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California-based aerospace company Boeing is planning a massive constellation of small satellites. Boeing is applying for a licence to build between 1,396 and 2,956 satellites which would work in the C- and V-bands.
The new constellation would be – by far – the largest operating above the planet, and is designed to provide extra wireless frequencies. The satellites would orbit at 1200 kms in altitude.
To date, V-band has not been used in satellite, but terrestrially is where 5G wireless operates.
The beams from the satellites would be very narrow, and subdivided into thousands of cells each just 8-11 kms in diameter and operating much as a telephony cellular network.
Boeing’s first step – once it has received approval for the scheme – is to build, launch and deploy an initial 1,396, and then build up the constellation with another 1,560 satellites.
Boeing does not seek to operate the commercial side of the business. It says: “The company could contribute to the public interest by injecting new competition and expanded capabilities into the broadband satellite services industry. Boeing supports the FCC’s desire to extend America’s leadership in advanced communications services and to foster the widespread availability of broadband services, including to unserved and underserved regions and populations.”
If this scheme goes ahead it would compete with the now SES-owned O3b system, as well as proposed schemes from OneWeb, SpaceX and others. However, it is also worth mentioning that back in the 1990s similar schemes were proposed, notably from Teledesic, Iridium and others. Most of these scheme either went bankrupt or were significantly modified. Investors lost billions.