Sometimes it seems like technology is advancing quicker than we can keep up. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and honestly, we can’t afford to stay behind any longer.
Our future continues to be shaped in a way that will rely on technology (NYSEARCA:XLK) and seamless connectivity to the internet — something we still don’t have today.
You probably won’t believe this, but only about 40% of the global population has access to the internet. That means more than half the world has no internet access whatsoever. For some of us, that’s hard to believe. There are 35 countries right now where fewer than one in five residents is able to access the internet because there’s no infrastructure for it.
It’s not just rural or poor areas. China, India, and the United States contribute a large portion of the 4.4 billion people who are disconnected. It was hard for me to grasp that reality since the internet has been around for a while. It seems strange to think that not everyone has access to it, especially when a wide variety of technologies are being invented that require a reliable internet connection. And not just a reliable connection, but a connection altogether, which 60% of the world doesn’t have.
Getting Closer to 100% Global Internet Coverage
That could all be changing with the introduction of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites. These satellites orbit the Earth at an altitude of 99 to 1,200 miles above the Earth’s surface. They have an orbital period between 84 and 127 minutes. The main purpose of LEO satellites is to provide 100% global internet coverage.
Since LEO satellites are closer to Earth, there will be less time to transfer information (low latency) and better internet service than wired cable or fiber broadband providers. The traditional geostationary (GEO) satellites are 22,000 miles, making LEO satellites superior in the terms of speed and connection.
The potential of broadband internet access to all is becoming a reality because of LEO satellites and key players looking to invest in space. Those players are Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN) and SpaceX. This will become the next and probably biggest technology battle of the century.
Some are calling it the “Next Space Race” or “The Internet Race.” These companies are spending billions in space with the hopes that it will make them billions annually when the LEO satellites are up and running for not only U.S. consumers but consumers across the globe.
LEO satellites aren’t a new concept. Most of the Earth’s 2,000 active satellites are already LEO. The company Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) has a network of 141 LEO satellites that handle voice and data communication from the company’s handheld satellite phones. Iridium’s satellites have been active since 1998.
What is a new concept is creating a world where everyone has the chance to be connected, paving the way for even more groundbreaking technological developments.
The Battle Has Just Begun
In May, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk made a huge leap in the space race. SpaceX launched the first 60 of its planned 12,000 satellites into low Earth orbit.
SpaceX recently requested that federal regulators allow it to spread out satellites in more rings around the globe. The company is proposing that this alteration in its orbital plans would be able to bring coverage to the southern U.S. by next year in time for hurricane season.
It’ll take the company six more Starlink launches before it will have partial service. However, spreading out its satellites into 72 rings instead of 24 will allow for a quicker and greater launch efficiency.
SpaceX said in a statement in August:
The proposed respacing would require fewer launches of satellites — perhaps as few as half — to initiate service to the entire contiguous United States. Globally, the modification would enable more rapid coverage of all longitudes to grow toward the Equator, as well as bolstering capacity over in areas of greater population density.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has also been spending a lot of money to secure a spot in this race. Bezos’ Blue Origin announced its Project Kuiper, which will be a 3,236-satellite constellation. Project Kuiper plans to have satellites at three different altitudes: 784 satellites at 367 miles, 1,296 satellites at 379 miles, and 1,156 satellites at 391 miles.
A spokesperson from Amazon said:
Project Kuiper is a new initiative to launch a constellation of Low Earth Orbit satellites that will provide low-latency, high-speed broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved communities around the world. This is a long-term project that envisions serving tens of millions of people who lack basic access to broadband internet. We look forward to partnering on this initiative with companies that share this common vision.
This is a battle you’re going to want to pay attention to. Amazon and SpaceX aren’t the only companies that will be making billions. This technology is going to be huge, and it’ll reshape our entire planet for years to come. And there’s one company that you haven’t heard about that’s right in the middle of this battle — in a good way.