Internet by satellite: broadband connection everywhere and for everyone

Checking an email while connected to a Zoom session with an open social network in the background seems natural to us but is still a dream for 20% of the world’s population.

It should be remembered: the Internet connection – especially the broadband – is not accessible to everyone. In France, only 25% of French people are connected, mostly in urban areas. In the countryside and areas with a low population density, white areas are commonplace.

Faced with this sad observation, a glimmer of hope came straight from space: the Internet by satellite. Thanks to this technology, high-speed Internet access for everyone, everywhere will soon be a reality.

How does the satellite connection work?

High-speed Internet via satellite is based on 3 elements:

  • a satellite dish located on the roof of the building to be connected, coupled to a modem, which transmits data packets to the satellites;
  • a low altitude (LEO) or geostationary satellite, which receives the data sent by the dish and retransmits the beam to the terrestrial reception center;
  • a terrestrial reception center, which sends the signal from the satellites back to a line of optical fiber.

Thus, with each request on the web, the data packets will make 4 round trips of 36,000 KM – a total distance of 144,000 KM.

High-speed Internet by satellite, the sesame of the forgotten of the Internet revolution

The satellite network responds to a fundamental problem of the digital revolution: connecting the “forgotten” of the Internet and limiting the digital divide. Indeed, for conventional Internet access providers, the installation of network equipment is profitable in proportion to the number of potential subscribers. Installing relay antennas or fiber optic cables in sparsely populated areas is therefore economic heresy for these operators.

Consequence for companies located in these regions: impossible to fully exploit the power of the IoT, web 4.0 or connected industry. Suffice to say that they lose competitiveness against their competitors who benefit from an Internet subscription. And it is for these people and companies that the satellite Internet connection is primarily intended.

Thanks to bidirectional VSAT technology, the satellites offer higher data rates than the VDSL. By way of illustration, the maximum upstream speed provided by VDSL is 8 Mb/s, against 22 Mb/s for VSAT. But the Internet via the satellite network is not just for companies located in white or orange areas: it also improves the connectivity of companies located in areas connected to fiber optics. For example, IT managers frequently include it in their IT PCA/PRA plans to perform immediate backups in the event of a disaster.

Satellite Internet and conventional telecom operators: a synergistic relationship

As mentioned above, traditional ISPs and telephone operators cannot serve an entire territory, for lack of profitability. This is why the latter maintain complementary – and not competitive – relationships with satellite Internet providers. Proof of this is the agreement between Orange and Eutelsat.

GAFAM, aeronautical companies, ISPs… all present in the space race

The new space race attracts companies with varied profiles, including:

  • satellite operators, which put constellations of satellites into low orbit;
  • Internet access providers, who then rent the bandwidth satellite managers;
  • distributors specializing solely in internet subscriptions via the satellite network;
  • the GAFAMs, including Kuiper from Amazon and Athena from Facebook, whose missions are varied.

To these, we can also add the public authorities. Indeed, since the crisis of the yellow vests in France – partly linked to the digital divide -, States are doing everything to reduce the digital deserts.

The satellite Internet market, an unstoppable expansion

In 2021, the satellite internet market was estimated at $3.985 million. By 2030, it is expected to rise to $17.431 million, according to the “Satellite Internet Market Share, Analysis report and Region Forecast 2022-2030” report.

Proof of this exponential future growth: satellite Internet operators all want to increase the size of their space constellations. Whether it be star link from SpaceX and its 12,000 satellites in orbit by 2027 to Amazon Kuiper and its 3,236 LEO satellites, Earth orbit is destined to accommodate more and more satellites.

Latency, the Achilles heel of satellite Internet

As a reminder, each request via a satellite network travels 144,000 km. Inevitably, this atmospheric travel leads to high latency and ping making it difficult to use low latency service. The most optimistic satellite Internet operators predict a latency of 20 milliseconds via the use of Ku-band frequencies… compared to almost 0 ms for fiber optics at present.

To reduce the latency of its satellite connection when it is crucial for their activity, as in finance for example, companies must choose an operator offering a low latency infrastructure, and having many PoPs (Point of Presence), connecting by submarine cable all the nerve centers of the modern economy: London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Singapore, New York, Moscow, etc.

For companies wishing to establish themselves in the Middle Kingdom, the ideal is an operator directly connected to the three Chinese trading places: Hong Kong, Shenzhen and Shanghai.

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Internet by satellite: broadband connection everywhere and for everyone

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