How Wireless Internet Service via LEO Satellites Will Transform Business
It all sounds rather futuristic: living out in the middle of nowhere, even in the prairies, and getting Internet speed and bandwidth that rivals the capability found in some mid-sized cities. All because those users are on a wireless service that is available worldwide, delivering speeds in excess of four times the global average. It’s a sci-fi utopia.
This scenario isn’t taking place in the year 2050. It might be a reality in 2021.
Wireless Internet service via Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites is rapidly becoming reality. It has the traditional Internet service providers sweating bullets, while the people who make apps and multimedia services get more and more excited. ‘The sky’s the limit’ has never been a truer statement than it is right now.
In this article, we’ll talk about how LEO Internet will transform the business world and open up billions of dollars in new opportunities within just about every vertical on the planet.
What is LEO, and Who is Providing the Satellites?
Low Earth Orbit satellites sit just outside the main atmosphere of Earth to avoid getting dragged down by friction with the air. In other words, they are very close when compared to old GPS satellites. They maintain their altitude by moving quickly, orbiting the Earth eleven times a day.
With LEO satellites zipping by so quickly, constantly looking at a different part of the Earth as they travel, how can they reliably transmit Internet for a user? By forming a huge cloud, or swarm. It takes thousands of these fast moving satellites to form a fully reliable network, making sure one or two of them are above a user’s location at any given time.
Because they’re incredibly close to the ground, round trip speed of light transmissions take less than 50ms. With this technology bandwidths of around 150Mbps are a reasonable expectation. What that means is our theoretical user in the prairies could easily get on a Zoom call and have almost no communications delay; perhaps a fifth of a second when factoring in all of the device-to-device routing.
Several companies are launching their own LEO swarm projects, including Telesat and Amazon. But one company has a jump on the rest, because they own their own spacecraft: Starlink. Backed by SpaceX and launching sixty satellites on every trip to orbit, week after week, they are already offering working beta access in 2021.
With the bankrolls of people like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos backing multiple wireless Internet services via LEO satellites, expect fierce competition on pricing, and a spirited race towards full global coverage.
How Much Money is in LEO Satellites for ISP Use?
The LEO Internet service providers themselves are likely to split around $4.1 billion by 2026 according to ABI. They project the initial push will include over 3.5 million subscribers by the end of 2021. At an annual growth rate of 8%, they see a paying customer base of over 5 million subscribers by 2026.
However, ‘subscribers’ in this case does not reflect the true user count. Nor does it reflect non-profit service donations and the like. One subscription in rural India might be split between multiple families, representing dozens of users with access to 10Mbps… rather than zero. Charitable donations might transform entire townships in the Western Sahara who have had spotty or no Internet access for decades.
Once the technology is out there, there will be no stopping it. Uplink hardware prices will come down as adoption rises. Additionally, sooner rather than later, tens of millions of people who have never had reliable access to the Internet will be exposed to the online world. Brand new creators, consumers, businesses, and workers in the digital world.
This represents an opportunity in nearly every sector on the planet. It will be a new multilingual, multicultural gold rush on the information superhighway. It will create Internet based jobs that rural communities have been begging for, leading to incomes that would be unheard of in such remote areas, along with new consumers seeking better lifestyles and more robust digital educations. Their taxes will pay for more local improvements, potentially paving the way for even more small businesses making use of LEO satellites for wireless Internet service. This cycle will ramp, repeat, and grow exponentially.
Currently, a little over half of the people on Earth have reliable Internet access. Within a decade, that number will skyrocket… no pun intended. Potential political objections to a free and open wireless Internet might prevent official adoption in some regions. However, these technologies still tend to find a way to penetrate supposedly locked-down markets.
Preparing a Business for the Next Internet Consumers
In order to interact with the tens or even hundreds of millions of new creators, workers, and consumers over the next decade, forward thinking businesses need to start preparing now.
The focus should be on localization of websites and services to the most common languages in emerging regions. The most likely regions to focus on will depend on demand within each business’ vertical. Marketing research may be more difficult, however there are services out there that new consumers and digital workers have gravitated to in the past, and are likely to do so again in the future: Fiverr and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk.
By tracking requests, demands, and new services available on such crowdsourcing sites, businesses can start to build a picture of their new digital landscape. Offering paid surveys on these sites that target specific emerging geographical areas, tracking adoption rates, and the answers themselves, will facilitate the building of a model inexpensively. It will give a rough estimate of potential creators and workers as compared to opportunistic users. By asking the right questions, regional data can be collected, and localization of goods and services can be properly focused.
Making those early first steps is critical to breaking into emerging markets who have never had real Internet access before. As LEO satellites start to give truly global wireless Internet service coverage, it is important to be an early adopter. Or perhaps a more correct term would be ‘early adapter’. By adapting to these world-changing trends quickly, a business can become a favorite employer, service provider, or lifestyle transforming goods provider to an entirely new region.
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