human patient.

Continue Reading HERE.

Who could benefit the most from remote surgeries? Rural folks a significant distance from urban medical centers. However, it is doubtful these remote communities will have 5G and da Vinci robots anytime in the near future. Rural communities will be the last in the 5G queue if they ever get 5G.

Satellite-Based Cloud Computing Competition

Russ Steele

I just returned from a trip to the Seattle area where cloud computing slipped into the conversation with Amazon announcing the formation of a low latency satellite internet network to provide services, including cloud computing. This new development could bring fast cloud computing services to billions of new customers.

What is cloud computing you ask? Generally, cloud computing services are categorized into three types:
1) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS): This service provides the infrastructure like Servers, Operating Systems, Virtual Machines, Networks, and Storage on rent basis. Recognized providers include Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Service

2) Platform as a Service (PaaS): This service is used in developing, testing and maintaining of software. PaaS is same as IaaS but also provides additional tools like database management systems and business intelligence services. Primary provider are Microsoft/RedHat, IBM, and Oracle

3) Software as a Service (SaaS): This service makes the users connect to the applications through the Internet on a subscription basis. Examples are Google Applications, Salesforce, and Microsoft.

Amazon AWS, Microsoft, and Google are all using their infrastructure to provide more cloud-based business services, but now Amazon has changed the game by joining the LEO satellite broadband internet providers. By using a space-based network, AWS is building out service infrastructure to provide cloud connectivity to global customers, faster than surface based competitors, especially over long distances.

The question is can Google and Microsoft stay in the game with Amazon satellite broadband delivered cloud computing services across the globe.

Google Filed patent US 20170005179, on September 30, 2014, for a constellation of 1000 satellites to cover 75% if the earth. However, Project Loon, a series of balloons to provide WiFi services for broad swathes of the unserved area around the equator seem to take priority. With billions in the bank, Google could act on its patented network to become a space-based cloud service company.

What about Microsoft? How do they compete in the cloud computing service business when they are confined to earth-based fiber networks? Satellites networks with laser interconnections are much faster than fiber networks. For example, studies have shown fiber latency between San Francisco and London is about 146 ms, whereas the SpaceX satellite link is about 50% faster at 73 ms, with twelve satellite hops.

Microsoft’s Azure cloud is a rapidly growing business segment. Fiscal third-quarter sales in the company’s Azure cloud computing segment rose 73% year-over-year according to 3rd Quarter Report.

“Leading organizations of every size in every industry trust the Microsoft cloud. We are accelerating our innovation across the cloud and edge so our customers can build the digital capability increasingly required to compete and grow,” Microsoft Chief Executive Satya Nadella said in the earnings release.

If I were a Microsoft advisor, I would recommend Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella investigate becoming a partner with SpaceX or one of the other LEO constellations that has an inter-satellite communications architecture to provide a suite of fast cloud computing service applications.  The game is changing and the winner yet to be determined.

Cloud Computing from Space Attracting Aerospace Giant

Geekwire: Is the final frontier the next frontier for cloud computing?

One of the presentations planned for Amazon’s re:MARS conference in June suggests that Lockheed Martin is putting serious thought into the idea of space-based cloud services. The presentation, titled “Solving Earth’s Biggest Problems With a Cloud in Space,” features Yvonne Hodge, vice president and chief information officer at Lockheed Martin Space.

Just because an executive is talking about the subject doesn’t necessarily mean the aerospace giant has a plan in the works. But the concept would fit in nicely with Lockheed Martin’s previously announced partnership with Amazon on AWS Ground Station, a cloud-based satellite communications and control service.

It’s also worth noting that Amazon unveiled plans this month for a 3,236-satellite constellation, code-named Project Kuiper, which would make broadband internet access available to the estimated 4 billion people around the world who are currently underserved.

Extending cloud networks into space would provide yet another boost for global commerce, and potentially for global welfare as well. Here’s how the possibilities are described in the abstract for Hodge’s talk:

“Can a cloud in space impact the world’s poverty? Are there ways to make agriculture more efficient? Can internet connectivity for the world change how the world lives? Join this interactive discussion as we consider new approaches to solving Earth’s problems including how a cloud in space could positively impact our lives using space data.”

Continue Reading HERE.

Accessing the Cloud via LEO satellite networks is faster than accessing them over fiber networks when long distances are involved according to studies.  A San Francisco to London link is 50% faster over satellite links than an undersea fiber link according to simulations. More details HERE.

 

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.