Earlier this week, Elon Musk's SpaceX company outlined plans to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to create global broadband network by launching 4,425 satellites into space. The first deployment will entail 800 satellites, intended only for connectivity in the US. The global remainder will be launched at a later date. Currently, some 1,400 satellites orbit the Earth, in varying stages of usefulness and repair.
"With deployment of the first 800 satellites, the system will be able to provide US and international broadband connectivity; when fully deployed, the system will add capacity and availability at the equator and poles for truly global coverage," SpaceX said.
The company has not announced a concrete date for its initial launch, but mentioned 2019 as a possibility.
"The SpaceX non-geostationary orbit (‘NGSO') satellite system (the ‘SpaceX System') consists of a constellation of 4,425 satellites (plus in-orbit spares) operating in 83 orbital planes (at altitudes ranging from 1,110 km to 1,325 km), as well as associated ground control facilities, gateway earth stations and end user earth stations," SpaceX wrote in its FCC filing.
The company detailed that the orbiting broadband network will reduce signal latency and dramatically improve bandwidth.
"Once fully optimized through the Final Deployment, the system will be able to provide high bandwidth (up to 1Gbps per user), low-latency broadband services for consumers and businesses in the US and globally," SpaceX wrote. "Subject to additional development work, SpaceX plans to design and manufacture its own satellites, gateway earth stations, and user terminals." Home internet customers would receive a "low-profile user terminal that is easy to mount and operate on walls or roofs."
If the ambitious SpaceX plan is realized, it would expand high-speed internet coverage globally, and greatly improve internet in rural areas that need it most.