Plans to launch thousands of satellites to provide internet services across the globe haven’t gotten much attention in the past. The ideas sounded utopian. Past satellite internet efforts had failed. The leading firms (like OneWeb) were mostly unknown. Elon Musk has lots of detractors.
But three recent events have moved the topic of satellite internet from “speculative” to “probable” in many people’s minds.
First, OneWeb raised $1.25 billion in its current round of funding, a number hard to ignore. OneWeb has raised $3.4 billion to date.
Second, Amazon announced plans to launch a constellation of 3,236 internet satellites. Amazon has the technical acumen, resources, and (relatively soon) launch resources to be taken very seriously.
Finally, SpaceX announced that its first launch of Starlink Satellites will include 60 prototypes – a number two or three times higher than most anticipated for a single launch. The satellites are stacked on top of each other like cassettes (see photo above). Gwynne Shotwell, CEO of SpaceX, says that there will be up to six additional Starlink launches just this year.
There is a major race underway to essentially rebuild the internet in space. Most attention to this point is focused on the technology and economics of the race. But what will be the secondary and tertiary effects of a new internet reaching billions of people for the first time?