US-based satellite company ViaSat is teaming up with Boeing to create and deliver three new satellites that will deliver high-speed internet to remote areas around the world. The partnership was announced yesterday, months before the company is scheduled to launch its previous generation satellite, ViaSat-2, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
The new ViaSat-3 satellites will be capable of much more. Each satellite will carry with it a total network capacity of 1 Tbps (yes, Terabit per second), about triple what ViaSat-2 is capable of. That will allow ViaSat to deliver 100 Mbps service to remote residential properties in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The company claims that work is already underway on the first two satellites, and that Boeing is already preparing them for launches by the end of 2019.
The three satellites would carry the most network capacity ever
Beyond residential connections, ViaSat says the new satellites will be capable of increasing in-flight connectivity on commercial airlines, business-class jets, and government aircraft. They will also be able to provide 1 Gbps connections to "maritime, oceanic and other corporate enterprise applications such as oil and gas platforms." All told, the company says the three new satellites could deliver twice (or more) the total network capacity of the 400 or so commercial communications satellites currently orbiting the Earth combined.
But ViaSat is far from alone in these pursuits — in fact, the race to provide emerging markets with high-speed internet access has long been in full swing. SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are ramping up efforts to provide internet connections from space using small armies of satellites. Google has a few different ideas, like providing 5G connection using solar-powered drones, or using massive balloons to create widespread internet access. And then there's Facebook, which has a solar-powered internet drone of its own, is partnering with French satellite operator Eutelsat to provide internet to sub-Saharan Africa, and is also potentially working on a millimeter-wave radio mesh network solution similar to the one being teased by Starry.
All of these options face massive challenges — satellite internet can still be disrupted by weather, and Facebook, Google, SpaceX, and Virgin are years away from rolling out some of their solutions — but they each point to the same utopian endgame: a much more connected future for everyone.