June 18, 2020 — SpaceX, an aerospace manufacturer founded by Elon Musk, launched its eighth batch of internet-beaming Starlink satellites into orbit on June 3. The Starlink satellite constellation, which currently consists of 482 low-orbit satellites, holds the potential to deliver high-speed, low latency broadband connections around the globe.
Starlink comprises a large-scale mesh network of satellites, which all communicate with one another to relay information, rather than relying on a single base.
The satellites utilize low-Earth orbit technology. Starlink satellites orbit in altitudes ranging from 540 to 570 kilometers, a fraction of the 35,000 kilometers traditional geostationary satellites range around.
A satellite broadband history filled with disappointment
The history of satellite internet is defined by disappointment. Traditional satellite internet, which once held the potential to connect rural America, is, in actuality, easily disrupted by weather and expensive for both consumers and providers.
The technology utilized by Musk’s satellite network holds out the promise of potentially evading the drawbacks associated with traditional satellite technology. A major difference between traditional satellites and low-Earth orbit satellites is the latency that the network claims it will achieve.
While the latency of SpaceX’s Starlink is unknown, a competitor, OneWeb, reported that a test of its low-Earth orbit satellites delivered broadband speeds with an average latency of 32 milliseconds.
While low-Earth orbit satellites deliver far faster speeds than traditional satellites, they are still an unsuitable replacement for wired fiber connections. For such connections, latencies average 12 to 20 milliseconds and even lower.
In order to disrupt an already competitive market, Starlink must provide lower latency rates, as the existing U.S. standard is an average latency of 20 milliseconds.
Investment markets are slow to fund low-earth orbit technology as it is largely untested and demand for the service seems slim, especially when compared to skyrocketing demand for broadband.
Could SpaceX prove the exception for satellite broadband?
With the right pricing SpaceX could capture a segment of the underserved broadband market. However, little information about the company has been released and service and pricing options remain a mystery.
Where costs are set to rise steeply is on the ground, as Starlink’s service may require professional installation of costly end-user satellite infrastructure.
While providers utilizing low-Earth orbit technology are able to compete for the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, they have some odds stacked against them. At the Federal Communications Commission meeting on June 9, the agency confirmed that it would allow SpaceX and other satellite providers to apply for rural broadband funding, but not to bid in the tiers with the highest speeds and lowest latencies.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai told reporters in a video call after the meeting that satellite broadband companies will be able to apply for funding, but that the agency “will be doing a careful review on a case-by-case basis to make sure that any competitor is able to do what it says it can do.”
In rules spelling out the rural broadband bidding procedures, the agency said that funding will prioritize bids offering high speeds and low latencies. Experts believe most federal funding will go towards proven high-speed fiber and fixed wireless solutions.
The network construction period for RDOF bid winners is set to take place over the course of six years, and the grants will provide financial support for 10 years.
Internet of Things Will Revolutionize Industries as Connectivity Ceases To Be Limiting Factor
Panelists at a WCA event last month said IoT will transform a trillion-plus dollar segment of the economy.
WASHINGTON, October 13, 2021 – With the advent of new mobile wireless technologies such as 5G and latency improvements, the industrial internet of things will prove to be a boon for industries from agriculture to transportation, a conference heard last month.
The Wireless Communications Alliance hosted a virtual event last month titled “IIoT Gizmos and Gadgets” during which a panel of tech experts remarked on the ability of internet-connected devices, facilitated by ubiquitous connectivity, to revolutionize fields integral to the nation’s economy.
Andy Do, president of IoT sensor company Sensorworks, noted that the key attraction with IoT for the industrial sector – estimated to be worth trillions of dollars – is the cost savings. More and more companies, for example, are incorporating remote monitoring of their agricultural crops using these technologies to get a sense of when to tend to them.
Dirk Seidel, business development manager at semiconductor company Renesas Electronics, said the IIoT industry has made significant progress in developing sensors that can monitor a wide variety of conditions in real time, such as carbon dioxide concentration, light intensity, and blood oxygen levels. Aashish Mehta, CEO of TransferFi, a company that makes wireless networks for IIoT sensors, describes this as providing “insights at your fingertips.” A present goal of the industry is to develop technology which combines different types of sensors together while still allowing them to make measurements independently, he said.
According to Elle Grossenbacher, product marketing manager of IoT at cloud communications company Twilio, manufacturing is one industry where IIoT has a large opportunity to expand because of how little factories have already adopted IIoT since its early development.
This is a much slower uptake than has been seen with building automation, where WCA vice president Jeremy Tole says IIoT has been used in energy optimization for decades. Grossenbacher also believes that the government will be one entity that instigates an increase in its usage of IIoT in the near future.
As far as advancements in the IIoT industry in next five years, Tole hopes to see all devices wirelessly connected and powered while Do hopes more IIoT technology will be present in everyday retail settings.
The Federal Communications Commission last month released a notice of inquiry to get a sense of the need for spectrum for IoT.
FCC Asks for Public Comment on Spectrum for Internet of Things
Internet of Things devices are expected to increasingly flood the market as 5G networks light up.
WASHINGTON, October 8, 2021 – The Federal Communications Commission is seeking public comment on spectrum allocation for the Internet of Things, or devices that are connected to the internet.
In its Notice of Inquiry released September 30, the agency seeks comments that “consider and evaluate various related factors” that will hinder the growth of IoT, including “barriers that may hinder the provision of spectrum needed to support uses relating to the IoT” and the role that unlicensed and licensed spectrum plays in the growth of IoT.
The IoT broadly refers to network-connected devices that can collect and transfer data. The number of IoT devices has grown over the past few years. Experts expect this number to continue rising as more households and industries use IoT technologies and as the connectivity-dense next-generation 5G networks facilitate more connections.
According to the FCC, a large amount of spectrum has been licensed using a flexible-use approach that allowed licensees to develop technologies and services according to consumer demand since the 1990s. The FCC asks whether the licensed spectrum made available or “will be available in the future is adequate to support the needs of the IoT.” The commission also asks whether there are spectrum rules that could be modified to facilitate greater spectrum access for IoT deployments.
In a statement, FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said the the Internet of Things is “transforming our way of life.” While reaffirming his commitment to addressing the digital divide and internet inequality, the FCC noted that “many Americans will not realize the benefits of IoT; until broadband service is available and affordable to everyone, those without broadband will be left behind during the IoT revolution.”
Acting FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel issued a separate statement emphasizing that although the possibilities for IoT have yet to be fully developed, “[i]t’s still early days in the Internet of Things.” The Chairwoman remarked that because 5G wireless systems and low-orbiting satellites “expand the availability of high speed and high-capacity networks, we can expect the pace of innovation to increase” but that the FCC should allocate adequate spectrum for this purpose.
The FCC seeks comment on these issues as directed by Congress in the William Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act. The Act directed the FCC to inquire into the spectrum required to support IoT growth. This comes as the FCC begins auctioning 3.45 GigaHertz mid-band spectrum this week for licenses for 5G use.
Secretary of State Blinken Says Research and Development Critical For Competition Against China
Blinken was touring the University of Maryland laboratories last week.
August 16, 2021 – Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this month a key consideration for competition with China is to plow investments in research and development, as the Communist nation continues to do the same and export cheap technologies around the world.
“The Chinese and Russian governments, among others, are making the argument in public and private that the United States is in decline,” said Blinken at the University of Maryland on August 9, as he was touring the institution’s laboratories.
“Nothing would put to rest faster their specious argument about America’s best days being behind us than if the United States made serious investments in our domestic renewal right now.”
The United States, previously being the first in the world for research and development relative to its economic size, has fallen to ninth place, according to a recent UNESCO report. In contrast, China has risen to second, according to the same report.
Last week, the Senate passed a $1-trillion infrastructure bill that would lay the groundwork for the future, including a timely $65-billion for broadband to help seal the remote learning and work gap that emerged from the pandemic.
President Joe Biden’s administration has been coupling economic spending and sanctions against Chinese companies to combat the emerging economic superpower and protect national security. Chinese companies carry great influence on the world stage, few more prominent than leading telecom equipment maker Huawei, which has been the subject of bans in the United States and other parts of the world.
For example, while Huawei’s greatest 5G equipment competitors are Finland’s Nokia and Sweden’s Ericsson – with Samsung emerging as a potent player in its own right – it is widely reported that the Chinese company’s equipment sells for cheap, making it a more economic choice for countries in Africa. The Chinese government has been accused of spying.
An official from Huawei – which has challenged (but was denied) the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to wade into national security matters when it proposed rules in June to prohibit future authorizations to companies posing potential threats – has previously noted that the company doesn’t have much to worry about with the overtures by the Biden government to ban Chinese companies’ access to American chips because it will just make its own.
Blinken strongly advocated for the bipartisan U.S. Innovation and Competition Act, a bill introduced in April that would boost federal funding for U.S.-based semiconductor manufacturing and provide $52 billion over five years for research initiatives.
By investing in infrastructure, Blinken said he believes that this would be the essential thing that the U.S can do to advance its foreign policy because it will increase foreign trade and investment competitiveness.
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