OneWeb receives investment from Eutelsat Communications; LEO satellite constellation for global internet service

OneWeb, the satellite communications network provider [1.], announced today that it has secured $550 million in funding from Eutelsat Communications (one of the world’s leading satellite operators). That brings OneWeb’s total funding to $1.9 billion in fresh equity since it emerged from bankruptcy.

Note 1.  OneWeb is a global communications network powered by a constellation of 650 Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. Headquartered in London, OneWeb is enabling high-speed, low latency connectivity for governments, businesses, and communities everywhere around the world. OneWeb’s satellites, together with a network of global gateway stations and a range of User Terminals, will provide an affordable, fast, high bandwidth, low-latency communications service connected to the IoT future, and a pathway to 5G for everyone, everywhere.

This investment is a vote of confidence in OneWeb and underscores the arrival of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites into mainstream long-term growth planning for major operators.

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OneWeb’s 648 LEO satellite fleet will deliver high-speed, low-latency global connectivity. It’s partnership with Eutelsat, a global geostationary satellite operator, will enhance both companies’ commercial potential, leveraging Eutelsat’s established commercial reach to governments and enterprise customers in addition to its strong institutional relationships, recognized technical expertise and global fleet.

OneWeb’s ability to address multiple applications requiring low latency and ubiquity will also allow both companies to explore GEO/LEO configurations for future service integrations and packages.

OneWeb’s mission is to deliver broadband connectivity worldwide to its customers, to bridge the global digital divide by offering data connectivity, facilitating linkage to the Internet of Things (IoT) future and a pathway to 5G. OneWeb’s LEO satellite system includes a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals for different customer markets capable of delivering affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications services.

Yesterday, OneWeb successfully launched another 36 satellites into its constellation bringing the system to 182 satellites. The company has only two more launches left in its ‘Five to 50’ programme that will cement the company’s ability to start connectivity services to the United KingdomAlaskaNorthern EuropeGreenlandIceland, the Artic Seas and Canada, with global service available next year.

After OneWeb completes the full deployment of the constellation, the company anticipates annual revenues of approximately $1 billion in year three or soon thereafter, thanks to its partnership driven, wholesale business plan.

OneWeb Mini-satellite Constellation for Global Internet Service

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Sunil Bharti Mittal, Founder and Chairman of Bharti Enterprises said: “We are delighted to welcome Eutelsat into the OneWeb family.

“As an open multi-national business, we are committed to serving the global needs of governments, businesses and communities across the world. Together we are stronger, benefitting from the entrepreneurial energy of Bharti, the extensive global outreach of the UK Government and the expertise in the satellite industry at Eutelsat. OneWeb, with its innovative and disruptive approach, is poised to take a leading position in LEO broadband connectivity.”

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “Today’s investment is another giant leap forward for OneWeb in realising their ambition to provide global broadband connectivity around the globe.

“Eutelsat brings over forty years of experience in the global satellite industry and this exciting new partnership puts OneWeb on a strong commercial footing, and the UK at the forefront of the latest developments in low Earth orbit technology.

“This comes alongside yesterday’s exciting news that a further 36 satellites were launched into space and demonstrates the momentum behind OneWeb and the promising efforts to provide connectivity to some of the world’s most remote places.”

Neil Masterson, Chief Executive Officer of OneWeb, said: “We are delighted with the investment from Eutelsat, which validates our strategy, technology and commercial approach. We now have 80% of the necessary financing for the Gen 1 fleet, of which nearly 30% is already in space. Eutelsat’s global distribution network advances the market entry opportunities for OneWeb and we look forward to working together to capitalise on the growth opportunity and accelerate the pace of execution.”

Commenting on the agreement, Rodolphe Belmer, Eutelsat’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are excited to become a shareholder and partner in OneWeb in the run up to its commercial launch later in the year and to participate in the substantial opportunity represented by the LEO segment within our industry. We are confident in OneWeb’s right-to-win thanks to its earliness to market, priority spectrum rights and evolving, scalable technology. With over 40 years’ expertise in the global satellite industry, we look forward to working alongside the UK Government, Bharti and the other shareholders to open new opportunities and market access to ensure OneWeb maximizes its potential.”

Editor’s Notes:

  • OneWeb, based in the UK, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy at the end of March 2020 after failing to secure $2 billion financing from lead shareholder SoftBank.
  • In January, Japan’s SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems LLC had invested $400 million in OneWeb.
  • The UK government and Bharti Global invested $500 million each to acquire OneWeb under a bankruptcy resolution process.
  • OneWeb plans to start high-speed internet services in India by mid-2022.
  • In November, Mittal told Mint that OneWeb will boost rural broadband connectivity in India and other developing countries, including those in Africa.
  • For 5G wireless service, satellite network could play an important role as it will reach areas where fiber and radio airwaves cannot penetrate.  However, there are no standards for satellite based 5G networks (IMT 2020 and 3GPP specs are for terrestrial wireless operation).
  • Also, the cost of using a satellite network is the highest among the three mediums, and thus, fiber and terrestrial wireless spectrum will be the preferred modes of transmission of data wherever they will be available, he added.

References:

https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/oneweb-secures-550-million-in-new-funding-eutelsat-to-take-significant-equity-stake-in-the-company-863239352.html

https://www.livemint.com/companies/news/eutelsat-communications-invests-550-million-in-oneweb-11619542837285.html

 

India’s BSNL Selects NOVELSAT Hub System for Remote Islands Connectivity

NOVELSAT’s High Performance Hub Will Enhance Broadband Connectivity to Lakshadweep, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The contract was awarded by System Integrator Precision Electronics Ltd (PEL) on behalf of BSNL.  

State-run telecoms provider (BSNL) selected Israeli satellite transmission company Novelsat to provide high-capacity satellite-based backhaul and broadband services to Lakshadweep, Andaman, and Nicobar Islands under a Universal Service Obligation (USO) project funded by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).   The contract was awarded by System Integrator Precision Electronics Ltd (PEL) on behalf of BSNL.

Under the partnership, BSNL will use Novelsat’s Xnet Data Hub system [1.] for flexibility in its growing network.  BSNL will also use Novelsat’s DynamiX technology for dynamic allocation of network resources in MCPC/Point-to-Multi-Point networks on top of Novelsat’s NS4 waveform for improved network economics, the company said.

Note 1. The Xnet Data Hub is for Point-to-Multi-Point satellite network data applications requiring high performance connectivity. Addressing multiple applications including enterprise, backhaul & trunking, government & defense, aero and maritime, NOVELSAT Xnet Data Hub delivers highly integrated and optimized and efficient hub solution.

 

Satellite backhaul more practical than fiber backhaul for remote islands:

Satellite has always been the advantageous solution for remote and hard to reach locations. As cost of satellite capacity continues to sharply decrease, satellite connectivity cost now rivals terrestrial solutions in a growing number of use cases, making satellite connectivity a viable and economical solution for providing connectivity to more locations and more users. Offering compressive point-to-point and point-to-multi-point solutions, NOVELSAT provides high data rate broadband connectivity for demanding telecom and enterprise applications including: backhaul, trunking, backbone networks, enterprise networks, maritime and aero connectivity.

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BSNL is looking to increase its network capacity to address growing demand for broadband amidst sharp rise in data consumption across users and locations. PEL along with its technology partner NOVELSAT addressed the BSNL requirement, and in turn their customer BSNL selected NOVELSAT’s Xnet Data hub system for the exceptional efficiency and flexibility it offers for growing BSNL network.

Designed to support the growing needs of hub network operators, NOVELSAT’s Xnet optimizes and maximizes both performance and usage of satellite and network resources. Utilizing NOVELSAT’s DynamiX technology for dynamic allocation of network resources in MCPC/Point-to-Multi-Point networks on top of the most bandwidth-efficient waveform, NOVELSAT NS4™, significantly improves network economics.

NOVELSAT partnered with Precision Electronics Limited, a listed company in India to offer its solution to BSNL. Precision Electronics Limited brings in network elements like networking gear, antenna & indoor/outdoor electronics, and overall systems integration beyond the core satellite hub and remote solution from NOVELSAT.

“BSNL’s network requires the highest levels of network quality and flexibility. NOVELSAT’s proven track record, combined with its leading-edge technology, allow us to rapidly expand our network and offer better services to our customers,” said Sh. Sanjay Kumar, GM (Radio) at BSNL. “NOVELSAT has been selected to meet our challenge of providing highly efficient and reliable broadband connectivity between our country’s islands and the mainland. With this solution we are supporting the goal of accelerating the economic growth and bettering the life of the islands population”.

“We are honored to play a part in the rollout of enhanced broadband connectivity to the people of Lakshadweep, Andaman, and Nicobar Islands, and we are committed to supporting BSNL during these challenging times, as it implements its network development,” said Gary Drutin, CEO of NOVELSAT. “The BSNL deployment is a great example of the benefits offered by NOVELSAT’s Xnet data hub system, delivering a high capacity, scalable solution with maximum performance and efficiency.”

Last month, U.S.-based ST Engineering iDirect inked a partnership with BSNL to provide satellite broadband to the Indian islands of Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep.

About BSNL

BSNL is an Indian state-owned telecommunications company, headquartered in New Delhi, India. It was incorporated by the Department of Telecommunications (DOT), Ministry of Communications, Government of India in 2000. It provides mobile voice and internet services through its nationwide network across India. It is the largest government owned telecom company in India offering variety of services in retail and enterprise segment.

About PEL

Precision Electronics Ltd. (PEL) is a listed company that is focused to provide customized mission critical solutions to its customers. Backed by a strong Design & Engineering team and a state of art manufacturing infrastructure, PEL designed products are being used by the Indian defence/paramilitary forces, TSPs, Railways, Healthcare sector to name a few. It is strongly poised to garner substantial business in the near future.

About Novelsat

NOVELSAT is an innovator and a leading provider of next-generation content connectivity solutions over satellite. Powered by our innovative technology, our solutions are transforming network capabilities to drive new experiences and expand growth potential.

Our leadership foundations are built around our proprietary waveform and premier system architecture, combined with cutting-edge video capabilities and best-in-industry content security. Pioneering, expanding and enhancing core and end-to-end capabilities, we outperform competitive solutions and products, delivering new levels of performance, efficiency and flexibility. Our high-performance solutions are setting the industry standards in spectral efficiency, transmission performance, media processing, video delivery, and content protection, powering mission-critical and demanding applications for the broadcast, cellular, government, and mobility markets.

World’s leading service and content providers have recognized the unique value of our state-of-the-art technology, selecting our solutions for their most demanding applications, including: Video transmission for the world’s leading broadcasters and content rights holders, as well as for the world’s major sports events; Broadband connectivity for backhaul/trunking networks of leading network operators and services providers; Mission critical communications for military, defense, security and emergency organizations; and Earth observation connectivity for leading earth observation constellation.

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References:

https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/bsnl-selects-novelsat-for-satellite-broadband-backhaul-services/81583946

 

BSNL Selects NOVELSAT Hub System for Remote Islands Connectivity

Omnispace Demonstrates 5G Satellite Capability with U.S. Navy & Marine Corps

Omnispace, the company that is building a global hybrid network, today announced the successful demonstration of 5G satellite capability with the National Security Innovation Network (NSIN), along with the Navy and Marine Corps. Omnispace was selected by NSIN in 2020 to pilot its technology in connection with Verizon’s new 5G “Living Lab.”

This week, Omnispace successfully tested an initial 5G-via-satellite capability in a LinQuest lab demonstration for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. A number of commercial-off-the-shelf 5G devices successfully communicated voice and data services via an emulated 5G radio access network (RAN), to Omnispace’s on-orbit satellite, leveraging LinQuest Corporation’s lab facility in Northern Virginia.

“Omnispace is honored to have been selected to work with the U.S. Navy and Marines to demonstrate 5G capability from space,” said Campbell Marshall, Vice President, Government and International Markets, Omnispace LLC. “The development of standards-based 5G non-terrestrial network (NTN) technology powered by Omnispace’s S-band spectrum will allow small tactical 5G devices to communicate directly and seamlessly with 5G-capable satellites and terrestrial networks, giving our warfighters ubiquitous global connectivity and true comms-on-the-move.”

“5G will be a critical technology for our military operations in the very near future, and those operations aren’t limited to dense urban environments where most 5G infrastructure is being deployed,” said Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel Brandon Newell, Director, SoCal Tech Bridge, Naval X, a driving force behind some of the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) 5G initiatives. “Truly global, mobile 5G connectivity in aero, maritime and remote areas will be essential across a broad spectrum of our government and military operations.”

Omnispace is continuing the development of a global hybrid 5G communications network based on 3GPP standards, which will the ensure security and interoperability of devices all over the world for a wide array of enterprise and government customers.

The company plans to make its direct-to-satellite 5G NTN connectivity solutions available through its ‘one global network,’ which will utilize the company’s existing 2 GHz priority spectrum rights. Initial elements of the Omnispace network will enter into service in 2022.

About Omnispace
Headquartered in the Washington D.C. area, and founded by veteran telecommunications and satellite industry executives, Omnispace is redefining mobile connectivity for the 21st century.  By leveraging 5G technologies, the company is combining the global footprint of a non-geostationary satellite constellation with the mobile networks of the world’s leading telecom companies to bring an interoperable “one network” connectivity to users and IoT devices anywhere on the globe.

Learn more at: Omnispace.com and follow on LinkedIn or Twitter @omnispace.

Starlink now covers all of UK; Plans to connect vehicles with satellite Internet service

Starlink has expanded to all regions of the United Kingdom.  The SpaceX owned company’s satellite Internet service is still in beta and was previously available in only the southern England part of the UK.  Today, the company announced an expansion to cover parts of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and northern England.   Starlink says users should currently expect data speeds to vary between 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s over the next several months, with brief periods of no connectivity whatsoever.

Starlink’s Email:

Starlink is now available in parts of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and northern England, in addition to existing service areas in southern England.

During beta, users can expect to see data speeds vary from 50Mb/s to 150Mb/s over the next several months as we enhance the Starlink system. There will also be brief periods of no connectivity at all.

As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically.

To check availability for your location, visit starlink.com and re-enter your service address. If Starlink is not yet available in your area, you can place a deposit to hold your space in line for future service.

The UK’s average download speed across all broadband providers is around 67.23Mb/s, but climbing as the rollout of full-fiber starts picking up pace again following a pandemic-induced slowdown.

Starlink wants to quickly deliver decent broadband connectivity to rural locations which have been left underserved due to the difficulties and cost of laying traditional fiber.

“This will transform rural WiFi,” says Compare Fibre’s co-founder Nathan Hill-Haimes. “We are really keen to stress the impact this can have on connecting rural locations with high-speed internet.”

A Starlink user from Devon told the Press Association: “If you need connectivity to run a business and if you need connectivity for communication, particularly in Covid times, £90 a month is quite justifiable.”

Starlink was issued a UK “Earth station network license” in November, an Ofcom spokesperson told CNBC. The £200 ($272) a year license allows Starlink to sell satellite dishes and other communications equipment in the U.K. so that people can pick up signals emitted by Starlink’s network of satellites.

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Separately, SpaceX wants to begin connecting large vehicles – from trucks to jets to ships – to its Starlink satellite Internet network, according to a request the company filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“This application would serve the public interest by authorizing a new class of ground-based components for SpaceX’s satellite system that will expand the range of broadband capabilities available to moving vehicles throughout the United States and to moving vessels and aircraft worldwide,” SpaceX director of satellite policy David Goldman wrote in a letter to the FCC filed on Friday.

Starlink is the company’s capital-intensive project to build an interconnected internet network with thousands of satellites, known in the space industry as a constellation, designed to deliver high-speed internet to consumers anywhere on the planet.

To date SpaceX has launched more than 1,100 satellites for Starlink. In October, SpaceX began rolling out early service in a public beta to customers in the U.S., Canada and the U.K., with service priced at $99 a month. Additionally, in a late January update, SpaceX told the FCC that its Starlink beta now has more than 10,000 users.

The Starlink service also includes a $499 upfront cost for the hardware needed to connect to the network. Known as the Starlink Kit, it includes a user terminal (the small, dish-like antenna) and a Wi-Fi router.

SpaceX did not indicate in its filing Friday whether the Starlink user terminals for moving vehicles will have a different design than the dishes currently being shipped to early customers. But SpaceX said each “ESIM,” or Earth Station In Motion, is “electrically identical to its previously authorized consumer user terminals,” with added “mountings that allow them to be installed on vehicles, vessels and aircraft.”

The company also noted that it “will ensure installation” of the vehicle terminals through “qualified installers.” While SpaceX did not say whether those installers would be company employees, it continues to expand Starlink manufacturing and operations – including plans for a new equipment factory in Austin, Texas.

Over 1,000 Starlink satellites are currently in orbit of the total 12,000 satellites which have been authorized. Filings have been submitted to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) requesting permission to launch 30,000 additional Starlink satellites.

Increasing competition:

Starlink is, by far, the biggest satellite broadband deployment. However, rivals such as Amazon’s “Project Kuiper” will be looking to challenge the titleholder in the coming years.

Project Kuiper was given the green light by the FCC last year to launch 3,236 of its own satellites.

“We are doing an incredible amount of invention to deliver fast, reliable broadband at a price that makes sense for customers,” Rajeev Badyal, Vice President of Technology for Project Kuiper, said at the time.

SpaceX is currently launching around 60 satellites at a time and aims to have deployed 1,440 by late 2021 to provide near-global service.

“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will improve dramatically,” the company wrote in a release announcing Starlink’s expansion in the UK.

Starlink and Kuiper will also be competing against promising satellite broadband firm OneWeb.

OneWeb nearly collapsed after crucial funding was pulled last-minute during the first peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy. However, the company was rescued following a $1bn (£800m) investment from the UK government and Bharti Global Ltd of India.

Kwasi Kwarteng, Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, said: “Our investment in OneWeb is part of our continued commitment to the UK’s space sector, putting Britain at the forefront of the latest technological advances.”

Since the UK and Bharti’s investment, OneWeb has continued to receive large investments. In January, the company announced that it has raised $1.4 billion in total funding after securing investments from SoftBank Group and Hughes Network Systems.

Masayoshi Son, Chairman and CEO of SoftBank, commented: “We are excited to support OneWeb as it increases capacity and accelerates towards commercialization. We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Bharti, the UK government, and Hughes to help OneWeb deliver on its mission to transform internet access around the world.”

OneWeb is the smallest of the three satellite broadband firms but has launched 74 of its innovative ultrafast broadband satellites to date and plans to launch a total of 648 by the end of 2021.

Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, said: “OneWeb’s mission is to connect everyone, everywhere. We have made rapid progress to re-start the business since emerging from Chapter 11 in November.”

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References:

https://www.ispreview.co.uk/index.php/2021/03/starlink-extends-leo-satellite-broadband-coverage-in-the-uk.html

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/08/spacex-wants-to-connect-starlink-satellite-internet-to-moving-vehicles.html

 

IBM’s Cloud Satellite service in Generally Available Orbit

IBM’s Cloud Satellite service is now in generally available (GA) orbit.  The service extends the IBM Cloud control plane to run virtually anywhere, whether that be on commodity hardware, some edge device, or inside another public cloud.

IBM manages Cloud Satellite deployments, which is different than from most other software-defined hybrid cloud platforms.  It provides  an administrative control plane and as-a-service operation of IBM cloud services using a Kubernetes (K8s) cluster.

IBM explained that the GA push now makes the platform available to all customers. It allows users to run their IBM Cloud service on-premises or in edge locations managed through a single pane of glass in the public cloud.

The first two services for IBM Cloud Satellite will be Cloud Pak for Data and OpenShift as a Service.

IBM’s not alone in looking to data as one of the first services to be offered on hybrid. Amazon Outposts offers RDS for MySQL and PostgreSQL; Azure Arc data services include SQL Managed Instance and PostgreSQL Hyperscale; while Google recently added BigQuery Omni to its Anthos software-defined hybrid cloud as part of a multi-cloud and edge play.

The rationale as to why data services are so elemental to hybrid cloud is that, for many organizations or use cases, data needs to stay local for reasons ranging from latency issues to data residency requirements.   OpenShift as a service will provide a route for customers seeking to build their own private cloud K8s environments.  IBM is announcing that this will also be early on the list.

As part of this collaboration, customers will be able to:

  • Deploy applications across more than 180,000 connected enterprise locations on the Lumen network to provide a low latency experience
  • Create cloud-enabled solutions at the edge that leverage application management and orchestration via IBM Cloud Satellite
  • Build open, interoperable platforms that give customers greater deployment flexibility and more seamless access to cloud native services like AI, IoT and edge computing

IBM Cloud Satellite Boosted to GA Orbit

IBM said it has more than 65 “ecosystem partners” building services to run in the Cloud Satellite environment. Partner include Cisco, Dell Technologies, and Intel. They intend to develop cloud services which can run across the multi-cloud and premises platform services include storage, networking, and server options.

“IBM is working with clients to leverage advanced technologies like edge computing and [artificial intelligence], enabling them to digitally transform with hybrid cloud while keeping data security at the forefront,” said Howard Boville, Head of IBM Hybrid Cloud Platform, in a statement. He added that “clients can securely gain the benefits of cloud services anywhere, from the core of the data center to the farthest reaches of the network.”

IBM highlighted three partners, among them Lumen Technologies and Portworx, that are both heavily leveraging 5G to deliver PaaS services for edge computing, and F5, which is developing vertical solutions for banking institutions.

IBM noted that Lumen Technologies (formerly CenturyLink) was using the hybrid cloud platform to deliver its Edge Compute service. That capability relies on Red Hat’s OpenShift that runs within Cloud Satellite to host the applications running close to Lumen’s edge locations. Lumen touts that it has approximately 450,000 route fiber miles in its network spread across more than 60 countries.

Lumen struck a similar deal earlier this year with VMware that will see both vendors “fast-track the design, development, and delivery of edge computing and more secure, work-from-anywhere solutions.”

Does anyone remember IBM’s Satellite Business Systems (SBS) of the late 1970s?  It was a pioneer in delivering data services to businesses as a precursor of the Internet.

References:

https://www.ibm.com/cloud/satellite

https://newsroom.ibm.com/2021-03-01-IBM-Cloud-Satellite-Enables-Clients-to-Deliver-Cloud-Securely-in-Any-Environment-Including-at-the-Edge

https://developer.ibm.com/blogs/distributed-cloud-development-ibm-cloud-satellite/

https://www.zdnet.com/article/ibm-cloud-satellite-goes-ga/

https://www.sdxcentral.com/articles/news/ibm-cloud-satellite-boosted-to-ga-orbit/2021/03/

IBM Cloud Satellite: Build faster. Securely. Anywhere. Now generally available. To get started, visit: https://www.ibm.com/cloud/satellite.

For more information on how IBM is working with its ecosystem of partners, visit: www.ibm.com/cloud/blog/ibm-partner-ecosystem-and-cloud-satellite

For more information on IBM Cloud Pak for Data as a Service, visit:
https://www.ibm.com/blogs/journey-to-ai/ibm-cloud-pak-for-data-with-ibm-cloud-satellite

For more information on how IBM is helping developers build on IBM Cloud Satellite, visit:
https://developer.ibm.com/blogs/distributed-cloud-development-ibm-cloud-satellite

For more information on how IBM Cloud Satellite is supported by IBM Storage, visit: www.ibm.com/blogs/systems/improve-it-infrastructure-with-ibm-hybrid-cloud-storage-for-ibm-cloud-satellite

For more information on IBM Global Technology Services capabilities for IBM Cloud Satellite, visit: ibm.biz/PC_IaaS

To learn more about how Lumen has integrated Cloud Satellite across 180K global edge locations, visit:  https://blog.lumen.com/speeding-innovation-at-the-edge-with-lumen-technologies-and-ibm-cloud-satellite

About IBM:
For further information visit: www.ibm.com/cloud/

Starlink Internet could be a game changer with 100 megabytes per second download speed

Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp (Space X) has launched more than 1,000 satellites for its Starlink internet service and is signing up early customers in the U.S., U.K. and Canada. SpaceX has told investors that Starlink is angling for a piece of a $1 trillion market made up of in-flight internet, maritime services, demand in China and India — and rural customers such as Brian Rendel.  He became a Starlink tester in November after struggling for years with sluggish internet speeds at his 160-acre farm overlooking Lake Superior in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After he paid about $500 for the equipment, FedEx arrived with a flat dish and antenna. For $99 a month, Rendel is now getting speeds of 100 megabytes per second for downloads and 15 to 20 for uploads — far faster, he says, than his previous internet provider.

“This is a game changer,” said Rendel, a mental health counselor, who can now easily watch movies and hold meetings with clients over Zoom. “It makes me feel like I’m part of civilization again.”

For months, SpaceX has been launching Starlink satellites on its Falcon 9 rockets in batches of 60 at a time, and the 17th Starlink launch was on Jan. 20. There are now roughly 960 functioning satellites in orbit, heralding an age of mega-constellations that have prompted worries about visual pollution for astronomers.

But the Starlink array in low-Earth orbit, closer to the planet than traditional satellites, is enough to enable SpaceX to roll out service along a wide swath of North America and the U.K. As SpaceX sends up more satellites, the coverage area will grow, expanding the potential customer base — and revenue stream — beyond the initial stages of today.

“The big deal is that people are happy with the service and the economics of Starlink versus other alternatives,” said Luigi Peluso, managing director with Alvarez & Marsal, who follows the aerospace and defense industries. “SpaceX has demonstrated the viability of their solution.”

Last year, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell said that Starlink is a business that SpaceX– one of the most richly valued venture-backed companies in the U.S. — is likely to spin out and take public. That dangles the possibility of another Musk enterprise offering shares after last year’s sensational stock-market gains by Tesla Inc.

Starlink will face plenty of competition. While fiber optic cable is widely considered too expensive to lay down in remote regions and many rural locations, cellular connectivity is expected to make big advances with 5G and then 6G. Meanwhile, a number of innovative attempts to extend cellular to unserved areas are being developed by other well-heeled companies such as Facebook Inc.

“There will always be early Starlink adopters who think that anything from Elon Musk is cool,” said John Byrne, a telecom analyst at GlobalData. “But it’s hard to see the satellite trajectory keeping pace with the improvements coming with cellular.”

SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, California, is primarily known for launching rockets for global satellite operators, the U.S. military, and NASA. Last year, SpaceX made history by becoming the first private company to fly astronauts to the International Space Station.   Maintaining strong service while growing the customer base is something SpaceX has never tried before.

“Like any network, Starlink is going to enjoy rave reviews while it is underutilized,” said industry analyst Jim Patterson. “However, it will be challenged with the same congestion issues as their peers as they grow their base.”

Then again, SpaceX says the service will improve as it builds out more infrastructure.

“As we launch more satellites, install more ground stations and improve our networking software, data speed, latency and uptime will all improve dramatically,” Kate Tice, a senior engineer at SpaceX, said in a livestream of a Starlink mission in November.

Starlink is gearing up for a big 2021, hiring software engineers, customer support managers, a director of sales, and a country launch manager.  The fan fervor that made Tesla cars such a hit with consumers and retail investors extends to Starlink. Facebook groups, Reddit threads and Twitter are filled with reports from early customers sharing images of their download speeds. You Tube has videos of people “unboxing” their Starlink dish and going through the initial set-up.

Ross Youngblood lives in Oregon and works remotely as an engineer for a tech company in San Jose. He owns a Tesla Model X and follows All Things Musk pretty closely. He got Starlink before Thanksgiving.

“I just plugged it all in and it started to work,” said Youngblood. “It’s going to be very disruptive, and I don’t think enough people are paying attention.”

Many other customers are waiting in the wings. In December, the Federal Communications Commission awarded SpaceX $885.5 million in subsidies as part of a wider effort to bring broadband to over 10 million Americans in rural areas. SpaceX will focus on 35 states, including Alabama, Idaho, Montana and Washington.

“We can’t continue to throw money at aging infrastructure,” said Russ Elliot, director of the Washington State Broadband Office. “With Starlink, you can be anywhere. The cost to build in deep rural or costly areas is now less of an issue with this technology as an option.”

Early in the coronavirus pandemic, Elliot connected SpaceX with members of the Hoh Tribe in far western Washington. The Native American community had struggled for years to bring high-speed internet to their remote reservation, which spans about 1,000 acres and has 23 homes. Kids struggled to access remote learning, and internet connections were so slow that downloading homework could take all day.

“SpaceX came up and just catapulted us into the 21st century,” said Melvinjohn Ashue, a member of the Hoh Tribe, in a short video produced by the Washington State Department of Commerce.  In a phone interview with the Economic Times of India, Ashue said that the first thing he did once he connected to Starlink was download a long movie: Jurassic Park. Now most of the reservation’s households have Starlink, making it possible for families to access not just online schooling but tele-health appointments and online meetings.

“Internet access is a utility. It’s no longer a luxury,” said Maria Lopez, the tribal vice chairwoman. Lopez said that Starlink was easy to hook up. The scariest part was climbing up a ladder to set up the dish on her roof.  “Every now and then it will glitch,” she said. “But it quickly reboots itself,” Ms. Lopez added.

References:

https://telecom.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/elon-musk-targets-telecom-for-next-disruption-with-starlink-internet/80417558

 

OneWeb secures additional funding with goal of 648 total satellites for broadband connectivity by end 2022

OneWeb, the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite communications company that’s emerged from bankruptcy is jointly owned by the UK Government and Bharti Global.  The company today announced that it has secured additional funding from SoftBank Group Corp. (“SoftBank”) and Hughes Network Systems LLC (“Hughes”), bringing OneWeb’s total funding to $1.4 billion. The capital raised to date positions the Company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totaling 648 satellites, by the end of 2022.

Prior to the latest funding round, the UK government and Bharti Global held 42.2% stake, respectively in OneWeb with other partners holding the balance 15.6%.  “The capital raised to date positions the company to be fully funded for its first-generation satellite fleet, totaling 648 satellites, by the end of 2022,” as per a statement released by OneWeb.

Currently, satellite internet is a great option for residents of rural or suburban areas. Along with basically unlimited availability, satellite internet also offers Wi-Fi connectivity and speeds fast enough for streaming services.  In addition to OneWeb, Starlink/SpaceX, Kuiper/Amazon, Boeing and Telesat are investing heavily into LEO satellites, aiming to launch thousands of low-orbiting satellites in coming years.

OneWeb’s mission is to deliver broadband connectivity worldwide to bridge the global Digital Divide by offering everyone, everywhere access including to the Internet of Things (IoT) future and a pathway to 5G.

OneWeb’s LEO satellite system includes a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals for different customer markets capable of delivering affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications services. In December 2020, OneWeb launched 36 new satellites, built at its Airbus Joint Venture assembly plant in Florida, USA, bringing the Company’s total fleet to 110 satellites, all fully-functioning and benefitting from International Telecommunication Union spectrum priority.

 

Sunil Bharti Mittal, Executive Chairman of OneWeb, commented, “We are delighted to welcome the investment from SoftBank and Hughes. Both are deeply familiar with our business, share our vision for the future, and their commitment allows us to capitalise on the significant growth opportunity ahead for OneWeb. We gain from their experience and capabilities, as we deliver a unique LEO network for the world.”

Secretary of State, BEIS, The Rt. Hon. Kwasi Kwarteng, MP said: “Our investment in OneWeb is part of our continued commitment to the UK’s space sector, putting Britain at the forefront of the latest technological advances. Today’s investment brings the company one step closer to delivering its mission to provide global broadband connectivity for people, businesses and governments, while potentially unlocking new research, development and manufacturing opportunities in the UK.”

Masayoshi Son, Representative Director, Corporate Officer, Chairman & CEO of SoftBank, said, “We are excited to support OneWeb as it increases capacity and accelerates towards commercialisation. We are thrilled to continue our partnership with Bharti, the UK Government and Hughes to help OneWeb deliver on its mission to transform internet access around the world.”

Pradman Kaul, President of Hughes, remarked, “OneWeb continues to inspire the industry and attract the best players in the business to come together to bring its LEO constellation to fruition. The investments made today by Hughes and SoftBank will help realise the full potential of OneWeb in connecting enterprise, government and mobility customers, especially with multi-transport services that complement our own geostationary offerings in meeting and accelerating demand for broadband around the world.”

Neil Masterson, CEO of OneWeb, added “OneWeb’s mission is to connect everyone, everywhere. We have made rapid progress to re-start the business since emerging from Chapter 11 in November. We welcome the investments by SoftBank and Hughes as further proof of progress towards delivering our goal.”

In connection with the investment, SoftBank will gain a seat on the OneWeb Board of Directors. Hughes is an investor through its parent company EchoStar, and also an ecosystem partner, developing essential ground network technology for the OneWeb system.

Additionally, OneWeb has reduced its request for US market access from 47,884 to 6,372 satellites. Together with the satellites for which it is already licensed by the FCC, the total constellation size will be roughly 7,000, down from the 48,000 or so proposed last year.

According to the company, this solidification of their constellation demonstrates the commitment and vision of OneWeb’s new owners, the UK Government and Bharti Global, who are dedicated to deploying a cost effective, responsible, and groundbreaking satellite network to deliver global broadband.

The firm stated that OneWeb remains focused on launching its first-generation system of 648 satellites and is on track to start regional commercial services within a year. This streamlining of activities highlights OneWeb’s plan for global connectivity services and for future generations and possibilities for the network.

About OneWeb:

OneWeb is a global communications network powered from space, headquartered in London, enabling connectivity for governments, businesses, and communities. It is implementing a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites with a network of global gateway stations and a range of user terminals to provide an affordable, fast, high-bandwidth and low-latency communications service, connected to the IoT future and a pathway to 5G for everyone, everywhere. Find out more at http://www.oneweb.world

References:

 

OneWeb Gathers Additional Funding, Bringing Total To $1.4 Billion + Reduces Size Of Their Constellation

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/oneweb-secures-investment-from-softbank-and-hughes-network-systems-301209270.html

 

EU Commissioner outlines strategic direction for European Satellite Communications System

Executive Summary:

European Union (EU) internal market commissioner Thierry Breton made several important comments at the European Space Conference (ESA) yesterday.  Breton outlined plans to “develop rapidly” a new space-based connectivity initiative. In particular, the EU has secured an important budget – €13.2bn – the largest budget ever – for Space.  They’ve also agreed on the new EU space program, the first of its kind for Europe.

“My objective is to go fast,” he said. “Therefore, it would be appropriate that the commission puts forward this year a proposal to the European parliament and the council so we can move concretely.”

The satellite constellation design will be “multi-orbital,” combining LEO and GEO satellites. “It will also complement our existing infrastructures, creating synergies,” added Breton. He thinks the new satellite infrastructure will enhance the Galileo signal, and boost performance of Copernicus, another European satellite system focused on Earth observation.

                                             Thierry Breton, EU Commissioner Internal Market
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EU Strategy for Satellite Based Connectivity:

There are four pillars of the EU’s strategy for space/satellite based connectivity:

  1. Consolidating Galileo & Copernicus

The launch of the second generation of Galileo satellites [1.] will commence with a first launch in 2024.

Note 1. Galileo is the EU’s Global Satellite Navigation System (GNSS).  Sometimes called the ’European GPS‘, Galileo provides accurate positioning and timing information. Galileo is a programme under civilian control and its data can be used for a broad range of applications. It is autonomous but also interoperable with existing satellite navigation systems. At the moment, the Galileo constellation consists of 26 satellites.

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New missions for Copernicus are coming. The  ESA has awarded 6 new precursor missions, all of which have huge potential, such as the CO2 monitoring mission or the polar observation mission. Copernicus will need to adapt to the new competition in the dynamic field of earth observation.

     2.  Connectivity: secure digital connections for the future

Europe needs to develop rapidly an space based connectivity initiative as a third infrastructure besides Galileo & Copernicus.  That infrastructure will:

  • put an end to dead zones, giving access to high speed broadband to everyone;
  • become autonomous and avoid dependence on the non-EU initiatives under development, like we did with Galileo;
  • project Europe into the quantum era, ensuring quantum encrypted communication;
  • keep the continent connected whatever happens, including massive attacks on the internet, which are no fiction anymore, especially with the emergence of the quantum computing capacities.

“My objective is to go fast. And therefore it would be appropriate that the Commission puts forward this year a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council so we can move concretely. To be ready, we launched a few weeks ago a study on a secure space-based connectivity system. The selected consortium consisting of European satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers, telco operators and launch service providers will study the possible design & development of this project.”

3.  Strategic autonomy in launchers and Space Traffic Management (STM)

The EU budget will be used to support the European launcher industry in the full chain: from earliest research on new propulsion technologies to long-term contracts for the launches of our EU satellites.

“I will therefore gather in the next months all the actors to initiate a European Launcher alliance so to be able to jointly define, with ESA, the Member States, the European Parliament, the industry, a common roadmap for the next generation of launchers and technologies relevant to ensure an autonomous access to space.”

The other element of Europe’s strategic autonomy is how we operate in space thanks to a Space Traffic Management system.

“An increasingly congested space is threatening the viability and security of space infrastructures and operations. A million pieces of debris are in orbit around the earth – and the number is constantly increasing! It is expected that in the next years to come, more than 30 000 additional satellites will be launched. This is why we already have the Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) framework.  But we need to go further by developing a robust EU STM policy and related capabilities – starting actively in 2021.”

4.  Europe as space entrepreneurship Hub

As a last element of the space strategy for 2021,  Tierry wants to  position Europe as THE hub of space entrepreneurship in the world.

“I see the future of the European space industry as a combination of strong institutional leadership and European approach to New Space, one that is not a mere copy past of the US. Now is the time to seek alternative business models and funding schemes. I will therefore launch this year a new Space entrepreneurship initiative: CASSINI.

CASSINI will put in place – together with the EIB/EIF – a €1bn European Space Fund to boost start-ups and space innovation. It will cover actions on the whole innovation cycle, from business idea to industrialization, building on the €100m Space Equity Pilot we launched last year.  With CASSINI, we want to stimulate more VC funds to actively invest in space companies in Europe; but also to get other industries to invest into space technologies and solutions. We want also to organize a true European space incubator, relying on the strengths of all the actors but putting them into a coherent and integrated network.”

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Conclusions:

The EC recently launched a study on what a secure space-based connectivity system might look like. A selected consortium, comprising European satellite manufacturers, operators and service providers – along with telcos and launch service providers – are tasked with studying the possible design and development of the project.  “This will provide insights on the technical dimension, but also the governance structure, the financing, the missions, the exact scope.  I expect their first feedback in April this year.”

In conclusion, Breton  said, “2021 will be a defining year for our space strategy and for the position of Europe on the global space stage.  We have enormous challenges to face, with serious risk of losing ground. We need to be able to find the resources to reinvent ourselves, to break taboos and the established cooperation.”

“And for this, I wish to work closely with all of you: Member States, Parliament, industry. And of course with the ESA – who will have a central role in this endeavor.”

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EU’s Satellite Internet Competition:

Breton’s desire to move fast is no doubt motivated by the progress on two other sat communications initiatives, Starlink and OneWeb.  Part of Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, Starlink has already started to offer beta broadband connections in northern Europe. OneWeb, owned by the UK government and Indian conglomerate Bharti Global, hopes to have an initial offering in the same region later this year.

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References:

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2019-2024/breton/announcements/speech-commissioner-thierry-breton-13th-european-space-conference_en

https://www.lightreading.com/services/europe-plots-mega-sat-comms-project/d/d-id/766622?

https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/space/galileo_en

https://www.copernicus.eu/en

Revitalized OneWeb challenges SpaceX/Starlink & Amazon/Kuiper for Broadband Satellite Service

Space X and Amazon now have company in what may become a satellite broadband “space war.”  A long distance race involving three of the world’s richest men has just begun!

India tycoon Sunil Mital’s Bharti Airtel plans to invest $2 billion for a 50% stake in the once bankrupt low-Earth orbit satellite constellation company OneWeb and says that company will be offering global broadband services within 18 months in Alaska and the UK.

”By May-June of 2022, which is less than 18 months, OneWeb’s constellation will cover the entire globe, every square inch of this world,” the founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises said Wednesday at a conference hosted by the United Nations’ International Telecommunication Union and Saudi Arabian communication regulator CITC.

OneWeb says it will resume launches of its satellites with a Soyuz launch scheduled for Dec. 17 from the Vostochny Cosmodrome. Credit: GK Launch Services

Elon Musk’s SpaceX rockets have launched over 500 satellites for the Starlink constellation since OneWeb went into bankruptcy in March.  Starlink is now testing broadband internet service with potential customers.  Unlike OneWeb, Starlink’s service isn’t set to cover the extreme north and south of the planet for now, offering its rival a potential niche serving governments, shipping and aviation in remote regions.

“We welcome competition,” Mittal said. “We fight like hell in the marketplace.” Later generations of OneWeb satellites could provide global positioning capabilities, he added.

OneWeb has put 74 of an initial 648 planned satellites in orbit so far, and plans to resume launches this month. It’s not yet secured all the funding it needs to complete the constellation. Mittal estimated the overall cost at between $5.5 billion and $7 billion and said the remaining shortfall is between $2 billion and $2.5 billion — with half of that to be covered by Bharti and the British government. As for raising further capital with other investors, he said: “I don’t see that to be an issue.”

Global broadband Internet. Satellite constellation development project. Space-based Orbital Internet communication system. Satellites flying in Earth orbit. illustration

On July 30, 2020, the FCC permitted Amazon to build its ambitious satellite internet system, which would compete with SpaceX’s Starlink network.   Amazon’s Kuiper project would involve the launch of 3,236 satellites into low Earth orbit. After the FCC announced the authorization, Amazon said that it “will invest more than $10 billion” into Kuiper.

“There are still too many places where broadband access is unreliable or where it doesn’t exist at all. Kuiper will change that. Our $10 billion investment will create jobs and infrastructure around the United States that will help us close this gap,” Amazon senior vice president Dave Limp said in a statement.

Amazon has not outlined a timeline for Kuiper and the FCC said the company has not finished the satellites’ design.

References:

https://www.oneweb.world/

https://www.bloomberg.com/amp/news/articles/2020-12-09/musk-rival-mittal-targets-global-satellite-broadband-by-mid-2022

https://spacenews.com/oneweb-emerges-from-chapter-11-with-new-ceo/

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/07/30/fcc-authorizes-amazon-to-build-kuiper-satellite-internet-network.html

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonathanocallaghan/2020/07/31/amazon-is-going-to-add-3000-more-satellites-into-earths-orbit–and-people-are-not-happy/?sh=5463659c7628

https://www.zdnet.com/article/amazon-vs-elon-musks-spacex-bezos-internet-from-space-plan-moves-a-step-closer/

 

 

FCC approves SpaceX plan for low orbit broadband satellite network

On Thursday the FCC gave formal approval to a plan by SpaceX to build a global broadband satellite network using low-Earth orbit satellites.  The FCC order approving SpaceX’s application came with some conditions, like avoiding collisions with orbital debris in space.  Some of the other conditions imposed by the FCC relate to signal power levels and preventing interference with other communications systems in various frequency bands. 

SpaceX intends to start launching operational satellites as early as 2019, with the goal of reaching the full capacity of 4,425 satellites in 2024. The FCC approval just requires SpaceX to launch 50 percent of the satellites by March 2024, and all of them by March 2027.  SpaceX has been granted authority to use frequencies in the Ka (20/30 GHz) and Ku (11/14 GHz) bands.

“This is the first approval of a U.S.-licensed satellite constellation to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies,” the Federal Communications Commission said in a statement.

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Wednesday that SpaceX plans to launch a Falcon 9 rocket on April 2 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. “The rocket will carry a communications satellite,” the FAA said.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai in February had endorsed the SpaceX effort, saying: “Satellite technology can help reach Americans who live in rural or hard-to-serve places where fiber optic cables and cell towers do not reach.”

About 14 million rural Americans and 1.2 million Americans on tribal lands lack mobile broadband even at relatively slow speeds.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, said on Thursday that the agency needs “to prepare for the proliferation of satellites in our higher altitudes.”  She highlighted the issue of orbital debris and said the FCC “must coordinate more closely with other federal actors to figure out what our national policies are for this jumble of new space activity.”

SpaceX’s network (known as “Starlink”) will need separate approval from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The FCC said its approval is conditioned on “SpaceX receiving a favorable or ‘qualified favorable’ rating of its EPFD [equivalent power flux-density limits] demonstration by the ITU prior to initiation of service.” SpaceX will also have to follow other ITU rules.

Like other operators, SpaceX will have to comply with FCC spectrum-sharing requirements. Outside the US, coexistence between SpaceX operations and other companies’ systems “are governed only by the ITU Radio Regulations as well as the regulations of the country where the earth station is located,” the FCC said.

SpaceX and several other companies are planning satellite broadband networks with much higher speeds and much lower latencies than existing satellite Internet services. SpaceX satellites are planned to orbit at altitudes of 1,110km to 1,325km, whereas the existing HughesNet satellite network has an altitude of about 35,400km.

SpaceX has said it will offer speeds of up to a gigabit per second, with latencies between 25ms and 35ms. Those latencies would make SpaceX’s service comparable to cable and fiber, while existing satellite broadband services have latencies of 600ms or more, according to FCC measurements.

“SpaceX states that once fully deployed, the SpaceX system… will provide full-time coverage to virtually the entire planet,” the FCC order said.

The FCC previously approved requests from OneWeb, Space Norway, and Telesat to offer broadband in the US from low-Earth orbit satellites. SpaceX is the first US-based operator to get FCC approval for such a system, the FCC said in an announcement.

“These approvals are the first of their kind for a new generation of large, non-geostationary satellite orbit [NGSO], fixed-satellite service [FSS] systems, and the Commission continues to process other, similar requests,” the FCC said.

SpaceX launched the first demonstration satellites for its broadband project last month. In addition to the 4,425 satellites approved by the FCC, SpaceX has also proposed an additional 7,500 satellites operating even closer to the ground, saying that this will boost capacity and reduce latency in heavily populated areas. It’s not clear when those satellites will launch.

Space debris

FCC approval of SpaceX’s application was unanimous. But the commission still has work to do in preventing all the new satellites from crashing into each other, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said.

“The FCC has to tackle the growing challenge posed by orbital debris. Today, the risk of debris-generating collisions is reasonably low,” Rosenworcel said. “But they’ve already happened—and as more actors participate in the space industry and as more satellites of smaller size that are harder to track are launched, the frequency of these accidents is bound to increase. Unchecked, growing debris in orbit could make some regions of space unusable for decades to come. That is why we need to develop a comprehensive policy to mitigate collision risks and ensure space sustainability.”

FCC rules on satellite operations were originally “designed for a time when going to space was astronomically expensive and limited to the prowess of our political superpowers,” Rosenworcel said. “No one imagined commercial tourism taking hold, no one believed crowd-funded satellites were possible, and no one could have conceived of the sheer popularity of space entrepreneurship.”

SpaceX still needs to provide an updated debris prevention plan as part of a condition the FCC imposed on its approval.

The commission order said:

Although we appreciate the level of detail and analysis that SpaceX has provided for its orbital debris mitigation and end-of-life disposal plans, we agree with NASA that the unprecedented number of satellites proposed by SpaceX and the other NGSO FSS systems in this processing round will necessitate a further assessment of the appropriate reliability standards of these spacecraft, as well as the reliability of these systems’ methods for de-orbiting the spacecraft. Pending further study, it would be premature to grant SpaceX’s application based on its current orbital debris mitigation plan. Accordingly, we believe it is appropriate to condition grant of SpaceX’s application on the Commission’s approval of an updated description of the orbital debris mitigation plans for its system.

The approval of SpaceX’s application is conditioned on the outcome of future FCC rulemaking proceedings, so SpaceX would have to follow any new orbital debris rules passed by the FCC. We detailed the potential space debris problem in a previous article. Today, there are more than 1,700 operational satellites orbiting the Earth, among more than 4,600 overall, including those that are no longer operating.

SpaceX’s plan alone would nearly double the total number of orbiting satellites. SpaceX told the FCC that it has plans “for the orderly de-orbit of satellites nearing the end of their useful lives (roughly five to seven years) at a rate far faster than is required under international standards.”

Opposition from competitors

SpaceX’s application drew opposition from other satellite operators, who raised concerns about interference with other systems and debris. The FCC dismissed some of the complaints. For example, OneWeb wanted an unreasonably large buffer zone between its own satellites and SpaceX’s, the FCC said:

[T]he scope of OneWeb’s request is unclear and could be interpreted to request a buffer zone that spans altitudes between 1,015 and 1,385 kilometers. Imposition of such a zone could effectively preclude the proposed operation of SpaceX’s system, and OneWeb has not provided legal or technical justification for a buffer zone of this size. While we are concerned about the risk of collisions between the space stations of NGSO systems operating at similar orbital altitudes, we think that these concerns are best addressed in the first instance through inter-operator coordination.

If operators fail to agree on a coordination plan in the future, “the Commission may intervene as appropriate,” the FCC said.