Facebook isn’t the only corporation with its eyes on the prize of universal Internet access. Samsung recently published an R&D report, which proposes the creation of a global network of thousands of microsatellites that can transmit information at speeds up to one terabyte per second. Though perhaps most famous for its consumer electronics, Samsung is involved in other areas of innovation, from medical technology to automated drones weaponry. With its newly published report, the South Korea-based conglomerate takes one step into the stratosphere and towards greater global internet access.
The Samsung plan calculates that the global monthly demand for data will reach 1 zettabyte, or 1 trillion gigabytes. 4,600 small satellites working in precise coordination would enable Samsung to support this traffic through a system that may be faster than traditional landline Internet. In order to achieve such a high speed, Samsung’s plan proposes that the satellites be placed closer to the Earth’s surface than in previous models.
The idea of a global satellite network for increased Internet access is not new. Google, Facebook, SpaceX, and OneWeb are currently pursuing a similar goal of global Internet access, though through varying mediums. In the 1990s, Bill Gates funded the Teledesic project, an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful effort to build an Internet network using low-flying satellites.
While challenging, funding such a project is not impossible. The technology used in Samsung’s plan is relatively inexpensive. The real obstacle is getting the satellites into space and figuring out an economic way to perform maintenance while in orbit. A space elevator, perhaps funded by multiple private and public entities, may provide Samsung and other institutions with a relatively simple and affordable way to ship large amount of material into space. It also is unclear as to how expensive such a system would be to the consumer; Samsung does not mention pricing in its report. However, the project represents a bold step towards a system that benefits both the global population and the stakeholders at Samsung and other companies around the world.