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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Satellite internet may not result in universal network

Superhero Iron Man has access to information all the time as every satellite in the Marvel universe beams down the internet to him. In the real world though, satellite internet is not quite the almighty solution. Mint explains the technology that continues to attract interest.

Superhero Iron Man has access to information all the time as every satellite in the Marvel universe beams down the internet to him. In the real world though, satellite internet is not quite the almighty solution. Mint explains the technology that continues to attract interest.

What does satellite internet mean?

Contrary to what many think, satellite internet is not a whole new internet. It is, in fact, a new way to get connected to the existing networks. Instead of connecting through copper wires and fiber optic cables, as we currently do, satellite internet entails the use of satellites in space to beam the internet down to an area through satellite dishes. If this reminds you of the satellite television dish on your roof, you’re sort of on the right track. The difference, however, is that satellite TV dishes only receive data, but satellite internet dishes do both upstream and downstream connections.

Is it an upgrade over our current network?

No. If anything, satellite internet will be a downgrade for those who are on fiber optic connections. While satellite does have benefits, it has bandwidth limitations, and gets severely impacted by aberrations in weather, and in many cases, it can be expensive too. For instance, experts say that the satellite internet which most companies want to bring right now will have about 1-2 mbps speed, which though broadband in terms of India’s Broadband Policy, is a far cry from the modern internet connections we take for granted. Satellite internet also suffers from low latency, which shows up as “internet speed".

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What are the advantages of satellite internet?

Satellite internet is primarily used to bring connectivity in areas where laying cables is difficult or impossible. Most often though, it is used for hilly terrains, really remote areas and islands. It can also be used as an alternative to laying fiber optic cables, though the trade-offs are key. Beaming the internet down to such areas sometimes becomes the only option.

Who uses such a form of communication?

Satellite communications, which aren’t really new, are often used on ships, aircraft, remote military bases. However, it’s almost never the go-to method and mostly the last resort. Many military experts consider satellite communications too unreliable and expensive to make it the only way to connect. So, in countries like India, satellite internet can help businesses, but it’s unlikely to be a consumer solution. Also, in a mobile-first country, companies will need to find ways to make such networks work on mobile phones.

Who all are trying to bring this network ?

India’s Bharti Global Ltd is a stakeholder in OneWeb, one of the front-runners in the race to bring satellite internet. It will face stiff competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which won $1 billion grant from Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US last week, to start Starlink broadband service. SpaceX has also hinted that it’s interested in India’s plans for satellite internet. E-commerce giant Amazon is also working on a satellite internet project, which is known as Kuiper. Canada’s Telesat is another competitor.


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