Telecommunications

Samsung's giant satellite network could enable high-speed internet access across the globe

Samsung's giant satellite netw...
Samsung wants to deploy a fleet of satellites that can bring Internet access to up to 5 billion people
Samsung wants to deploy a fleet of satellites that can bring Internet access to up to 5 billion people
View 5 Images
A vast fleet of thousands of low-cost LEO satellites could provide fast internet for billions of people
1/5
A vast fleet of thousands of low-cost LEO satellites could provide fast internet for billions of people
According to the scientists, the communication latency will be lower than that of fibre optics, as long as the satellites orbit Earth at less than 2000 km in altitude
2/5
According to the scientists, the communication latency will be lower than that of fibre optics, as long as the satellites orbit Earth at less than 2000 km in altitude
The satellites' low orbit means that signals need to travel a smaller distance, allowing for low-latency communications
3/5
The satellites' low orbit means that signals need to travel a smaller distance, allowing for low-latency communications
Global demand for internet traffic is projected to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future
4/5
Global demand for internet traffic is projected to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future
Samsung wants to deploy a fleet of satellites that can bring Internet access to up to 5 billion people
5/5
Samsung wants to deploy a fleet of satellites that can bring Internet access to up to 5 billion people

A highly ambitious proposal recently advanced by Samsung describes the deployment of a huge network of 4,600 near-Earth satellites that would provide internet coverage on a truly global scale. The artificial constellation would more than double the number of working satellites in orbit around our planet and lead to low-latency and (potentially) low-cost access to about 200 GB of internet traffic a month for up to five billion people, no matter their location.

Recent studies estimate that as many as 4.2 billion people, over 60 percent of the world's population, still lack internet access. Bringing the Web to every corner of the globe is sure to be a huge undertaking, but the repercussions of, say, bringing freedom of information and low-cost access to high-quality education materials to anyone who can put their hands on a cheap smartphone would surely bear consequences worth noting.

Samsung is not the first to advance such an idea. Google has been among the pioneers in this field, initially turning to hot-air balloons and then, more recently, partnering with SpaceX to deploy their own satellite constellation. Facebook has also unveiled plans including the use of solar-powered drones, and Richard Branson's OneWeb satellite network is yet another major contender.

Global demand for internet traffic is projected to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future
Global demand for internet traffic is projected to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future

Samsung expects global monthly data demand to increase more than a hundred-fold and reach the staggering figure of one zettabyte (one billion terabytes) by the year 2028. Since putting in place a complex infrastructure of communication satellites is sure to take several years, the emphasis with the electronics giant's approach is an aggressive attempt to get the most bang for the buck in terms of bandwidth, and to do so in the largest possible scale.

Communication satellites usually operate in a geostationary orbit, about 36,000 km (22,000 miles) from the surface. In this orbit, satellites remain at a fixed point in the sky when seen from Earth, so their data can be accessed with relative ease through a small, stationary dish. Samsung, however, reasoned that this wouldn't do for satellite-based internet, since at such a high altitude radio signals would take about a quarter of a second for a round-trip, too long for practical applications.

The satellites' low orbit means that signals need to travel a smaller distance, allowing for low-latency communications
The satellites' low orbit means that signals need to travel a smaller distance, allowing for low-latency communications

Samsung's plan is to instead have its satellite fleet operate much closer to Earth, around 1,400 km (900 miles) above the surface. And because radio signals in space can travel in a straight line, as opposed to signals in fiber optics (which travel by constant zig-zagging as the signal is reflected from one side of the cable to the other), Samsung says that its network would actually provide lower latencies for medium and long distance communications.

Geostationary orbits are also often used for convenience, since the entire surface of the globe can be covered with as few as three satellites. Samsung, however, plans to turn this dynamic on its head, attempting to cut costs by mass-producing a giant fleet of 4,600 low-cost satellites each able to provide data rates in the terabit range. Besides the cost savings, such a large fleet would also offer more flexibility, providing higher capacity over more densely populated areas.

A vast fleet of thousands of low-cost LEO satellites could provide fast internet for billions of people
A vast fleet of thousands of low-cost LEO satellites could provide fast internet for billions of people

As of now there are no definite plans attached with Samsung's proposal, but given the amount of interest shown from competing companies, it wouldn't be a stretch to assume that large scale satellite-based internet has an increasingly high chance of becoming a reality. When this might finally happen, and who will be the first to achieve this milestone, still remains to be seen.

Source: ArXiv via Popular Science

10 comments
Derek Howe
WOW, in a few years cheap high speed internet will be everywhere, that will be awesome.
Nairda
This all means nothing if telcos are unwilling to drop their rates.
Bob809
We should be so lucky.
The Creator
Nairda, You have it backwards. This means that telcos will have no choice but to drop their rates to remain competitive, or they will loose a huge portion of their profits, or possibly go out of business all together.
Stephen N Russell
Merge Internet satellite services worldwide. Have Telecomms like one poster says Reduce Rates Share Resources to CUT costs. & use hot air blimps to catch WiFi from Orbit to 3rd world alone. Use both Low & Hi Tech for worldwide WiFi Link sats to ATT DSL Basic service alone, awesome No more steamship speeds for DSL & expand Fiber Optic ground systems.
antiguajohn98
Here in the Caribbean where we pay US $53 per month for a 1 megabit connection such a system would be great news. And if C&W LIME can't compete and go out of business, it serves them well because they ave been screwing us since forever with crummy and expensive service. Scientia Non Domus, (Knowledge has No Home) antiguajohn
Bob Flint
Where is the ROI on this model? Who pays for the set-up, maintenance & how much do you think advertising revenue will pay for this? All the world is a mass market, but what percentage actually have the means to buy & support the endeavor?
Greg Riemer
I am all for this, GREAT! Now we can provide internet services to the over half of the worlds population that can barely feed themselves. Now when I travel to Africa and the far east I can check my bank account to see if I have enough money to give to a legless woman begging for food. Who the H--- is thinking at Samsung? This is technology for technologies sake the people who use this will be the same people who are using the internet now not the worlds poor.
frogola
if someone puts that many satellites in orbit i wonder how much other junk will be going up there with them and for how long.
Jules
Bit of an oxymoron, lo-cost satellite.