The Guy Who Started Tesla Wants To Shoot The Internet To You From Space

Elon Musk is kind of becoming 2015’s mad billionaire genius. Not only does he run a very successful electric luxury car company that has jumped into the electricity business, but also he has a space company, SpaceX. For the last decade, SpaceX has been working with NASA to send things (and eventually people) to the International Space Station. Now, it appears that SpaceX has a plan in mind to become a global broadband provider.

SpaceX has filed paperwork with the FCC asking to begin tests for that project, the Washington Post reports.

Satellite internet already exists, and has for years, but as a rule of thumb it pretty much sucks. The systems are usually expensive, high-latency, and comparatively low-speed, and generally are only used in rural areas where running cables to far-flung residences is cost-prohibitive. Existing plans tend to rely on a few, large, very expensive satellites. Those tend to be in higher orbits and have regional limitations.

Musk and SpaceX are proposing a web strategy instead: thousands of small satellites in low orbit, essentially making a net of nodes around the world. That web of satellites could pass signals around, sharing the load and increasing reliability.

SpaceX is not the first company to consider a global satellite solution to providing internet access, the WaPo points out. British billionaire Richard Branson — who also owns a space company, Virgin Galactic — has been considering a similar plan. And Facebook was considering a $500 million satellite project but had to walk away.

In earlier remarks, Musk has said that SpaceX is primed to succeed where so many others failed because many of the logistics and ballooning costs can be controlled by building and launching their equipment in-house. He opined that not only could SpaceX reach rural and underserved nations in the U.S. and around the world, but also could be a competitor in highly populated markets, reaching up to 10% of the consumers who are “stuck with Time Warner or Comcast.”

SpaceX proposes beginning tests next year and claims that if all goes well, service could be up and running within five years.

SpaceX founder files with government to provide Internet service from space [Washington Post]

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