Rural Telcom De-regulation — Prompts Competition from Space

Doug Dawson has an excellent post in Pots and Pans on the impact regulators had on the lack of rural broadband.

Rural America should never have been deregulated. Shame on every regulator in every state that voted to deregulate the big telcos in rural America. Shame on every regulator that allowed companies like Verizon palm off their rural copper to companies like Frontier – a company that cannot succeed, almost by definition.

In rural America the telcos have a physical network monopoly and the regulators should have found ways to support rural copper rather than letting the telcos walk away from it. We know this can be done by looking at the different approaches taken by the smaller independent telephone companies. These small companies took care of their copper and most have now taken the next step to upgrade to fiber to be ready for the next century.

The full post is HERE.

Doug writes: “The big telcos started abandoning rural America as much as thirty years ago. They’ve stopped maintaining copper and have not voluntarily made any investments in rural America for a long time. There was a burst of rural construction recently when the FCC gave them $11 billion to improve rural broadband to 10/1 Mbps – but that doesn’t seem to be drawing many rural subscribers.”

The launch of the low earth-orbiting satellite broadband networks by SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon are going to provide rural users alternatives to the poor service and slow speeds offered by the telcos. The LEO ISPs are promising “fiber-like services” to rural customers starting in 2020, with full service by 2021.

One of the challenges will be the start-up costs, which are forecast to be in the $300 to 500 dollar range. The monthly fee of those services is presently an unknown but is expected to be competitive with existing fiber services.

SpaceX is expecting a high demand for their “fiber-like services” from space. They have requested permission to launch up to 42,000 Starlink satellites, 12,000 that are already approved plus 30,000 more to meet the expected global demand. This YouTube video has some details and attractive graphics:

https://youtu.be/z93a9OUJfOA

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Bank of America: 15 Radical Technologies Will Transform the Future

One of those technologies is LEO satellites:

BofA said nanosatellites could play a crucial role in connecting nearly 41 per cent of the population that is still not connected to the internet. These are small satellites providing more affordable access to space and universal satellite internet access.

The global nano and microsatellite market is set to grow at a 22.2 per cent compound annual growth rate over the next six years from $1.3bn in 2018 to $5.2bn in 2025.

Tech giant Amazon has already applied for permission to launch 3,236 satellites and it would positively impact the fields of space, military, telecoms, communications, science and remote sensing.

I guess BofA does not know about the SpaceX StarLink and OneWeb satellites that are in orbit.  Both companies have a robust launch schedule for the next two years.

The full article is HERE

Amazon Exec Dave Limp Expects Project Kuiper Satellites to Boost Sales and Cloud

Here’s how Limp explained the business case at the GeekWire Summit:

“There are lots of places on Earth that are incredibly well-served by wireless. But when you map it out, and we have done this pretty carefully, there are lots of blank spots. And by the way, immediately your mind goes, ‘Oh, well, there’s a big blank spot in sub-Saharan Africa.’ You don’t have to go that far.

“You just have to go to Eastern Washington, and you can find lots of areas where connectivity is very difficult to get. And if you do have connectivity, it’s not the connectivity that we’re now beginning to take for granted. It’s running off legacy copper, in many instances, or off satellite systems that, because of the constraints on how to get things to space, have very long latency and lower bandwidth.

“If you think about Amazon and what we want to do in the future, we want everybody connected. A, it’s good for society, and B, it also will be good for Amazon. Obviously, more people can shop, which we like, and more people can get access to things like Alexa, and more developers can get access to things like AWS.

“So, connectivity is kind of a primitive, first and foremost, but it’s getting close to a human right. If you were writing a new Bill of Rights today, you might put connectivity in it. It’s close to that. [There are] lots of things small companies can do. They’re nimble, they’re in a garage, they can invent super-fast. [But] there are some things that, for bigger companies — it’s on our shoulders to solve. This is an example of one of those.

“To solve that connectivity … on a global basis, we’re going to have to put 3,236 satellites up. That’s going to take billions and billions of dollars of capital. And by the way, it’s high risk. We’ve got a lot of invention ahead of us. But I like that we’re willing to take on the responsibility for trying to do that. I think we can also turn it into a good business. That’s not lost on us. But when you can get the overlap of the Venn diagrams of “good businesses” with “greater good,” those are the things you want to work on.

“Kindle was that way for me. That’s why I came to Amazon. If we can help with literacy and reading in the world, and also turn it into a pretty good business, that’s a good job to have.”

Full GeekWire article HERE.

Note: Amazon looks at Project Kuiper as just another segment of their sales infrastructure.  This is a strategic advantage.

Amazon’s Project Kuiper and OneWeb Raise the Curtain Higher on Their Satellite Plans

BY ALAN BOYLE at GeekWire.com

Filings with the Federal Communications Commission are providing fresh details about the plans being laid by Amazon and OneWeb to set up networks of satellites for global broadband internet access.

OneWeb, for example, is seeking FCC approval for up to 1.5 million ground terminals that customers would use to receive and transmit satellite data.

Amazon, meanwhile, is answering questions from the FCC about how the satellites in its Project Kuiper constellation would be maneuvered and deorbited. The answers make clear that Project Kuiper’s satellite design is still very much in flux.

That’s in contrast to SpaceX, which has already launched 60 of its Starlink satellites and is expected to send another batch into orbit as early as this month.

SpaceX, Amazon and OneWeb are considered the leading at competitors in the nascent market to offer high-speed internet access from low Earth orbit, or LEO, to the billions of people who are currently underserved. Other players in the LEO broadband market include Telesat and LeoSat.

In a recent FCC filing, SpaceX suggested that it could begin providing limited service to parts of the United States by the end of next year.

OneWeb launched the first six satellites of its constellation in February and is expected to launch about 30 more in December. The London-based consortium says it’s planning to offer satellite internet access starting in late 2020 — with the world’s Arctic regions as its initial focus.

OneWeb’s request for authority to operate 1.5 million user terminals in the United States was filed on Sunday. The terminals, which would be equipped with 18-inch-wide antennas, would work with OneWeb’s gateway facilities to process the signals beamed down from its constellation.

It typically takes months for the FCC to gather comment and make its decision about such a request. SpaceX filed a similar application for 1 million user terminals back in February, and that application is still pending.

Amazon isn’t as far along in its plans. It hasn’t said exactly when it intends to start building, launching or operating Project Kuiper’s satellites, and it hasn’t yet settled on a launch provider. But the Seattle-based company is nevertheless making a big commitment to Project Kuiper, which CEO Jeff Bezos called “a very good business for Amazon” during a Las Vegas conference in June. Amazon is listing about 100 job openings for the satellite project, virtually all based in Bellevue, Wash.

One recent FCC filing relating to Project Kuiper is a Sept. 18 letter from C. Andrew Keisner, lead counsel to Amazon’s Kuiper Systems subsidiary. The letter addresses a series of questions from the FCC asking about the project’s status.

Keisner told the FCC that the system’s “constellation design and implementation plan are well-developed, and Amazon continues to mature its satellite design and operational procedures.”

He provided a recap of the specifications for the satellite constellation, which were first laid out in April. The plan calls for putting 3,236 satellites into three sets of orbits, at 590, 610 and 630 kilometers (367, 379 and 391 miles) in altitude.

Keisner said the satellites would be deployed into an initial orbit that’s below the altitude of the International Space Station (roughly 250 miles or 400 kilometers). They’d be given a “comprehensive in-orbit performance verification” at the lower altitude, and only then would be raised to their operational orbits.

Emphasis Added.  Continue reading HERE.

OneWeb Terminal

This may be a OneWeb Terminal Gateway with an 18-inch antenna?  Thoughts?

Tech Titans Start Internet Space Race

Irina Slav writing at Oilprice.com

Last week, when CNN reported SpaceX planned to start beaming Internet from space next year, it drew attention to a fascinating and potentially extremely lucrative topic: space Internet.

The idea of using satellites to beam Internet to large parts of the planet has undoubted benefits. It can bring the Internet to many of the 3 billion people who currently don’t have access to the Web and cannot therefore take advantage of all the opportunities it offers, whether it’s for job searching, education, or something else.

Yet the challenges and drawbacks are significant as well. For starters, it will be expensive, writes Tali Arbel for the AP. One would need tens of thousands of satellites, and although these are smaller and hence cheaper than other satellites, the sheer number pushes the total cost up. So does the need for extensive and complex infrastructure on Earth: dishes and antennas. SpaceX alone has filed a request for one million so-called earth stations” as part of its space-based Internet project. Because of these high costs, it will be quite a while before this project and others like it start making money, if they are completed at all.

“I would be surprised if something were profitable in 10 years,” an aeronautics and astronautics professor from MIT told the AP’s Arbel. Kerri Cahoy added that space-based Internet is also at least three years from widespread commercial use. Yet SpaceX wants to do it next year, and there’s a good reason for that: competition.

This year, Elon Musk’s space company launched the first group of satellites for what it calls Starlink—the constellation of satellites it will use to beam Internet to Earth. Next year, the company is planning on 24 launches for satellites that will become part of Starlink—an unprecedented number of launches as SpaceX rushes to be the first in a new market that could turn it into a $52-billion company, according to Morgan Stanley.

Its competitors here include Amazon, which undoubtedly has the financial means to stake a claim in the future space-based Internet market, as well as OneWeb, a venture financially backed by Virgin’s Richard Branson, along with Qualcomm, and Japan’s SoftBank. And these are just the large players.

For now, SpaceX and OneWeb are the frontrunners in the nascent race. OneWeb also said recently it planned to start beaming Internet signal from space next year. Its target will be Alaska: one of the places where regular Internet connection is difficult to come by, with only 52 percent of Alaskans enjoying broadband access.

Related: ‘’Too Much Too Fast’’ Gas Glut Crushes Shale Drillers

Yet it is far from certain this will happen as planned. The AP’s Arbel notes OneWeb’s original plan had envisaged the launch of its satellite constellation by the end of this year but the company has had to push back the launch date.

Amazon is kind of late to the party. It only recently asked the Federal Communications Commission to conduct tests on a new broadband Internet service and to launch more than 3,000 satellites in orbit. It has the capacity to catch up quickly to its rivals, but ultimate success remains uncertain for all of them.

The satellite constellations will cost billions of dollars to send into orbit. The earth stations will also be expensive: after all, to bring Internet to remote regions you’d need stations in those regions, and in this context, remote means expensive. Finally, your future clients need to be able to afford Internet services, the AP’s Arbel says.

While the main runners in the race have the means to cover the costs of installations and satellite clusters, there is nothing they can do about the wild card: the potential users of their space-based Internet services. True, Jeff Bezos is talking about beaming Internet to the whole world, but only half of this world or even less can actually afford Internet access, and that’s at current prices for the service. Space-based Internet needs to become a lot cheaper to become viable.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com

Intelsat Sues OneWeb Broadband Satellite Venture Over a Mega-Deal That Went Sour

OneWeb_Sat
Illustration of OneWeb Satellite from Internet

GeekWire has the details:

One of the world’s biggest satellite operators, Intelsat, is accusing the OneWeb broadband satellite venture and its biggest investor, SoftBank, of breach of contract, fraud and conspiracy in a lawsuit seeking what could amount to tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in damages.

In the course of laying out its case, Intelsat told the New York State Supreme Court that it paid Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta, a venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, $10 million for development of a flat-panel antenna for OneWeb’s constellation.

Intelsat’s Sept. 10 filing also said OneWeb has pivoted from its original plan to provide broadband access to underserved regions of the world to concentrate on the very markets that Intelsat was planning to serve under the terms of the deal it struck in 2015 with OneWeb: maritime and aviation mobility services, oil and gas industry services and government services.

Continue reading HERE.

This could slow down the OneWeb service activation. In a press release, OneWeb touted it initial capability to focus on Alaska and Northern Canada end-users and businesses, with service starting by early 2020.  Any slow down could give more advantage to the other potential LEO broadband providers, SpaceX, Amazon, and Telesat.

Amazon Seeks Permission to Launch 3,236 Internet Satellites

Amazon wants the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to give it the go-ahead to launch 3,236 satellites that would be used to establish a globe-spanning internet network. Seeking Alpha reported that Amazon expects “to offer service to tens of millions of underserved customers around the world” via the network, which the company is developing under the code-name Project Kuiper.

News of Project Kuiper broke in April, when Amazon uncharacteristically confirmed its work on the project to GeekWire. The company often declines to comment on reports concerning its plans; it seems the development of thousands of internet-providing satellites is the exception. The company had yet to seek FCC approval for the project, though, which is what Seeking Alpha reported today.

Continue Reading HERE. The article concludes:

Project Kuiper could potentially bring Amazon closer to Blue Origin, the space exploration company founded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, should they collaborate on the satellite network. Even if the companies don’t, connecting more people to the Internet could be a boon for Amazon. The company wouldn’t necessarily have to convince those people to buy things from its marketplace, either, thanks to the variety of digital services it offers.

[Emphasis added].  Amazon is in the cloud services business with satellite control terminals co-located with its server farms. Amazon will have end-to-end data collection and processing capacity over network faster than fiber optics.

Jeff Bezos Explains Amazon’s Bet on Project Kuiper Satellites

Geek Wire has the details

For the first time in public, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explained the rationale for his risky Project Kuiper satellite broadband venture, during a fireside chat that was interrupted when an animal rights activist jumped on stage.

[. . .]

When Freshwater asked Bezos to name a “big bet” that Amazon has taken recently, he focused on Project Kuiper, the plan to put more than 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit for global broadband coverage. The project came to light in April, and seems likely to be based in Bellevue, Wash. Here’s how Bezos explained his bet:

“The goal here is broadband everywhere, but the very nature of [having] thousands of satellites in low Earth orbit is very different from geostationary satellites. … You have equal broadband all over the surface of Earth. Not exactly equal, it tends to be a lot more concentrated toward the poles, unfortunately.

“But you end up servicing the whole world. So it’s really good. By definition you end up accessing people who are ‘under-bandwidthed.’ Very rural areas, remote areas. And I think you can see going forward that internet, access to broadband is going to be very close to being a fundamental human need as we move forward.

“So Project Kuiper has that. It’s also a very good business for Amazon because it’s a very high-capex [capital expenditure] undertaking. It’s multiple billions of dollars of capex. … Amazon is a large enough company now that we need to do things that, if they work, can actually move the needle.”

Amazon has already turned on its global satellite control networks, mostly located at it’s Global Data Centers strategically placed around the globe. As a significant provider of cloud services, LEO satellite delivery systems makes good business sense. It is the last link to providing cloud services to every business on the planet, at a highly competitive rate, compared to competitors like Microsoft Asure, IBM Cloud and lesser-known cloud companies relying on existing fiber network infrastructure. Amazon will be able to reach more global customers faster with competitive cloud service rates. More HERE.

The top ten cloud service companies are:

Kamatera.
phoenixNAP.
Amazon Web Services.
Microsoft Azure.
Google Cloud Platform.
Adobe.
VMware.
IBM Cloud.

After Amazon, only Google has made a move toward having an LEO satellite distribution system, partnering with Telesat and adapting Project Loon to LEO applications

Loon adapting connection routing ‘network brain’ from balloons to low Earth orbit satellites

While I admire and root for SpaceX, who is building a top-down system, Amazon is taking a bottom-up approach, building on existing reliable infrastructure and capping it with a fleet of LEO satellites has a higher probability of succeeding.  The open question is can Amazon catch SpaceX and OneWeb who have birds in space.

Competition, Competition, Competition

by Russ Steele

One thing that activates the telco and cable providers is competition. How are they going to deal with the competition from SpaceX, OneWeb, Amazon, and other LEO high-speed internet providers? These innovators are circling the legacy communications provider like a hunger coyote looking for a rabbit lunch.

In the past, the telcos use their political muscle to keep the competition under control at every opportunity. They spend millions on lawyers and lobbyist to shape legislation to stifle competition rather than spend their profits on providing superiors service.

For example, in the early days of WiFi, a Texas University was wiring up the campus. Next door to the University was some low-income housing, and the University wanted to share their WiFi with the low-income neighbors. According to the story I heard, AT&T sent 25 lawyers down to the State Legislature to stop this sharing of free WiFi. AT&T abhors competition!

We are going to see a significant upheaval in the internet market when the LEO satellites networks are established and fully functional. Today the phone and cable companies are providing marginal broadband services at a high cost to the consumer. Why, because they can, they are the only provider, with no competition.

There are millions of DSL customers poised to jump once a competitive broadband service is offered. Some communities have pinned their hope on 5G for more reliable service at higher speeds, but that technology rollout is controlled by the telco providers who are not going to provide competing service. On the other hand, they will have little control over the satellite internet service providers, unless they cut backhaul deals that incorporate some competition restrictions.

I can hear the conversation now, “If you sign this 5G backhaul contract, you cannot sell your broadband to our 4G/5G customers.”

The cable companies are losing customers to the cord cutters and streamers. While cutting the video cord, streams still need a broadband connection. In many cases, the cable internet service is the only connection, and it comes at a high price. Why, because the cable companies have no competitive incentive to reduce rates.

In many communities with only telco DSL or an aging cable plant available providing broadband access, LEO broadband will be the first time there will be some competitive service. The question is, how will the telco and cable companies deal with that competition?

They can lower the price for their marginal services, but the customer still has unreliable slow speed internet access, whereas the LEO satellites are offering much higher speeds, and hopefully more reliable service. All the LEO satellite service challenge are still unknowns.

In the end, the superior service will win if the cost is reasonable. Amazon is a significant disruptor in the retail sector, and space-based internet is going to be a substantial disruptor in the telecommunications sector.

How will the telcos respond?  Your thoughts?