Samsung is the latest company eyeing satellites as the best way to expand the reach of the internet to the billions of people without access. In a paper published this week, Farooq Khan, head of Samsung Research America, outlines an idea for using thousands of small low earth orbit (LEO) satellites to provide high-speed internet all over the planet.
Traditional satellite internet providers use geostationary satellites positioned much further from the earth’s surface to provide access. The problem is that these services tend to be slow, expensive and have high latency. By using a large number of smaller and cheaper satellites floating closer to the planet, Khan and company hope to speed connections up significantly while also cutting costs.
Some analysts are skeptical that delivering internet by satellite can be profitable.
So far it’s just a research paper, but Samsung is far from alone in exploring this idea. A company called OneWeb has received funding from , as well as backing from Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson. Entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space X is working on a similar scheme as well, complete with backing from Google.
Some analysts are skeptical that delivering internet by satellite can be profitable without requiring monthly fees that few in the developing world will be able to afford. Wireless spectrum availability is another ongoing issue for new satellite providers.
But Khan’s paper proposes that a new technology that uses the extremely high-frequencies known as the millimeter wave spectrum could overcome some of these limitations and reduce the cost. Telecommunications companies, including Samsung, are already considering millimeter wave technologies as the basis for 5G, the replacement for the modern 4G wireless standard. Khan writes that a 5G-based standard could simplify internet-by-satellite and reduce its cost.