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Internet via satellite

by Rizwan Syed

Globalization has helped both developed and developing countries by allowing them access to previously untapped markets and cultures around the world via a variety of cutting-edge technology and communication channels. The importance of long-term global connectivity cannot be stressed in order to realize its full benefits.

One of the most obvious advantages of global connection is the capacity to converse and transact with anyone, wherever in the globe. Global connectedness nowadays is primarily based on the internet. According to some estimates, there were 4.95 billion active internet users worldwide in January 2022, accounting for 62.5 percent of the global population.

In the world of global communication, satellite internet is gaining popularity. Satellite internet is expected to replace traditional cable internet in the near future because of its ease of use, worldwide coverage, and independence from terrestrial infrastructure. ‘Satellite internet refers to the method of connecting to the internet via communication satellites, most commonly geostationary satellites’ (now low-Earth satellites also). Unlike cable internet, which uses intercontinental submarine cables and fiber optics to connect users, satellite internet uses three basic interconnected components to form a network: network operation centers (NOCs), communication satellites, and a dish antenna connected to a modem at the user’s end.

Data is transmitted via cables from Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to NOCs in the aforementioned network. NOCs, which serve as ground stations, provide data through radio waves to satellites, which then send the same data to users all over the world. The data is received from the satellite via dish antennas at the user’s end, and it is translated by the attached modem into a format that can be used by PCs and other devices. To complete the data cycle, the same channel is used to send (upload) data from the user end to the NOCs, and then to the Internet.

Since the entrance of private enterprises in commercial space-related operations, satellite internet’s dominance in the global internet industry has been rapidly increasing. Because of its accessibility in remote locations, satellite internet saw a considerable increase in use during the Covid-19 outbreak.

According to Allied Market Research, the global satellite internet market was valued at roughly $2.93 billion in 2020, and based on current trends, it is expected to reach $18.59 billion by 2030, with a CAGR of 20.4 percent. So far in 2022, HughesNet, Viasat, and Starlink are the top three satellite internet providers. HughesNet and Viasat’s services are mostly reliant on geostationary satellites orbiting 22,236 miles from Earth, which is a considerable distance. Furthermore, many businesses solely provide services in the United States.

SpaceX, a well-known spaceflight business, has launched Starlink, a satellite internet enterprise that will supply services around the world via a giant constellation of thousands of Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already given Starlink authorization to launch 12,000 satellites, and it is seeking permission to launch 30,000 more in the near future. Various national space agencies, as well as environmentalists, have expressed concern over space pollution as a result of this. Even NASA has written to the FCC, expressing worries about the possibility of satellite collisions in space due to the Starlink satellites.

Several news stories about Starlink being prevented from delivering its services in Pakistan circulated in Pakistani media in late January. “… satellite broadband operator Starlink has never sought for nor secured any license from PTA to operate and supply internet services in Pakistan,” the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) said on January 19, 2022. In Pakistan, there is currently no national legal framework in place to regulate space-related activities and services. The Ministry of IT and Telecom has been in discussions with Starlink officials about the policy and operation of satellite internet access in Pakistan, but no significant progress has been made.

Despite technological and environmental problems, satellite internet is quickly gaining popularity among people all over the world. In the near future, it will change the way homes, small and medium companies, and community internet services work. It will also contribute to closing the digital divide between the developed and developing worlds by allowing both to interact and conduct business. The internet services supplied by satellite constellations, however, must be strictly regulated at both the global and national levels.

International regulatory organizations must ensure that private-satellite launches do not add to space junk/debris or interfere with other satellites’ important space functions. Similarly, the Pakistani government must provide regulatory standards for the operations, registration, licensing, and taxes of space-related technology services in the country in order for them to be widely used.

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