Boeing will use 147 satellites to beam broadband Internet around the world
The Federal Communications Commission approved Boeing's satellite Internet project, which was first proposed in 2017. Boeing can now make progress in building, launching，and operating its broadband Internet network in space. It will join SpaceX, its main aerospace rival.
Boeing's plan involves putting 132 satellites into low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 1,056 kilometers (about 656 miles). Another 15 rockets will be launched into "non-geostationary orbit" at altitudes of 27,355 to 44,221 kilometers (16,998 to 27,478 miles). The company says it hopes to use satellites to provide "broadband Internet and communications services to residential, government and business users in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands," with global coverage when the network is completed.
All 147 satellites will broadcast on the V-band, a higher radio spectrum than the Ka and Ku bands used by SpaceX's Starlink network or Amazon's yet-to-be-deployed Project Kuiper satellite.Faster data transfer rates can be achieved using the V-band, but there is also a greater risk of interference because higher frequencies are more difficult to penetrate solid ob ects. (SpaceX and OneWeb plan to use the V-Band on some future satellites. The Ka and Ku bands are also used by commercial airline satellites that provide in-flight Internet.)
SpaceX had told the FCC it was concerned that Boeing's network would crowd low-Earth orbit SpaceX has previously expressed concern that Boeing's proposal to launch satellites into already crowded low orbits could increase the risk of collisions with other satellites. In 2019, SpaceX told the FCC that it believed Boeing's network would create a "clear hazard of harmful interference," According to Reuters. SpaceX's Starlink satellite orbits the Earth at an altitude of 550 kilometers (about 342 miles), a similar altitude to OneWeb's Internet satellite fleet, where Amazon's satellites will go once launched. SpaceX and OneWeb had a near miss earlier this year.
Boeing now has six years to launch half its satellite constellation and nine years to deploy the entire network. The company had asked the FCC to relax those requirements -- it wanted to commit to launching only five satellites in the first six years and a 12-year window to launch the entire constellation -- but the commission refused, according to the order released Wednesday.
SpaceX and Amazon, by contrast, have much more ambitious plans for their networks, each consisting of thousands of satellites. Boeing is a major satellite manufacturer, so it has been selling to early space-based Internet providers for years before and after its initial 2017 proposal as the market matures. But total supplier revenues are expected to exceed $50 billion by 2031, which could explain why it took Boeing four years to wade through the approval process.