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Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms has launched a joint venture (JV) with European satellite-based broadband service company SES to enter the satellite internet space. With the JV, the top two telecom operators in India are exploring satellite internet services. Mint explains:

What is satellite internet?

The technology beams the internet down from a satellite that’s orbiting the Earth. Jio, Bharti Airtel Ltd’s OneWeb, and billionaire Elon Musk’s Starlink want to send thousands of these satellites to orbit. OneWeb plans to launch 648 satellites, while Musk’s Starlink has permits to launch over 4,000 of them. So far, OneWeb has launched over 400 satellites, while Starlink has launched over 2,000 satellites. SES already operates 70 satellites. It’s worth noting that Starlink plans to launch 42,000 satellites in the coming decade. Jio’s journey has only just begun.

Which satellites will Jio use?

Jio’s JV will use geostationary (GEO) and medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites, while Starlink and OneWeb use low earth orbit (LEO) satellites. LEO satellites are cheaper to make and deploy, but require a satellite constellation working in sync to offer coverage on earth. On the other hand, GEO and MEO satellites are larger, deployed in higher orbits, and therefore cost more. These satellites cover a larger area and require fewer ground stations, which makes them ideal for targeted coverage area. LEOs move faster and can hence provide global coverage.

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What are the advantages of satellite internet?

The reason telecom firms want to explore satellite internet is because there are areas where fibre connections just can’t reach. Satellite networks are used to bring connectivity in such areas, which include hills and remote islands. Consumer applications are new, but satellite networks have been used for ages in military applications.

Are there any disadvantages?

The applications and the power of satellite internet are often exaggerated. In reality, these networks have limitations, the biggest being high latency and low bandwidths. Latency is all about internet speed, while bandwidth determines how many devices can connect on a network at the same time. Experts say current satellite connections will bring 1-2 MB bandwidth, which just about qualifies as broadband under India’s broadband policy. Trouble-shooting can be a problem because it needs specialized knowledge.

Who can use satellite internet?

Militaries across the world have depended on satellite communications for a long time. However, many military experts, too, consider this form to be unreliable and too expensive to be made the sole communication medium. In remote areas, satellite internet can still allow businesses to open up local branches and provide digital services. In theory, a bank could set up more ATMs in remote regions if it has access to satellite internet. Ditto, retail outlets and many essential services.


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