For years, one of the biggest barriers to internet growth has been the difficulty of getting high-speed coverage to rural areas. The physical limitations of bandwidth and the time-consuming, labor-intensive process of laying fiber wire continue to make access to high-speed internet difficult for people who live in remote areas.
Of course, that’s assuming you insist on using wires. The US-based company Starlink has a different vision for the future of the internet: satellites.
The idea of using satellites to beam a signal to a receiver on the ground isn’t exactly new. Satellite TV has been a staple for rural areas for decades, offering many of the same benefits that Starlink now wants to roll out for internet coverage.
Starlink CEO Elon Musk is already well-known for his role in companies like SpaceX and Tesla. Some in the tech industry are hopeful that Musk will score another major success with his latest venture. Starlink shows a lot of promise—but there’s a major downside, too.
In the near future, Starlink will be a huge win for people who don’t live near any major server centers. Once the service has been rolled out beyond its current limited release, people who normally wouldn’t be able to access high-speed internet will be able to get connected at speeds that were previously reserved for urban areas.
This could even be lifesaving in some areas. The possibilities for telehealth services become much more intriguing when remote areas have access to the same fast internet speeds that more populous areas already enjoy.
So what’s the problem? Simple: supply and demand.
Starlink can’t keep up with demand right now. As of the time of this writing, the company is facing a backlog of over 500,000 customers clamoring to access the service. It’s not hard to see why. A=Affordable, high-speed internet that doesn’t need to come through a traditional communications company is just what the internet service provider industry needs.
It’ll take time for Starlink to be able to provide internet to the same number of customers as big telecom companies like AT&T and Spectrum, however. As the company rolls out more satellites and receivers, one thing is clear: The next space race is on, and it’s all about the internet this time.