SpaceX plans worldwide satellite Internet with low latency, gigabit speed

SpaceX plans worldwide satellite Internet with low latency, gigabit speedSpaceX designing low-Earth orbit satellites to dramatically reduce latency.

By Jon Brodkin

Nov 17 2016

SpaceX has detailed ambitious plans to bring fast Internet access to the entire world with a new satellite system that offers greater speeds and lower latency than existing satellite networks.

The private spacecraft company founded by CEO Elon Musk filed an application Tuesday for satellite space station authorizations with the US Federal Communications Commission. SpaceX recently said that its satellite service’s commercial availability date has not yet been determined, but the application’s technical description mentioned 2019 as a possible time for launching satellites into orbit.

SpaceX wants to launch 4,425 satellites into low-Earth orbits, with altitudes ranging from 715 miles to 823 miles. By contrast, the existing HughesNet satellite network has an altitude of 22,000 miles.

SpaceX’s plan for low orbits would greatly reduce latency. As we’ve previously written, current satellite Internet systems suffer from high latency, meaning that data packets must travel great distances between Earth and satellites, resulting in noticeable delays for Internet users.

SpaceX expects its own latencies to be between 25 and 35ms, similar to the latencies measured for wired Internet services. Current satellite ISPs have latencies of 600ms or more, according to FCC measurements.