Telecom and cable companies have strung miles and miles of fiber optic cable and copper wire. If companies like Iridium Communications Inc. IRDM, SpaceX, owned by Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLAC) CEO, Elon Musk and others have their way, most of that cable will soon become obsolete.
SpaceX, Iridium, OneWeb, Boeing Co. (NYSE:BAD) and even Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FBB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg all have aspirations to blanket the skies with thousands of small 300 lb. satellites capable of beaming cheap broadband back to Mother Earth.
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Shaking Up Telecom
The reason this move is so important is telecom and cable companies like AT&T Inc. (NYSE:TC), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZC), Comcast Corp. (NASDAQ:CMCSAC) and others could be challenged by wireless broadband providers that can offer better service cheaper.
According to industry analyst Taylor Palmer, "That's going to shake up how these operators are controlling different regions, and it's going to allow the consumer a little more of an option."
The timeline is ambitious with one company, OneWeb, saying it plans to blanket the sky with 700 satellites by 2020. SpaceX plans to eventually launch more than 4,000 satellites.
Up, Up And Away
Just this past Saturday SpaceX's Falcon 9 released 10 Iridium NEXT satellites into Low-Earth orbit. This is the start of Iridium’s plan over the next 18 months to completely replace the only existing satellite constellation with new technology providing 100% truly global communications coverage.
Once fully deployed, Iridium NEXT will enable a new broadband multi-service capability called Iridium CertusSM. Through this technology, Iridium partner Aireon, will provide real-time global aircraft surveillance across the entire planet. The entire Iridium NEXT network is set to be completed by mid-2018.
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They’ve Only Just Begun
Of the many uses of satellite constellations being discussed, worldwide broadband is the most exciting and in that arena OneWeb may hold the key. This U.S. company which has secured $1.2 billion in capital and plans to start deploying 700 low-flying satellites starting in 2018 as already started construction on a dedicated factory outside the Kennedy Space Center.
The entire OneWeb network will provide more than 10 Terabits per second of communications capacity. Ground stations will be capable of supporting 50 Mbps or more locally.
Keep in mind that OneWeb is only one company planning satellite broadband transmission. The afore-mentioned SpaceX, Boeing, Facebook and others are all in the game as well. Moreover, the satellite broadband industry has enormous potential. It generated revenues of just $1.9 billion last year. Satellite television had revenue of $97.8 billion.