Elon Musk to create satellite broadband network

Elon Musk just launched several satellites with the aim of creating a world-wide broadband network.

It’s early days and there isn’t a lot of information, but what I’ve gathered is as follows: a network of satellites in very low Earth orbit, each beaming broadband at, and receiving signals from, a spot on the Earth’s surface.  Why is low orbit important?  Because current satellite internet suffers from enormous lag, as signals from firms like Hughesnet claw their way through the dense barrier of our atmosphere.

I can testify to this experience, having relied on it around a decade back.  At its best it feels like every web page and internet ping requires launching a separate Java machine.  Also, weather (rain, snow) could stymie the connection even further.

So Musknet doesn’t escape this problem, but can cut it down significantly.

I spoke briefly about this on KTVU.

Here are some additional quick thoughts and questions:

  • Why hasn’t a national government or major telco launched such a project?
  • It could create a real traffic jam in low Earth orbit, which is already crammed with satellites and debris from a half-century+ of launches and space race.
  • How will governments, companies, and other entities try to block access to the Elonsphere?
  • It could be a great boon to the billions of people currently lacking broadband access.
  • This is a plutocrat’s project.  It’s another sign of our times, a new Gilded Age when the billionaires reshape the world.
  • One potential downside: this is one man’s project.  What happens if he, say, decides to not fly satellites over a certain country because he doesn’t like them?  What becomes of Musknet if some other actor purchases it?
  • It might not go anywhere.  So far it’s just a couple of sats, apparently.  Musk could kill it for a variety of reasons.  National governments could throw up roadblocks.  And the lag improvement might not be enough.

And what do you make of this new project?

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5 Responses to Elon Musk to create satellite broadband network

  1. Scott Robison says:

    Is this different than what OneWeb (with Qualcomm and Virgin) has planned?

  2. Phil Katz says:

    I’m not sure whether the plutocratic-utopian “Musknet” version of a low-orbit satellite network is better or worse than the libertarian-utopian version contained in this recent essay published by the World Economic Forum (Personalization! Blockchains! The sharing economy! … you get the idea): https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/sharing-economy-space-blockchain/.

  3. Steven Kaye says:

    It seems that you’ve been living two lives. In one life, you’re Bryan Anderson, futurist for a respectable consulting company….

  4. What can say? You dudz just don’t get how desperate we the rural under-connected are.

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