Tag Archive for: Starlink

Dish Network and others are pushing for permission to use 12 GHz spectrum for 5G as according to them, the SpaceX’s study on how it would severely disrupt its broadband customers is “scientifically and logically flawed.”

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition, which includes the satellite TV broadcaster and a mix of telcos, public interest groups and trade associations, said the study draws nationwide conclusions from a “single cherry-picked” area that is “among the most unfavorable geographies to analyze” interference.

The coalition also said SpaceX’s broadband company Starlink was spreading misinformation by telling customers their service cannot coexist with plans to use 12 GHz frequencies for a high-power 5G network.

The Federal Communications Commission has received nearly 100,000 comments amid Starlink’s call to customers to urge the agency to reject Dish Network’s 12 GHz proposal.

“This tactic, which is commonly used by Elon Musk, is not only disingenuous, but it promulgates an anti-5G narrative that is harmful to American consumers who deserve greater competition, connectivity options and innovation,” the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition said a statement. 

“It also stands to threaten America’s global leadership in the 5G and technology sector as other countries outpace the nation in delivering next-generation services.”

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition pointed to earlier interference studies commissioned by RS Access, a spectrum holding company that is one of the group’s members, which estimated a nationwide 5G network would cause interference to less than 1% of terminals used by non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite operators.

SpaceX declined to comment but has previously refuted these studies, which were conducted by engineering firm RKF Engineering Solutions.

Conflicting analysis

Both RS Access and Dish Network have licenses in the 12 GHz band that they are seeking to upgrade for high-speed terrestrial mobile services.

The 12 GHz band is part of the Ku-band spectrum that Starlink, OneWeb and other satellite operators use to connect with user terminals.

RS Access told the FCC in May that 5G wireless broadband in the 12.2-12.7 GHz band “can readily coexist” with NGSO “fixed satellite service deployments, which use 10.7-12.7 GHz for downlink.”

However, SpaceX said June 21 that tests it conducted in Las Vegas, United States showed how Starlink would become unusable for most Americans if the FCC allowed high-power mobile services in the 12 GHz band.

Starlink users would experience harmful interference 77% of the time, according to SpaceX’s study, and total outage of services 74% of the time.

SpaceX said its analysis underlined various inaccuracies and incorrect assumptions made in RFK’s studies. 

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition took issue with how SpaceX’s results were generated from the Las Vegas partial economic area (PEA), in “contrast to the nationwide simulation submitted by RKF.”

SpaceX said it chose this area because it is a market that Dish Network has targeted for its first mobile operations.

But the 5G for 12 GHz Coalition said this PEA’s “unique topology and morphology” makes it ten times as unfavorable to assess 5G and satellite coexistence as the national average.

The group said SpaceX’s study also “grossly distorts the 5G network configuration to create interference with NGSO terminals.”

It said: “If the assumptions SpaceX uses in Las Vegas are extrapolated nationwide, they would necessitate the deployment of over 600,000 macro 12 GHz sites across the country.”

This compares with the 67,000 sites AT&T currently uses for its nationwide network.

The coalition added that SpaceX’s Las Vegas analysis also assumes a higher level of service in urban and suburban areas than previously indicated.

The 5G for 12 GHz Coalition’s statement comes a week after the FCC gave Starlink permission June 30 to use part of the 12 GHz band to connect vehicles, boats and aircraft on the move — in addition to fixed locations — subject to various conditions.

Dish Network and RS Access had argued against the approval, which the FCC said does not prejudge a decision on their 5G deployment plans.

Starlink announced a maritime-focused service plan for U.S. customers July 7, which offers up to 350 megabits per second download speeds while at sea for $5,000 a month and a one-time $10,000 hardware cost for two terminals.

Starlink Maritime currently advertises a latency rate of under 99 milliseconds, compared with 20-40 milliseconds for its other service plans. 

The maritime service also currently only covers coastal waters, with broadband coverage slated for elsewhere in the fourth quarter of 2022, and across seas globally in the first quarter of 2023.


LEO satellite broadband connectivity’s demand has been ever increasing. As of 2020, there were one billion broadband subscriptions including Digital Subscriber Line (DSL), cable, or fiber-optic broadband services. Telecoms have been working to replace low-speed DSL broadband with fiber-optic broadband service. In 2020 alone, there were 42 million fiber-optic broadband net additions.

Cable network operators also continue to upgrade the networks to DOCSIS 3.1 to support Gigabit speed broadband access. Despite the advancements in different broadband technologies, only around half of total households in the world are connected to a type of fixed broadband. Among the households which are not connected to fixed broadband access, mobile network is the primary connectivity for internet access since many populations use internet via their mobile phones. Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) broadband services using mobile networks and proprietary technologies have also been filling the broadband gap across different markets. Satellite has been an important technology to provide broadband in remote areas where it is challenging to deploy other terrestrial broadband networks.

The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted the importance of broadband connectivity in both social and economic aspects of work, learning, communication, shopping, and healthcare. Although network operators have managed the traffic surge contributed by home broadband networks well, governments around the world have witnessed that populations without efficient connectivity faced challenges to navigate through the pandemic. While households in the areas with limited fixed infrastructure need to rely on mobile network to access internet, it should be noted that 8 percent of the world’s population is still outside the mobile internet coverage according to the GSA. There is clearly a digital divide across different markets which needs to be addressed.

The Role of Satellite Broadband

Internet access via satellite networks has been a crucial solution for use cases such as emergency response, maritime, aviation, and broadband access in remote areas. Geostationary Orbit (GEO) satellite systems are the primary platform to provide broadband service, but only at a limited speed, between 5 Megabytes per second to 100 Megabytes per second, and with high latency, around 500 milliseconds, compared to other broadband platforms. Hardware and installation cost, usually above $300 is relatively high for consumers in emerging markets to get satellite broadband service. It is estimated that satellite market is providing around 3.5 million subscriptions worldwide as of today with the highest subscriber concentration in North America, followed by Europe.

Although satellite networks cover almost everywhere around the world, high cost of receiver hardware, low speed, and high latency have been a barrier for satellite broadband services to gain mass adoption. Recent Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite development by SpaceX, OneWeb, and Amazon’s Project Kuiper are expected to change market dynamics since shorter distance from Earth’s surface enables LEO satellites to support latency as low as 30 milliseconds.

What is the Outlook for LEO Satellite Broadband in 2022?

LEO satellite broadband is still a niche market. According to SpaceX, which launched LEO broadband service Starlink in late 2020, it has now achieved around a 90,000-user base. It recently gained license to operate StarLink service in Mexico and is now trying to secure license to operate in India, one of the markets with lowest fixed broadband penetration. OneWeb, another LEO platform which aims to enter broadband market, has launched over 300 satellites in late 2021 after securing agreement with AT&T to provide broadband connectivity for AT&T business customers. Amazon provide a new progress regarding Project Kuiper as they announced that they have secured up to 83 launches from three commercial space companies—ArianespaceBlue Origin, and United Launch Alliance (ULA)—to provide heavy-lift capacity for the program..

Although LEO platforms supports low latency, high terminal cost is possibly a key challenge to expanding the customer base. Considering majority of the market opportunity existing in emerging market, heavily subsidized terminal cost of $500 is beyond the reach of most consumers. Despite attempts by industry players to reduce terminal cost, the current adoption rate which needs only low hardware volume, terminal cost deduction cannot be done enough yet. Furthermore, LEO platforms face inevitable competition from terrestrial broadband platforms. Especially the expansion of LTE networks and future 5G roll outs in emerging markets will continue to compete against LEO broadband services. Due to mass adoption, terrestrial networks tend to achieve faster ecosystem development which brings wider choice of hardware and software and lower cost to develop cost per user.

LEO platforms will need other players coming into the market soon since competition is expected to increase adoption rate and create a force to lower the terminal cost. Considering current market dynamics, there is a potential to of LEO broadband market to grow in 2022, however at the limited pace. LEO broadband services are likely to gain subscriber base from both consumer and business segments in advanced markets. However, business and government user base are likely to be major drivers of LEO broadband market in emerging markets. Initial target of LEO platforms is not to replace wired broadband services, but to connect the unconnected population. To achieve their goal, the ability to support enough capacity in targeted market is crucial. As competition arrives, improvements in hardware cost and features are expected to speed up accelerating the adoption in the residential market in the next few years.

Starlink satellites were launched in a large stack on a Falcon 9 rocket. Photo: SpaceX/Forbes

SpaceX Director of Starlink Software Matt Monson revealed some new details about the company’s mysterious Starlink constellation during an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) session on Reddit on June 6. Joined by several colleagues who worked on the Crew Dragon mission, Monson said that the Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation runs on “a ton of software to make it work,” and that improvements in software could have a huge impact on the quality of service provided by the constellation. SpaceX Software Lead

Monson also addressed cybersecurity concerns, and why SpaceX is trying to reduce the amount of data each Starlink satellite has to transmit while scaling up the size of the constellation itself. When asked whether or not the constellation satellites would be able to communicate with each other with laser links (as President and COO Gwynne Shotwell promised would happen later this year during an interview with CNN), Monson did not answer.

There has been active discussion in the industry about Starlink’s potential inter-satellite links, ground systems, and ability to reduce latency. Monson provided some clues by detailing the work of his software engineering team

With a few hundred Starlink satellites in orbit, are there parts of individual satellite or constellation-related operations that you’ve come to realize are not well covered in testing?

Monson: For Starlink, we need to think of our satellites more like servers in a data center than special one-of-a-kind vehicles. There are some things that we need to be absolutely sure of (commanding, software update, power and hardware safety), and therefore deserve to have specific test cases around. But there’s also a lot of things we can be more flexible about — for these things we can take an approach that’s more similar to the way that web services are developed. We can deploy a test build to a small subset of our vehicles, and then compare how it performs against the rest of the fleet. If it doesn’t do what we want, we can tweak it and try again before merging it. If we see a problem when rolling it out, we can pause, roll back, and try again. This is a hugely powerful change in how we think about space vehicles, and is absolutely critical to being able to iterate quickly on our system.

We’ve definitely found places where our test cases had holes. Having hundreds of satellites in space 24/7 will find edge cases in every system, and will mean that you see the crazy edges of the bell curve. The important thing is to be confident about the core that keeps the hardware safe, tells you about the problem, and then gives you time to recover. We’ve had many instances where a satellite on orbit had a failure we’d never even conceived of before, but was able to keep itself safe long enough for us to debug it, figure out a fix or a workaround, and push up a software update. And yes, we do a lot of custom ASIC development work on the Starlink project.

How did creating the Crew Display software affect the development of the Starlink interface for SpaceX operations (map views, data visualizations, etc.)?

Monson: The tech from the crew displays (especially the map and alerts) formed the basis of our UI for the first couple Starlink satellites (Tintin). It’s grown a ton since then, but it was awesome to see Bob and Doug using something that somehow felt familiar to us too. SpaceX Software Lead

What level of rigor is being put into Starlink security? How can we, as normal citizens, become comfortable with the idea of a private company flying thousands of internet satellites in a way that’s safe enough for them to not be remote controlled by a bad actor? 

Monson: In general with security, there are many layers to this. For starters, we designed the system to use end-to-end encryption for our users’ data, to make breaking into a satellite or gateway less useful to an attacker who wants to intercept communications. Every piece of hardware in our system (satellites, gateways, user terminals) is designed to only run software signed by us, so that even if an attacker breaks in, they won’t be able to gain a permanent foothold. And then we harden the insides of the system (including services in our data centers) to make it harder for an exploited vulnerability in one area to be leveraged somewhere else. We’re continuing to work hard to ensure our overall system is properly hardened, and still have a lot of work ahead of us (we’re hiring!), but it’s something we take very seriously.

I am sure there are tons of redundancy strategies you guys implemented. Care to share some?

Monson: On Starlink, we’ve designed the system so that satellites will quickly passively deorbit due to atmospheric drag in the case of failure (though we fight hard to actively deorbit them if possible). We still have some redundancy inside the vehicle, where it is easy and makes sense, but we primarily trust in having system-level fault tolerance: multiple satellites in view that can serve a user. Launching more satellites is our core competency, so we generally use that kind of fault tolerance wherever we can, and it allows us to provide even better service most of the time when there aren’t problems. SpaceX Software Lead

What’s the amount of telemetry (in GBs) you usually get from Starlink? Do you run some machine learning and/or data analysis tools on it?

Monson: For Starlink, we’re currently generating more than 5 TB a day of data! We’re actively reducing the amount each device sends, but we’re also rapidly scaling up the number of satellites (and users) in the system. As far as analysis goes, doing the detection of problems onboard is one of the best ways to reduce how much telemetry we need to send and store (only send it when it’s interesting). The alerting system we use for this is shared between Starlink and Dragon.

For some level of scope on Starlink, each launch of 60 satellites contains more than 4,000 Linux computers. The constellation has more than 30,000 Linux nodes (and more than 6,000 microcontrollers) in space right now. And because we share a lot of our Linux platform infrastructure with Falcon and Dragon, they get the benefit of our more than 180 vehicle-years of on-orbit test time.

How different is the development experience and the rate of change on production software between the rarely flown Dragon and NASA scrutinized?

Monson: The tools and concepts are the same, and many of the engineers on the team have worked on both projects (myself included), but being our own customer on Starlink allows us to do things a bit differently.

How often do you remotely upgrade the software on the satellites that are in orbit?

Monson: The Starlink hardware is quite flexible – it takes a ton of software to make it work, and small improvements in the software can have a huge impact on the quality of service we provide and the number of people we can serve. On this kind of project, pace of innovation is everything. We’ve spent a bunch of time making it easier, safer, and faster to update our constellation. We tend to update the software running on all the Starlink satellites about once a week, with a bunch of smaller test deployments happening as well. By the time we launch a batch of satellites, they’re usually on a build that already older than what’s on the rest of the constellation! Our ground services are a big part of this story as well – they’re a huge part of making the system work, and we tend to deploy them a couple times a week or more.

Are Starlink satellites programmed to de-orbit themselves in case they aren’t able to communicate back for a given amount of time?  

Monson: The satellites are programmed to go into a high-drag state if they haven’t heard from the ground in a long time. This lets atmospheric drag pull them down in a very predictable way. SpaceX Software Lead