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SpaceX racing to space for broadband domination

May 4, 2017

Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket company has told a powerful Senate hearing in Washington DC on May 3rd that it intends having its super-constellation of orbiting satellites operating and supplying initial high-speed broadband within two years.

SpaceX is planning a massive fleet of 4425 satellites to girdle the planet. SpaceX’s VP/government affairs, Patricia Cooper, told senators on the committee that it will be launching and testing its first debut satellites this year and in 2018, and then start launching large batches of satellites between 2019 and 2024, with the intention that they would then provide “fibre-like” high-volume broadband to users.

Cooper was addressing the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Technology. She told members of the committee “that these systems offer the potential to provide reliable, high-quality broadband service to areas of the United States and the world that have been underserved or not served at all. Such systems can help alleviate the inherent challenges of providing high-speed internet to rural and ‘hard-to-reach’ areas.”

She pulled no punches, adding: “SpaceX has restored the U.S. as a leader in global commercial satellite launch by percentage of market share. Looking forward, the company intends to leverage its fifteen years of experience in cost-effectively building and deploying large, complex space systems to support our broadband satellite constellation. With a vertically-integrated approach to this initiative—from design, development, production, launch, and operations—SpaceX is addressing many of the challenges that have stymied past attempts to achieve affordable, high-speed broadband from space.”

“SpaceX sees substantial demand for high-speed broadband in the United States and worldwide,” Cooper continued. “As the Committee is aware, millions of Americans outside of limited urban areas lack basic, reliable access. Furthermore, even in urban areas, a majority of Americans lacks more than a single fixed broadband provider from which to choose and may seek additional competitive options for high-speed service.”

She explained that users would use a small flat-plate reception antenna, about the size of a laptop computer. She concluded by asking that the Senate Committee use its influence to speed up the FCC’s approval process for allocating spectrum.

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