"...are intended to orbit the Earth for up to five years..."
And then what happens to them?
What's harder: putting a pipe of cables in the ground, or launching a satellite into space? Well, when it comes to the screwed-up world of internet access in the United States, it seems that space is the better option. Next month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is due to vote on no less than nine issues related …
Page 56 of this PDF has an approximate answer to the expected lifetime question:
Precise answer depends on the mass/area ratio (i.e. drag coefficient of sorts) along with the Sun's activity in driving the upper atmosphere.
No, it is never that simple and re-entry predictions are still not accurate for various reason (early on the difference in drag from differing atomic species along with the variation in solar atmospheric heating as sun spot activity, etc, changes, in the final orbit or two due to tumbling satellite orientation and bits coming off changing the drag characteristics).
But if you increase the area/mass ratio it falls in faster under all condition, so in a sense it is easy to see how to make it decay quicker.
> it will take six years for SpaceX to get half of those satellites into orbit
If they have a life time of 5 years, by the time they get half of them up there a part of those will be already spacefill. And by the time they shoot the rest up there (assuming another 6 years), the full first half will have to be replaced... Definitely missing something here.
It gives SpaceX five years to get the rules changed again so the ones already up there can stay longer.
I believe that the "rules" in question are Newton's laws of motion. While the FCC is certainly free to command changes in the rules, I suspect their dictates would be ignored.
BTW, using higher orbits would have many effects besides increasing lifetime. Increasing the number of potentially conflicting users by increasing per satellite coverage area, and increasing latency, would be two of particular concern
"I believe that the "rules" in question are Newton's laws of motion."
Not really, since you can use propulsion systems to keep a satellite up longer. Just releasing a small amount of compressed gas could be used increase the useful life in orbit. If someone has, or can develop, a miniature ion drive then even longer life orbits become possible.
If the US (the founder and technological driver of the internet) is in this parlous position, it does not bode well for others, such as the UK, the governments of which are driving hard to put all services including routes for citizens' fulfilment of statutory obligations, exclusively online.
The problem is further exacerbated by a noticeable growing habit of service providers of 'securing their customers' by limiting access to the only the latest client side tools. A 'your browser is unsupported' message is little use when you're trying to file your tax return to avoid a fine for being late.
All of 'online' business from hardware infrastructure to apps has lost touch with what it's actually for - to allow folks to do their own stuff. It thinks the only people worth serving is the sub-population of geeks for whom keeping up to the bleeding edge is a primary motivation. That's actually a tiny proportion of the global population of users, who are increasingly being failed.
Ultimately, this attitude will be the death of online services.
This is related to the article in what way? Governments being slow to embrace new technology was what it was about, and you go off on a rant about them refusing to work with old technologies (probably because the old software you are using is known to be insecure).
The issue is not security; the big boys are not interested in the security of the common man. The issue is the cost of supporting 57 varieties of old and new browsers.
It would not be a problem if the web pages used just static text and pictures. But no, it has to be all-singing all-dancing technology to support what the b****y advertisers want.
What makes you think that? However many satellites you could put up will simply continue the creation of deliberate scarcity, with only those willing to pay high rates getting more. Sure, people who live in "nowhere" will perhaps be able to buy faster internet (but with nasty latency) where now, there's no other option at all (where I live that's the case - yes the latency of low orbit birds will be less than GEO now, but still nasty - and all the money you can spend here won't get you past a 6 megabit down/one up DSL).
But you can always put down more fiber...not so with satellites and radio bandwidth. Both run out of room pretty quickly - they just don't scale.
Just because the cable companies don't own an artificial scarcity resource today...what makes you think they won't buy it up as soon as it makes sense to them to do so (like they have with content providers)?
Our FCC has become as dysfunctional as some big parts of the EU and needs to be rethought. Kinda reminds me of issues with too much power in a bureaucracy, like the patent office (both sides of the pond, somewhat different issues but...).
Here in the US, we don't need no steenkin' satellites! What we need is for the corporate-ensnared droids at the FCC to relax the rules to allow rural towns and counties to acquire and operate their own community broadband systems! There are any number of innovative ways to evade the cable monopolists, but the FCC forbids community competition. As for satellite, we already have two commercial providers. More of a last resort for desperate ruralites: exceedingly expensive, severely limited, and hugely unsatisfactory. So why would we want yet another? Insanity is defined as doing the same useless thing over & over, hoping maybe to finally get lucky. No thanks.
Not that I completely disagree, but I would make two points:
1. Community broadband demonstrably can work. But it's not all that simple and it can also fail dismally leaving the community with a whopping bill. Not convinced? Google the sad story of Burlington (Vermont) Telecom. you could start at https://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/story/money/2014/02/27/burlington-telecom-lessons-learned/5845857/
BTW, I clearly remember climbing up to the top of a small hill in back of a rural Vermont School to check out the possibility of a digital radio link to the rest of the school system about 10km down the road. What did I see? Trees. Thousands of trees. Maybe tens of thousands of trees. No cheap way that I could see to cobble together a microwave link. We ruled out satellites because of cost and latency. We eventually ended up with, after a lot of work by the phone company, a not especially cheap T1 line(1.544 Mbps) which was I was told, deep down inside, what might have been, at the time, the world's longest functioning DSL connection
2. The satellite systems are proposed to have substantially different characteristics than existing systems. Somewhat more like putting a bunch of cell phone towers into orbit than orbiting fixed microwave links. Will they actually work at reasonable cost? Quite possibly not. OTOH, these aren't government efforts and it's quite likely that very little of your or my money is involved. I personally couldn't care less if Elon Musk and his backers lose a fortune.
I worked on the periphery of a community broadband project years ago. The broadband part sort of took off (for a while). They also wanted to do a community cable system. FCC didn't have a problem that I can recall. The community cable system never flew because the local $BIGCABLE rep stopped by and had a chat with the organizers. He explained that they were more than welcome to roll out their cute little community cable project. He also explained that once they launched, $BIGCABLE would offer a special discount in their community. If the community system offered a package at $50/month, $BIGCABLE would offer the same package at $40/month. They would continue undercutting until the community cable system went belly up.
Anon, cuz the big cable cos scare me more than gubmt black helicopters!
Well, with one, you have a building full of high-quality boffins working on it.
With the other, you have a drooling retard without a high-school education running a backhoe, possibly "directed" by another drooling retard who actually might have made it through high-school on his second try. They're cutting through the road that just got resurfaced from the last 30 or 40 cut-throughs.
El Reg, "Thanks to the latest technology, it is now possible to launch modest-sized devices into space, and have them talk to one another."
The satellites in the original Iridium constellation (circa 2000 ±) are both modest-sized (as evidenced by them being launched in batches of 5 or 7) and they talk to one another (famously "network in the sky"). Same for the newer Idirium NEXT constellation, already mostly launched. So the claim that these two characteristics are the "latest technology" or "is now possible" is clearly incorrect.
I sometimes wonder if patent expiry is part of the delay process, but that only gets us to about ten years ago.
A relative used to have satellite internet. Throughput was great, but the 2000ms *minimum* ping time was a bit of a problem - type in a web address, wait 2 seconds, the html file loads, wait 2 seconds, then the CSS and image files start loading...
The eventual solution was an 80-foot-high tower in the back yard, to establish line-of-sight over the next hill for "wireless" access.
LEO vs. GSO orbits my friend. GEO is waaaayyyyy far away. So far that the speed of light is something like 250 msec of that round trip time (I forget if that's one way or round trip...). LEO is much much closer, but now you need many more satellites (or you have to delay your download until the next orbit, that would suck) and you need to have a radio system that works without requiring pointing an antenna at the satellite.
With satellite clusters in low earth orbit, you are about 500 miles from the nearest satellite so the transit delay is only 2.7 ms. Current satellite internet uses geostationary satellites, which are 22,000 miles away with a transit delay of 240 ms. Also a low earth orbit satellite will have a smaller radio footprint so that you are sharing the available spectrum with far less customers, so more bandwidth for you.You just need a lot of satellites.
Circa 2012-2014, our telco started rolling out fiber optic lines all over the place. Including many areas that are suburban sprawl or even rural.
The speed of installing fiber onto existing telephone poles was way faster than one might naturally assume. Blink and they're gone, disappeared around the corner.
The installation of the last 100m from the street to the house took maybe an hour, only because it had to be strung between 200 trees.
Based on what I've seen, the last mile issue would be worse in the crowded downtown with underground utilities.
That's not normally a rural issue.