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    PREDICTIONS

    Will Satellite Internet be tiny or huge by 2030?

    Meet Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX which operates Starlink. He is on a mission to bring high quality internet to every corner of Planets Earth - and maybe Mars.

    And meet Dzene Makhwade-Seboni, CEO of Mascom, an established wireless telecoms company

    In this article, I predict how huge Satellite Internet will be by 2030 on a scale of 1 to 10 based on looking at:

    • The technology needed
    • The companies making it happen
    • What's to love
    • jobs that will be hired.

    Technology

    Satellite Internet will be huge if the three major technology challenges are solved.

    Deploy

    The technology that Elon needs to DEPLOY satellites by 2030 is ALREADY "Solved". Today, to get internet access to people, Dzene puts up towers and digs trenches.
    Elon needs rockets to deploy his satellites. He's using the Falcon 9 Space X rockets. They are launching every 2 weeks in 2021 - an incredible frequency - with 60 satellites at a time.  You see them here being released into space. He keeps the cost down by reusing the satellite launchers.  An amazing sight to behold. The plan is to launch 400 satellites at a time using Space X's enormous Starship rocket that is currently in testing.

    Transmit

    The technology that Elon needs to transmit an internet signal is "Solved". Today, Dzene transmits signals via towers or phone lines.
    Elon uses satellites. They're flat packed, small and travel in Low Earth Orbit less than 300 miles up in the sky. This is up to 60 times closer to earth than existing satellites. Being so close enables them to deliver low latency internet connections at 20-40 milliseconds. And Elon gives good download speed at 50-150 Megabytes per second. He uses lasers to communicate between up to 4 other satellites in the network, beaming data across the globe at the speed of light in ways similar to fibre optic cables.
    Elon today has more than a 1000 satellites in low earth orbit with the goal by 2026 for there to be 12,000...This may support up to half a million simultaneous connections. He plans a further 30,000 satellites launched by 2030. The satellites orbit the earth incredibly quickly with it taking them less than 2 hours to go round.

    Receive

    The technology needed for someone to receive a high-speed internet signal anywhere by 2030 is also Solved.
    Today, people receive Dzene's mobile signal straight into their phone or via a modem on their phone line. For Elon's signal, you need a small dish like this the size of a pizza box. All it needs is to be able to see the sky. It will work anywhere on the planet. Local telecoms licenses are required though.

    Companies

    Satellite Internet will be huge if there are unicorns -  startup companies that have a valuation of more than a billion dollars and when there's plenty of big established companies.

    SpaceX

    Elon's company, SpaceX, is already a unicorn. He tweeted recently that "once we can predict cashflow reasonably well, Starlink will IPO", in other words float on the stock market for billions of dollars. He also said "Starlink is a staggeringly difficult technical and economic endeavour." It's estimated it will cost $10 billion to build out the satellite internet network. Musk has stated he's excited by it because it helps fund SpaceX getting to Mars.

    OneWeb

    OneWeb is another low earth orbit satellite internet company. It went bankrupt in 2020 even thought it had Richard Branson's Virgin Group as an investor. It has been resurrected with an injection of more than a billion dollars including AirTel's billionaire founder Sunil Mittal and the UK Government. Currently it has launched more than 100 satellites into Low Earth Orbit with a working service planned soon.

    Astranis

    Astranis is on its way to becoming a unicorn. Its founders are John Gedmark and Ryan McLinkok. Their satellites operate at Middle Earth Orbit rather than Low Earth. This means Astranis's signal has slightly more delay because its satellites are further away than Starlink's but its miniaturised satellites can orbit geosynchronously enabling them to match Earth's rotation and service specific regions of earth. Alaska is an early partner tripling its internet capacity when Astranis's first satellite launches this year. Interestingly, John and Ryan are using SpaceX to launch it.

    There's plenty of corporates that are active including Facebook, Amazon and Airbus.

    Failed attempts
    Some big companies have had failed attempts. Google's Project Loon failed with its super low orbit approach using balloons. And Facebook's cool looking fixed wing drones also failed.

    Investing heavily

    Some big established companies are investing heavily. Amazon is building a direct competitor to Starlink with $10 billion into Project Kuiper. And the world's largest satellite operator, SES, is investing heavily in its o3b Medium Earth Orbit company where o3b stands for 'Other 3 billion'.

    Building satellites

    Corporates are also building satellites including Airbus for OneWeb. Because there are unicorns and because corporates are so active, this look at Companies points to satellite internet being huge by 2030.

    Love

    Now we look at Love.  Satellite Internet will be huge if they attract plenty of 5-star ratings and a few 1 stars.

    Fast internet everywhere

    Because Elon really does deliver fast internet anywhere, he gets a 5 star rating for this. Dzene can't do this because she uses masts and cables that are too costly to service everywhere.
    Elon transforms speeds for those living with a slow connection. He takes their download speed from what they have today at a measly couple of megabytes per second to an amazing 50 to 150 MB/s or better.
    Upload improves dramatically from half a megabyte for many today to a fantastic 20MB/s and the ping signal latency from a gamer nightmare of 60-100 milliseconds down to 20-40.
    Bye bye to... buffering when trying to watch Netflix video calls that freeze or losing in a video game because it's so slow.

    Rural economy

    Elon earns 5 stars for the boost satellite internet gives to the rural economy.
    Today, it suffers because Dzene's poor connectivity means certain jobs can't be done there. With Starlink, rural workers have much better access to well paid digital economy jobs such as software development and video editing.
    New people will move into the countryside attracted by the quality of life and affordable living.
    And it makes the advances being made in digital delivery of healthcare, education, banking and shopping accessible. These benefits extend to many of the 3 billion people completely unserved today by any sort of broadband access.

    Affordable

    Elon gets 3 stars for being Affordable. Where Dzene offers a service, she has price plans that most people can afford even if sometimes data capped. Elon is more expensive than a standard broadband package. You need a receiving dish that costs $499 and a $99 a month subscription .

    Star gazing

    Some people give it a 1 star for Star gazing. Where Dzene needs to, she uses high earth satellites that don't interfere with astronomers.
    But low earth orbit satellites like Starlink's have upset astronomers like Meredith Rawls at University of Washington because they spoil her star gazing as you see in the streaks across this image. Seeing faint faraway objects and asteroids is impacted. Elon disputes how bad this is but is committed to reducing it. He is adding reflective sun visors to the satellites.

    Jobs

    If Satellite internet is going to be huge there will be lots of jobs hired and fired.

    Some Telecom Engineers will be fired because fewer rural masts need to be erected.

    On the hired side, Elon's Starlink team has a lot of vacancies. There's 158 listed on LinkedIn

    across multiple roles including dozens in: electrical engineering testing software developments technicians supply chain legal customer support It's well worth looking at LinkedIn if you're interested in getting a job in the internet satellite sector. Helping you make good career decisions is a big reason why I'm doing this Life in 2030 channel. Jobs in fast growing new sectors like satellite internet are exciting and more secure than in older sectors. Jobs in the internet satellite industry are all around the world. Starlink and Astranis are in the US. OneWeb is headquartered in the UK and there's three Chinese low earth orbit satellite companies. You could set up some job alerts for these companies. It's easy to do on LinkedIn.

    Because there's plenty of jobs being hired and fired, from a Jobs point of view, internet satellite is at the Huge end of the scale.

    Prediction

    Now we've covered all four sections, it's time to make a prediction.

    The technology needed is solved

    There are plenty of unicorns already.

    It gets 5 stars from so many people.

    And there aren't many jobs being hired

    On a scale of 1 to 10, satellite internet is at the huge end of the scale by 2030 at a 9.

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