For hardcore mobile users, global coverage has been something of a wet dream for decades. But if Samsung (and others like them) have their say, we could be reaping the benefits of a true world-wide-web sooner than previously anticipated.
Samsung has filed a very ambitious proposal to deploy thousands of small-scale satellites capable of beaming down “Mobile Internet from the Heavens” to 5 billion users by 2020. The effort is based on 5G technology and even hopes to introduce a single standard for wireless transmissions (satellite, cellular, and Wi-Fi).
Internet-bots circling the Earth
Samsung’s proposition to deploy 5G Internet from space is not only awesome, it’s reportedly affordable too. The Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites are said to be inexpensive to build – even though Samsung says it will need 4,600 of them to get the show on the road – and their latency levels are much lower than standard satellites because they are designed to orbit the Earth at just 1,500 kilometers (as opposed to their heavier counterparts circling the globe tens of thousands of kilometers above the ozone layer).
Each mini satellite in part would be capable of providing terabit-per-second data rates with signal latencies better than or equal to ground based systems, according to the filing. The news is downright spectacular for hard-to-reach areas where the Internet is virtually inexistent. The chart below illustrates Internet access on a global scale. Gray and light blue represents places on Earth where the web is almost completely unavailable.
Whoever supplies it, users stand to win big
There’s more good news. In addition to Samsung, both Google and Facebook are ramping up similar efforts. The search giant, for its part, has committed to a 1$ billion investment in Tesla’s SpaceX program. Virgin and Qualcomm are also looking at ways to tackle space Internet, and Facebook is toying with drones that would act as wireless access points. You might think that this will give Samsung some fierce competition, and you’d be right to think that. However, the best thing that comes out of competition is that the customer always wins. One way or another, global-scale mobile Internet is coming, and by the looks of things, we’ll have a plurality of providers.
The full technicalities behind the ambitious undertaking can be found in the original filing, Mobile Internet from the Heavens, signed Farooq Khan, President of Samsung’s R&D America division in Dallas, Texas.
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