technology is useful to the degree that it changes behavior.
spacex has been building the capacity to launch satellites into low earth orbit cheaper than any other entity. while that is amazing in and of itself, it wasn’t obvious how they would convert this capability into positive cash flow. starlink may be exactly the product they need to exploit their low earth orbit delivery capabilities.
starlink is a satellite-based internet service provider (ISP) with low latency and high throughput. current satellite internet solutions use geostationary satellites to relay signals from dishes on the ground to base stations on the ground. in order to orbit such that a satellite stays over the same place on the earth, it must reach approximately 35K miles in altitude. this means radio transmissions must travel 70K miles. because radio waves travel at a fixed speed (not instantaneous arrival), this distance introduces latency.
starlink solves the latency problem by operating in low earth orbit, around 350 miles. this is 100x closer, which cuts out a lot of the latency. but this also means that a single satellite won’t have constant coverage of a place on the surface of the earth, but will pass overhead periodically. the solution was to add many more satellites. and so starlink have a fleet of 1,600 satellites as of writing, and have filed to ultimately launch 30,000 more satellites.
since it is not likely to surpass the performance of land-based fiber offerings, starlink targets rural internet users.
so how might starlink change behavior?
- remote work via video conferencing becomes practical for all rural locations, regardless of rugged terrain or local infrastructure
- cell towers could use starlink for backhaul, allowing seamless coverage across large expanses of space
- competition for existing ISP’s should spur them to innovate and drive prices lower
- decentralization of data collection and distribution
- blaze a trail for other satellite fleets to compete with starlink
given diseases, civil unrest, political confusion, this is a welcomed bit of good news to those making plans to minimize the chaos by maximizing purchasing power, land, and self-sufficiency. that is, those moving out of cities. a long term trend in western society has been that of rural people migrating to urban centers. combinations of the above mentioned conditions, leavened with decentralizing, centrifugal technologies, may start to reverse that trend.