After years in the margins of the telecom organisation, satellite is hot again.

Big names like Musk, Son and Bezos are tipping huge dollars into contending tasks to provide broadband from low earth orbit (LEO) satellites.

It’s tough to monitor them all, but right now the frontrunners appear like London-based OneWeb and Elon Musk’s Starlink.

OneWeb, a start-up backed by Softbank and Qualcomm, recently launched 34 satellites, the very first huge batch in a desired fleet of 648. (See OneWeb Launches 34 Satellites for Space-Based Internet.)

Starlink is plotting to send up 12,000 satellites. It’s so far introduced 242.

Jeff Bezos’s Job Kuiper, which is playing catch-up, is targeting 3,236 satellites, while Canada’s Telesat is aiming for 300 satellites in 2023. China has 2 state-backed projects underway.

The intense activity has echoes of the late 1990s when Iridium and GlobalStar lost billions in international mobile satellite endeavors. They got killed by the increase of terrestrial smart phone services.

Both business survive on today in the less ambitious role of serving verticals that require remote connection. As it happens, both Starlink and OneWEb have struck arrangements with Iridium.

OneWeb has actually passed a crucial early technical test. It reports download speeds of 400 Mbit/s and latency of less than 40 milliseconds– about 15 times faster than the traditional GEO satellites such as Inmarsat and Intelsat. (See OneWeb’s LEO Strategy Shows More Progress, but Questions Remain.)

OneWeb CEO Adrián Steckel says the business, which has actually up until now raised $3.4 billion, is focused more on linking the inapplicable than SpaceX, which is targeting house broadband. Aside from Bharti and Softbank, one of its investors is the government of Rwanda.

SpaceX, whose financiers include Alphabet and Fidelity Investments, initially predicted the Starlink service would have more than 40 million customers and generate more than $30 billion in revenues by 2025.

It’s strolled back those numbers a little and acknowledges its large expenses– as high as $10 billion. A year back, President and COO Gwynne Shotwell told WSJ the company was asking itself: “Can you generate income out of it?”

For Bezos, analysts see an all set tie-in with his existing Internet e-commerce and cloud and other companies. They likewise point to his track record of undercutting his competitors on rate to win market share.

China has not one but 2 LEO satellite broadband jobs– confusingly with almost identical names.

One is Hongyun, by the China Aerospace Science and Market Corporation (CASIC). It’s aiming to launch 864 satellites, targeted variously at 5G users, house broadband and the IoT market, according to Larry Press of California State University.

The other is Hongyan, a production of China Aerospace Science and Innovation Corporation (CASC). It’s planning a constellation of 320 LEO satellites, to be fully functional by 2025.

One big issue these ventures share, and pointed out by SpaceX’s Shotwell, is the cost of terminals. They are going to need to produce countless home or office terminals to be commercially successful.

Another is partners. They will require a local firm to help market to and manage the consumers and provide the essential technical service assistance. In lots of nations, the regional partner will be necessary.

So far just OneWeb has actually signed up telco partners. However it appears like a chance for telcos, specifically in markets with restricted broadband takeup.

In markets like the US, with high broadband costs, satellite is a risk. One analyst approximates satellite broadband might conserve United States customers as much as $30 billion a year.

— Robert Clark, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

This content was originally published here.