Boeing is getting closer to competing with satellite internet providers like SpaceX and (possibly) Amazon. The FCC has authorized Boeing’s application to launch a satellite broadband constellation. The network would serve residential, business, and government customers in the United States and around the world. The satellites would talk both to each other and on the ground, despite the FCC’s declining Boeing’s offer to use certain frequencies for satellite-to-satellite chatter.
The company didn’t say when its satellite network would launch or what capabilities it would offer. However, Boeing would operate at much higher altitudes than SpaceX’s Starlink. The majority of the constellation, 132 low-orbit satellites, would fly at an altitude of 656 miles. A stack of 15 non-geostationary orbit satellites, meanwhile, would operate between 17,000 and 27,500 miles. Starlink operates at altitudes between 215 and 350 miles. This can increase the delay, although real performance may vary.
The project has been in development for a long time. Reuters Remarks Boeing asked for approval back in 2017. There have also been some setbacks – in 2019 SpaceX called on the FCC to either curtail or reject Boeing’s plans because of the potential for “harmful interference”.
It can take a while for satellite service to become ready. Even so, it’s easy to see Boeing remaining patient. Satellite broadband could help the transportation giant get the most out of its space unit and mitigate the effects of delays or other problems with its business. There is also the simple matter of getting into the field of satellite internet before it’s too late. Amazon, SpaceX, OneWeb, and others are either launching satellites or have clear plans. If Boeing waits much longer, important customers could be missing.
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