Elon Musk could soon change the way telecom works. He is spinning his telecom dreams through his private space firm, SpaceX, as part of a project named Starlink — a satellite-based internet service. And it’s taking off in every sense — in just four months since it entered beta, Starlink has amassed over 10,000 users worldwide.
Couple of weeks ago, Australia’s telecommunications regulator gave initial approval to the Starlink satellite network in the country. Discussions with other countries are on to connect to Starlink’s broadband services.
Now, you must be wondering what satellite internet is and how it works. Here is a brief outline of how it is similar in many ways to traditional internet providers, but has a few differences.
What is satellite internet?
It's a type of connection that uses a satellite to get an internet signal from your internet service provider (ISP) to you. It works by using radio waves to communicate with satellites orbiting the Earth. It depends on a five-part system to relay data — internet-ready device, modem or router, satellite dish, satellite in space and a ground station known as network operations centre (NOC).
How does it work?
The process requires three satellite dishes — one at the ISP centre, one in space and the third one attached to your home. From your device, data travels through your modem and dish, out to the satellite in space, then back to Earth to NOCs. From there, the data is relayed back and travels in the reverse order through the same network till it reaches your device.
Is satellite internet a good option?
Yes, it’s a good option for those who live in rural or sparsely populated areas. For them it’s the only option, in fact. And while satellite communication is expensive, it is way cheaper than the cost of laying cables to reach rural areas or those with low population. So, such projects are set up in partnership with governments.
What is the speed of satellite internet connections?
The speeds range from 12 to 100 Mbps, which is enough speed for common online activities like emailing, browsing, and online schooling. Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites can offer download speeds of 50to 150 Mbps, which could go up to gigabits. However, an important point to note is that satellite internet is subject to high latency, so speeds aren’t always what they seem.
How is satellite internet different from Wi-Fi?
Satellite internet is a connection, while Wi-Fi is a wireless network. You can set up a Wi-Fi network at home with your satellite internet connection, which will allow you to browse on a laptop, phone, tablet, or any other device connected to the internet.
What are the options in India?
Starlink: Elon Musk has plans of disrupting the Indian telecom industry by stepping into the telecommunications sector with Starlink. The initial plan for SpaceX is to enter the Indian telecommunications industry with 100-Mbps satellite internet. SpaceX has suggested the Indian government to consider allowing satellite-based broadband technologies to operate in the country. The ball is in the government’s court now.
OneWeb (Bharti Airtel): In November 2020, Bharti Enterprises chairman Sunil Mittal, who took over as executive chairman of OneWeb, told ET that the satellite firm was planning to offer broadband services in India by May or June 2022, and was in talks with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and other authorities. He even told that OneWeb’s broadband services will not conflict with Airtel’s mobile plans, as it will only serve areas such as deserts and mountainous regions that are currently unconnected. OneWeb, headquartered in the UK, had run into financial problems, when Mittal picked up a 45 percent stake in the company.
(Edited by : Jomy)