Ever wondered why Elon Musk is so high on Starlink, the low orbit internet access centric satellite constellation his company, Space X is building? It is because despite all the talk about Mars colonies, for now, communications is what will pay the bills and keep SpaceX growing. And it could be a lot more disruptive by lowering the cost of satellite communications and by being more inclusive. Imagine what if it cost $100,000 to build and launch a satellite — and you can imagine the rest. Read this astute analysis of the Starlink phenomenon by Casey Handmer. (Also: Who is Casey?)
“If he hadn’t bailed out SolarCity, his whole debt-laden empire might have cracked. Yet without the bailout, Tesla would be far more healthy….In the second quarter of this year, SolarCity installed only 29 megawatts of solar panels—far below the 10,000 megawatts in annual installations that Musk had promised.”Vanity Fair
Bethany Mclean who made her name writing about Enron long before others is explaining the challenge faced by Tesla and Elon Musk due to the 2016 SolarCity acquisition. The much ballyhooed Solar Roof is a flop, and the whole thing seems to be coming apart at seams. Worth a read from a reporter, who has a habit of finding big stories before others.
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.