Since the 1960s, traditional communications satellites in geostationary orbits have proven their importance. More than 2,500 active satellites now orbit the Earth out of which about 2000 of them are LEO satellites. LEO satellites, which orbit 500 to 2,000 kilometers above Earth, have better communications (lower latency) and also more bandwidth per customer than GEO satellites—even more than fiber, copper, and pre-5G fixed wireless. Since these ideas demand more of a satellite and reduce its total life cycle, they would necessitate significant improvements in satellite operations, including production and the supply chain.
Satellite internet constellation is one such step toward that automated future as companies are trying to replace ground towers with these floating satellites which are easier to maintain and give bigger coverage. A satellite internet constellation is a constellation of artificial satellites providing satellite internet service. Satellite internet is a type of connection that uses a satellite to get an internet signal from the internet service provider (ISP) to the user.
Here, a question arises - how does it work?
The provider sends a fiber internet signal to a satellite in space. The internet signal then comes to you and is captured by your satellite dish. Your dish is connected to your modem, which connects your computer to the internet signal. The process reverses back to your provider, and there you have it.
Working of Satellite Constellation
Myths and facts, common to hear about any advancement and this is not an exception.
Some of them related to satellite internet constellation are:
1. Satellite internet is too slow
Satellite internet now has sped up to 100 Mbps. That’s pretty fast relatively if considering most cable and DSL internet plans offer similar speeds.
2. Takes a long time to receive signals
You likely won’t notice any difference in how quickly you can do things online with satellite versus how quickly you could do them with cable or DSL. Unless you’re gaming, satellite’s high latency likely won’t affect you.
3. Satellite internet does not work when it’s cloudy or stormy
Storm-related interruptions are commonly called “rain fade,” and the signal is restored as soon as the storm passes. You can also remove heavy accumulations of snow from around the satellite dish to restore communications.
4. Satellite internet is too expensive
Compared to DSL, cable, and fiber internet, a satellite is relatively expensive. But its monthly costs have decreased over the years, making it a somewhat more affordable option.
If this technology is so good, then why not currently in use?
The answer to this question is written just above as they are relatively expensive. Let’s discuss some company’s charging amounts for providing this service.
1. Starlink -
Starlink is actually $99 a month. A one-time $499 fee will be charged for the Starlink satellite dish and Wi-Fi router, which will be delivered to your home.
The SpaceX Starlink broadband service can be pre-registered for $99 (roughly Rs 7,200 in India), though it will not be available until 2022. During the beta testing process, users can register for the service and receive the Starlink Kit, which must be set up in order to use the service.
2. Sfera -
The high costs of Roscosmos systems have been criticized. According to a media interview with Alexander Ivanov, a member of the Russian Military-Industrial Commission, Roscosmos is demanding a total of 1.5 trillion rubles (roughly $20 billion) from the government to build Sfera. Starlink is expected to cost $10 billion, which is twice as much as Sfera.
3. OneWeb -
In India, these services cost about $15-$20 per GB, which is around 22-30 times more than the $0.68 per GB paid for mobile data.
The next question arising, obviously, will be how the satellite internet concept affects the future?
Several developments in internet infrastructure and innovative content services can provide ISPs with yet another choice for growth. One such progress, the imminent implementation of IPv6 (or internet 2.0) connectivity, promises a number of opportunities to improve internet experience by eliminating the danger of inadequate internet IP addresses and eliminating the need for a network address translation service (NATS), which is effectively a workaround for the threat using the current internet protocol (aka IPv4).
This advancement, combined with ever-faster internet connectivity, can help ISPs deliver a guaranteed quality of service, which is particularly appealing for high bandwidth, content, and internet broadcasting propositions. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the opportunity to better enable dynamic business models for most internet-based businesses, such as ISPs and online content providers; the latter will no longer need to run their own content distribution networks if ISPs can do it much more cheaply and with assured quality of service.
Are there some limitations of this advanced technology?
Every appliance, technology, or service has some or many limitations and this one is not out of this zone. Let’s discuss some limitations of satellite internet technology.
1. Signal Latency -
A radio signal takes around 120 milliseconds to reach a geostationary satellite, then another 120 milliseconds to reach the ground station, for a total time of approximately 1/4 second. The physics involved in satellite communications usually accounts for around 550 milliseconds of delay round-trip time under ideal conditions.
2. Interference -
Moisture and different types of precipitation (such as rain or snow) in the signal path between end users or ground stations and the satellite in use impact satellite communications. Rain fade is the term for this form of signal interference. Increase the size of the satellite communication dish to collect more satellite signals on the downlink and provide a stronger signal on the uplink to minimize the amount of time during which service is lost.
3. Fresnel Zone -
Even if the transmitting and receiving antennas are in direct line of sight, phase cancellations caused by reflections from artifacts near the signal path will reduce apparent signal power. The position of the object in the Fresnel zone of the antennas determines whether and how much signal is lost as a result of a reflection.
4. Line of Sight -
For the device to function properly, a fully clear line of sight between the dish and the satellite is usually needed. The signal is affected not only by moisture absorption and scattering but also by the presence of trees and other vegetation in the signal's direction.
Therefore as we move into the Future the cost of launching per KG is going down with every new innovation, thus making this Business even more profitable.
This is a research article written by the students of IIT Delhi. The co-authors of this article are- Priyanshi Rohilla, Kashish Verma, Vaibhav N Singh, Garvit Mittal, and Mahendra Kumar.