A bold plan to sink the world with high-speed satellite internet can not be as crazy as it may seem, and it could be a license to print money, according to an important expert on Internet networks.
Running low latency in space, where a roar of satellites in orbit on Earth dropped off the super fast wireless internet, sounds more effort and expense than it deserves. But the idea has been explored by Silicon Valley in recent years – and a man in particular wants to make it a reality. And so far, you know him well.
He is controversial billionaire Elon Musk, whose private missile company, SpaceX, wants to build a constellation of communication satellites as part of a project called Starlink.
The company received approval Friday by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to send another 7518 satellites to space as part of the ambitious plan, in addition to the 4400 already approved.
The main components of such a project have been made before, but certainly not to the extent SpaceX would need Starlink to be successful.
Professor Mark Handley of the Department of Computer Science at University College London is an expert in network topology and has recently set out to create a simulation of how Starlink could work.
"The devil is in detail, and SpaceX seems to push the boundaries of what has been done on multiple fronts simultaneously," he told news.com.au. But he thinks the project is feasible.
Prof Handley has nicknamed FCC's depositions to get a rough idea of what SpaceX hopes to do. The most interesting thing is that the company will probably rely on lasers instead of radio waves to shoot messages between satellites because it did not require any radio spectrum for satellite communications.
"For the most part, I deduced that from the omission of any radio frequency for inter-satellite communication and discussing certain components of optical communications that can survive reintroduction," said Prof Handley. "This was later confirmed in additional FCC communications but we still do not know exactly how it intends to use laser links to connect satellites together."
The video below shows how it might look. Prof Handley said he used some basic educated and physical assumptions to "fill the gaps" of what SpaceX would be possible for.
ELON's large weapons
SpaceX has some of the most advanced rocket technologies in the world and its pioneering reusable rockets will prove to be crucial to the Starlink plan. The rocket system allows bombers, which are usually discarded after a single use, land safely back on land and be re-used for other launches.
"Without that, it's hard to see how it would have been viable," Prof Handley said. "It is important to understand that they are not building only once. Satellites have only a life of five to seven years, so they look at the need to launch an average of two satellites per day on a continuous basis.
"However, they can get about 25-30 satellites on a single rocket and much more if their next-generation BFR rocket will work, so it's not as crazy as it would seem."
It is clear that SpaceX, working closely with NASA, has the support of the US government.
"I'm delighted to see what these services can promise and what these constellations have to offer," FCI Ajit Pai said Friday after SpaceX received approval to launch more satellites, provided it continues with its plan.
A MONEY PRINTING LICENSE
Apart from providing the Internet at almost any corner of the globe, a network like this offers a major benefit – it has the potential to significantly reduce latency for remote communications. This is due to the fact that lasers with free space communicate at the speed of light in a vacuum which is faster than the speed of light through glass, as that used for optical fiber cables on the ground.
And, according to Prof. Handley, there is potential genius in it.
He believes that something similar to Starlink could be extremely appealing to high-volume traders at big banks who might be willing to make a fork for a speed advantage when it comes to trading based on stock market algorithms and foreign exchange .
It might sound like a foreign concept, but the possibility of laughing a millisecond of your latency can translate into big bouquets for these companies looking for a margin to respond to the market faster than others.
Michael Lewis' book in 2014 Flash Boys has recorded an increase in high frequency transactions and has begun describing a $ 300 million project by Spread Networks – building a 1331-km-long cable that runs directly across the mountains and rivers from Chicago to New Jersey – with the sole purpose of reduce the transmission time from 17 to 13 milliseconds.
Theoretically, SpaceX could charge large premiums to access the super-fast Starlink network.
"I think the benefit of low latency will be the one that makes the most money, and its use by the financial industry will probably pay a lot of bills," Prof Handley said.
"I think that the benefits of the company to connect remote locations will be huge and will contribute to revenue, but if it were just connecting remote locations, I do not think Starlink could pay for itself."
Prof Handley was in the US this week by presenting his research paper and working on the Starlink simulation at a Seattle conference.
"Perhaps surprisingly, not that many network researchers know Starlink's plans," he said.
"It's not just about the existing Internet space – the rapidly changing nature of satellite trails presents all sorts of interesting questions about network research, and it will no doubt hinder network researchers for many years."
Finally, he thinks such a network is inevitable. But if SpaceX is able to shoot him in the next few years, it remains to be seen.
Just like anything else that Musk has done lately, there will be no people to see.