SpaceX plans to fund missions to Mars by offering satellite broadband internet worldwide. The company is in the process of deploying a constellation of 12,000 satellites that will make up its Starlink internet network. With 580 Starlink satellites already deployed, SpaceX possesses the largest satellite constellation in low Earth orbit.
During an interview at the Satellite 2020 conference in Washington D.C, the founder and CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk shared Starlink will offer low latency internet below 20 milliseconds (ms) –“It will be a pretty good experience because it’ll be very low latency. We’re targeting latency below 20 milliseconds, so somebody could play a fast-response video game at a competitive level, like that’s the threshold for the latency,” he said in March. Latency of less than 20 milliseconds would make Starlink ideal for gamers, also to stream high definition videos. Company officials say 60 Starlink satellites could deliver 1 terabit of bandwidth that could potentially support 40,000 users streaming ultra-high-definition content at the same time.
However, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) says it “doubts” that the Starlink satellites would be capable of beaming service below 100 milliseconds due to factors such as, “processing, routing and transporting traffic to its destination.” SpaceX argued that the FCC’s doubts are unfounded and that Starlink will “easily clear the commission’s 100-millisecond threshold for low-latency services and “processing time.”
The FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) is the “commission’s next step in bridging the digital divide to efficiently fund the deployment of broadband networks in rural America. Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over ten years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, connecting millions of American homes and businesses to digital opportunity.” To qualify to bid for the RDOF federal funding, the FCC requires that any company participating in the first phase of $16 billion federal funding auction for rural broadband access must demonstrate within one month its internet meets a latency under 100 milliseconds. The deadline to meet this requirement is July 15 -exactly one month from today. The FCC stated that is has “serious doubts that any low-Earth orbit networks will be able to meet the short-form application requirements for bidding in the low-latency tier.”
SpaceX only has one month to prove its Starlink network is capable of meeting the FCC’s requirements to qualify for the maximum funding. The next deployment of about 60 internet-beaming satellites is expected in a few days, on June 22nd.
The company aims to offer Starlink broadband internet before this year ends in portions of the Northern United States and Canada. By 2021, SpaceX plans to expand to areas around the world where internet connection is unreliable, inaccessible, and nonexistent. Customers will receive internet connection from space via user terminals that look like a “UFO on a stick,” according to Musk. The FCC already approved the operation of 1 million Starlink user terminals in the United States.