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article imageVirgin Galactic's bold plan to change face of high-speed Internet

By Holly L. Walters     Jan 20, 2015 in Internet
Although high-speed Internet and telephone options are available to billions of people, there is still a large percentage of the population without this important technological benefit.
Fortunately, the number of people who currently suffer from this disadvantage should be dramatically reduced as a result of Virgin Galactic and Qualcomm’s plans to launch an extensive network of Internet satellites.
The latest data from the International Telecommunications Union indicates that approximately 61 percent of the people alive today have no access to high speed Internet. Several studies have proven that having reliable Internet access makes a major difference for educational and business opportunities, and this is one of the main reasons that multiple companies and philanthropists have been attempting to increase the availability of these services.
Virgin Galactic’s plan involves creating a new constellation of satellites. According to Digital Trends, this constellation will include 648 new satellites during the initial stages, but the company hopes to increase this number to at least 2,400 if everything goes well. The company will be using newly produced satellites that weigh 750 pounds less than other versions, and this will make it much easier to launch them into space.
According to Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, the new satellite design can be deployed via the Virgin Galactic LauncherOne. In the past, it was necessary to utilize large rockets, and this was accompanied by time restrictions and a major expense. On the contrary, the LauncherOne is expected to be able to take off as frequently as once every three hours, and it will be much more cost-effective than previous methods.
After the 648 satellites are put in place, they will all be part of the largest satellite network in the world. If Virgin moves forward with the second phase and creates two constellations, they will have more than doubled the amount of satellites that are in space right now.
Programs of this nature have been abandoned by other companies, but Branson indicated that the reduction in expenses that is associated with making lighter satellites will make it easy for Virgin to turn this idea into a financially successful venture. Google and Facebook are also making similar plans, but it seems likely that Virgin will be the first company to make this vision a reality.
It is worth noting that Google’s Project Loon has been in the testing phase since 2013. However, Project Loon is using very different technology to make high speed Internet available, and there are a lot of challenges that Google will need to overcome in order to turn their idea into a success. Instead of utilizing satellites like Virgin, Project Loon requires balloons to have a sustainable life while floating at a stratosphere height that is above airplanes.
The cost for building and launching the first set of 648 satellites is estimated at $2 billion, and this expense needs to be recouped before the second wave can be deployed, CNBC reports. Branson has stated that this will not be difficult, and he is promising to make reliable high speed Internet available at an affordable price to people living in third world nations who will need this new technology in order to finally get online.
However, helping people in countries that currently have minimal to non-existent Internet is not the company’s only goal. Instead, Branson also envisions the satellite constellation making it possible for those who live in rural U.S. areas to increase their Internet access and speed. As an added bonus, lower income households would conceivably be able to take advantage of cheaper high speed Internet.
Virgin and Qualcomm are undoubtedly looking at this project as a way to make money, but there are also philanthropic reasons to support their vision. For example, many of the areas that are being targeted do not have any access to high speed Internet, and some of them cannot get online at all.
The reality is that the Internet provides people with a wealth of information, and it has become an indisputable benefit for educational purposes. Giving children in third world countries the opportunity to use this resource will increase their chances of being able to succeed in a developed nation later in life.
Since 2013, President Obama has been placing an emphasis on expanding access to high speed Internet across the country. An experiment at an elementary school in South Carolina showcased the impact that this one simple thing can have on education. The test site was ranked 41st in the state for elementary schools in 2011, but putting laptops, Internet access and software in place the following year allowed the school to increase its ranking to 19.
Leapfrogging 22 spots in just one year is impressive, and this helped lead to the Obama Administration’s 2013 and 2015 broadband announcements. In 2013, the president sought to increase high speed access at school’s throughout the country. This goal was expanded in 2015 to include every U.S. citizen.
It is estimated that three billion people live in areas where it is difficult or impossible to access the Internet. If all of these people were given the ability to go online, it would make it much easier for them to launch new businesses, further their education and even improve their quality of health care. Virgin’s satellites would also enable these people to stay connected via high speed telephone options, and this could literally mean the difference between life and death in some situations.
Virgin has not yet announced a timeline for turning their plans into a reality, but they are actively seeking new talent to help them move everything forward. If the company is able to launch their first wave of satellites within a relatively short period of time, they should be able to beat their competition and have a positive impact on issues such as U.S. unemployment and the economy.
After all, people in the U.S. who cannot access the Internet are at a big disadvantage. If Virgin stays true to their proposal to make their high speed Internet service available at an affordable price, it definitely has the potential to be a game changer both in the U.S. and worldwide.
More about Virgin galactic, Qualcomm, Project Loon, High speed internet, Broadband
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