Facts & Fiction of Space Internet Claims

Elon Musk wants to rebuild the Internet in space. He wants the space network to carry half the long-distance Internet traffic. How much is that? If the current trends of doubling of traffic every two years, then we should expect that the total Internet bandwidth in 2020 will double from 2018 to 2 petabits.

With OneWeb, Telesat and SpaceX’s combined infrastructure, the space network wouldn’t be close to it, though with its mega constellation, Starlink, SpaceX could theoretically have a capacity of 24 Tbps. That is very impressive — I have tracked satellite broadband for a long time, and nothing comes even close.  However, it is not so impressive if you consider a single pair on a modern submarine cable carries more traffic than that.

The myth I’m exploring isn’t if SpaceX could carry MAREA’s traffic—it’s if they could carry half of used internet bandwidth in 2020.  These new satellite constellations are going to be very important to reach underserved areas and provide them with lower latency. But the idea that they could take on half of long distance traffic isn’t yet feasible. Luckily for Elon, he has another great quote: “I say something then it usually happens. Maybe not on schedule, but it usually happens.”

Great analysis by Alan Mauldin, an old friend of ours from the day of the broadband blog.

A letter from Om

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