We all understand the importance of internet and its impact into our life. Widespread use of the Internet has opened up a substantial amount of knowledge to a much broader range of people than ever before. The Internet contains a wealth of knowledge that is available instantly upon any search. Because of this, the Internet has superseded libraries as a source for information gathering and research. Internet has really made our world small with large possibilities of innovations and market. We communicate to each other, procure services, sell, buy and many more through internet. But, more than 68% of India's population is out of reach with this is incredible technology. Astrome Technologies, an Indian space technology company is leveraging on cutting edge satellite technology to provide high speed, location free internet. By doing this, Astrome is not just providing an innovative, high tech, solution to a practical problem it is also opening the doors for a potential transformation in the lives of people who were so far denied access to the latest in technology. Astrome’s first set of satellites are scheduled to take off in 2018.
Land Based or terrestrial internet is a reliable and the best option for a deployment in one location. However, Satellite internet is best with multiple sites, due to single point hub termination for all sites and simplified billing from one service provider. Furthermore, satellite service is sometimes the ONLY option in rural areas as compared with terrestrial internet. Its requirements such as to reach all locations and obtaining the necessary “right of way” clearance to install the cable makes it unfit for rural areas. Also, terrestrial internet requires a lot of infrastructure like laying a lot of cables and towers etc. involving huge cost. For example, it costs about US $3000 to lay optical fibre cable for one kilometer in India. The cost to cover a square kilometer for space solutions vary between $3 to $6 as compared to ground solutions that incur at least $3000 to cover the same area using cable and towers. However, ground technology brings much higher capacity in a concentrated fashion whereas space solutions that are good for distributing capacity to a large area. Thus, ground technology solutions are a good business case for urban areas and space technology a good business case for rural and semi-urban areas.
Astrome's space solution is to have a few satellites in space very close to the Earth (Low-Earth Orbit) which act as “floating routers”. The satellites take up their positions on the lower orbits covering 1200-1800 kilometres in diameter. It is estimated that four to five satellites are enough to ensure broadband at one point of time all across the Indian geographical region. The ground nodes would be set up on strategic locations on the ground, though most of the infrastructure would be floating in space. The ground nodes would connect and talk to servers that are located on the Earth’s surface. Subscribers on ground can get high speed internet through an antenna on the rooftop, and a box inside their home which is very similar to the DTH television service setup.
Packed with a bandwidth of 100Gbps per satellite, the users on Earth can have up to 50Mbps and 400Mbps for business users. The beauty of it is that, this speed does not depend on the geographical location of the user. The speed at which the Internet streams for people accessing from a crowded city or a remote hamlet in the Himalayas remains the same.
However Astrome’s space solution's statistics have shown impressive results.
- A typical round-trip delay to GEO can be anywhere around 250ms whereas LEO provide fibre-like latency of about 10ms. the cost of providing internet to any semi-urban and rural location is at least hundred times lower than that in terrestrial technology.
The cost of providing internet to any semi-urban and rural location is at least hundred times lower than that in terrestrial technology.
Unlike SpaceX, and OneWeb and ViaSat, Astrome’s satellites will operate in the millimeter region of the electromagnetic spectrum. This enables significantly higher capacity per satellite as compared to Ku and Ka band satellites that results in 10 times reduction in cost per Mbps. It will actually incur about 3-4 times lower cost per Mbps than even terrestrial solutions such as Reliance Jio.
Over the next few years, the company wants to build a constellation of hundred microsatellites in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO). Each satellite of Astrome, can support a bandwidth of 100 gigabytes per second, both upload and download (1:1) – this means that the users on earth can expect up to 50 megabytes per second for home users and 400 megabytes per second for business users. The company will focus on only South Asia and South-east Asia in the beginning, bringing a total distributed capacity of 10 Tbps over the globe.