SpaceX plans global 'space internet' satellite launches
SpaceX has applied to the FCC to launch 11,943 satellites, providing “ubiquitous high-bandwidth (up to 1Gbps per user) broadband services for consumers and businesses in the U.S. and globally,” according to FCC applications. The plan looks “increasingly feasible, particularly with 5G technologies just a few years away, promising new devices and new demand for data,”
Such a service will be particularly useful to rural areas, which have limited access to internet bandwidth.
Low-Earth orbit (at up to 2,000 kilometers, or 1,200 mi) ensures lower latency (communication delay between Earth and satellite), making the service usable for voice communications via Skype, for example, compared to geosynchronous orbit (at 35,786 kilometers, or 22,000 miles), offered by Dish Network and other satellite ISP services.* The downside: it takes a lot more satellites to provide the coverage.
Boeing, Softbank-backed OneWeb (which hopes to “connect every school to the Internet by 2022″), Telesat, and others have proposed similar services, possibly bringing the total number of satellites to about 20,000 in low and mid earth orbits in the 2020s, estimates Next Big Future.