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Will Low Earth Orbit Satellites Save Billions of Dollars For Americans ?

By: Tyler Cooper of Podium

Low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites for broadband internet access are beginning to display signs of real potential. Recently, Amazon chief Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin pulled back the curtain on its space intentions by announcing Project Kuiper, a 3,236-satellite constellation. Additionally, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starlink recently launched a rocket containing 60 satellites from Florida’s Cape Canaveral.

The fight for space internet supremacy is on. Both players, alongside others like OneWeb, are spending billions in space in hopes of making further billions annually once the satellites go into service for consumers in the US and around the globe. 

SpaceX will initially launch service to North America, but once its full array is in place, the company has plans to roll the service out across the entire planet. Ostensibly, anywhere with access to open skies could be covered. Amazon has global aspirations for its project as well. 

These low Earth orbit ventures have the potential to dramatically shift the broadband internet market and save consumers $10s-of-billions of their own. My colleagues and I have analyzed US market pricing data which suggests that the technology could save Americans more than $30 billion per year.

Ignition… we have lift-off

LEO satellites promise to bring low-latency broadband internet to millions of Americans. LEO satellites orbit extremely close to Earth, between 99 to 1200 miles — versus 22,000 miles of traditional GEO satellites — which means less time to transfer information (lower latency) and a quality of service comparable to wired cable and fiber broadband providers. The arrays will be precisely mapped into massive constellations to maximize coverage.

LEO technology will offer robust internet access to underserved and rural communities lacking wired, low-latency broadband options. The arrival of this technology is likely to drive down monthly internet prices for hundreds-of-millions of Americans.

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