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FCC Authorizes SpaceX's Ambitious Satellite Internet Plans 102

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved an application by Elon Musk's SpaceX, allowing the aerospace company to provide broadband services using satellites in the U.S. and worldwide. "With this action, the Commission takes another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States," the FCC said in a statement. CNBC reports: This marks the first time the FCC has allowed a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services through low-Earth orbit satellites. "We appreciate the FCC's thorough review and approval of SpaceX's constellation license. Although we still have much to do with this complex undertaking, this is an important step toward SpaceX building a next-generation satellite network that can link the globe with reliable and affordable broadband service, especially reaching those who are not yet connected," Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operating Officer at SpaceX said in a statement.

SpaceX will begin launching the constellation it dubbed "Starlink" in 2019. The system will be operational once at least 800 satellites are deployed. Starlink will offer broadband speeds comparable to fiber optic networks.The satellites would offer new direct to consumer wireless connections, rather the present system's redistribution of signals, transforming a traditionally high-cost, low reliability service.
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FCC Authorizes SpaceX's Ambitious Satellite Internet Plans

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  • by Bruce Perens ( 3872 ) <bruce@perens.com> on Friday March 30, 2018 @03:07AM (#56351729) Homepage Journal

    There's a lot yet to be revealed. If this system really requires a pizza-box-sized antenna, it's good for home use and some automotive use (that would fit fine on an RV, etc.) and a lot of uses that currently use a cellular modem. But consider that Elon might be attempting to do an end-run around all of the world's cellular telephony companies. If there's enough system gain to use a cell-phone-sized antenna, it's a real game changer.

    If you believe Elon (and we know not to always believe him), this is going to pay for Mars. If it works with a handheld terminal, maybe it could.

    • If you believe Elon (and we know not to always believe him), this is going to pay for Mars.

      Musk seems to have more ambitious projects that one single human being could handle alone.

      Has anyone really taken a good look at Musk . . . ? I am starting to think that he is really a Beowulf Cluster of Musks . . .

      • by mentil ( 1748130 )

        He can spin off instances of himself, Dr. Manhattan-style.

      • Nobody works alone (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @07:31AM (#56352275)

        Musk seems to have more ambitious projects that one single human being could handle alone.

        That's why he hires people. Very little of consequence in this world is ever done by a single person. We Americans tend to like to think of ourselves as rugged individualists but the reality is that we depend heavily on each other for even the most basic of necessities.

        Elon's job is not to do these projects but rather to hire the people who can do them. Think of his job like that of Warren Buffet or Steve Jobs. He allocates capital, set a direction for the company, and hire the right people to make it happen, and sells the vision of the company. He likes to get involved with the engineering because that helps him understand how well his employees are doing their job (and because its fun) - similar to Steve Jobs in that respect but that isn't his real job. Elon's real job is to provide capital where it is needed, hire the right people, and to act as chief sales person. And he seems to be rather good at that.

    • by SEE ( 7681 )

      Serious satellite broadband with a handheld antenna?

      I mean, I guess it's possible that they have a radical breakthrough up their sleeves, but the launching-right-now Iridium NEXT is looking at only 128 kbit/s to phones, the 1.5 Mbit service to moving ships using 22-inch diameter device and the 8 Mbit service limited to fixed stations.

      • The 22 inch diameter device is a steered patch antenna. Consider that it adds 20 dB to the link budget. Add that much power and gain to the downlink. It's partially antenna gain, because the footprint of the SpaceX satellite is much smaller than Iridium, and partially transmitter power.

        The uplink bandwidth doesn't have to be as high, so you can get by with a lower uplink budget.

    • Another thing to consider is that not all of SpaceX's customers have to be on the ground, accessing the network through those terminals. Starlink could provide broadband internet connectivity to any satellite in LEO with a compatible optical link. For example, Iridium could launch a few of their own satellites with Starlink transceivers and get a massively redundant internet connection without any additional groundside hardware of their own.

      And with multiple transceivers per Starlink satellite and a guarant

    • by MrLogic17 ( 233498 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @12:47PM (#56353957) Journal

      >If you believe Elon (and we know not to always believe him)...

      I used to think that... but find me a tweet (even the joke ones) that hasn't turned into reality.
      Car in orbit past Mars? check
      Flamethrower? check
      Boring company? check

      He's rich enough to turn his jokes & whims into reality. I now take all of his tweets seriously - especially the jokes.

      • but find me a tweet (even the joke ones) that hasn't turned into reality

        Any of the Model 3 production estimates

  • Huh? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Freischutz ( 4776131 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @05:04AM (#56351937)

    "With this action, the Commission takes another step to increase high-speed broadband availability and competition in the United States," the FCC said in a statement

    Increase competition!?!?! Wasn't Ajit Pai was put in charge of the FCC precisely to prevent such a catastrophe from befalling the existing well established structures of localised telecommunications monopolies? Competition on a nationwide level would seriously impair their ability to shaft the consumer!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      They don't think he can do it. He will, and they will all go out of business :D

    • Increase competition!?!?! Wasn't Ajit Pai was put in charge of the FCC precisely to prevent such [...] ?

      An impartial observer would conclude, that he was not. Do we have any such observers here, though?

  • Will Amazon have to collect sales tax if it is operating in space?

  • by qzzpjs ( 1224510 ) on Friday March 30, 2018 @10:17AM (#56352913)

    They picked "Starlink"? I mean, this is literally a "Skynet". Hope it wasn't licensing that stopped them.

  • Oort Compute Cloud (OC2) and Oort Cloud Storage (OCS).

  • Latency has been the biggest issue with previous satellite internet services. What's it like with this system?

    • by green1 ( 322787 )

      Because this is low earth orbit instead of the current geostationary system for satellites latency shouldn't be much of an issue, calculations done for this up thread put the latency for a round trip ping at about 8-12 milliseconds which is effectively nothing when you look at the grand scheme of things. In fact, depending on how they want to route packets, you could actually get decreased ping times when reaching servers on the other side of the planet, has signals actually travel faster through empty spac

  • ..no, shocked, shocked I tell you, that Ajit Pai didn't specifically and categorically deny SpaceX from doing this, then turn around and announce that Verizon, or AT&T, or Comcast is going to do precisely the same thing, and how it'll "increase competition and innovation".
    • ..no, shocked, shocked I tell you, that Ajit Pai didn't specifically and categorically deny SpaceX from doing this, then turn around and announce that Verizon, or AT&T, or Comcast is going to do precisely the same thing, and how it'll "increase competition and innovation".

      That probably wouldn't work well as those other players will have to use SpaceX rockets. Better to let SpaceX start, then use anti-trust issues to get the rocket cost down for others.

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