Low-Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations are transforming the way we live and work. Only space-based technology can guarantee access to the internet everywhere (including at sea and in the air), and the newest satellites – LEO constellations – are affordable and global.
Ten years ago, the United Nations declared that access to the internet was a human right. This is because the internet can provide every type of information as well as entertainment and social connections. During this same decade, personal mobility devices (portable laptop computers, personal mobile phones and the like) became ubiquitous, creating a demand for connectivity everywhere by everyone. Most nations consider satellites to be critical national infrastructure.
Several companies have already begun building such constellations, and soon being remote will no longer mean being disconnected. These constellations are much closer to earth than traditional satellites thus there is no delay in the connection, so two-way transactions on the internet as well as voice calls are of the same high-quality as your 4G mobile phone. LEOs can use different orbits, at different altitudes and different inclinations. They use small satellites, made on assembly lines, and launched in clusters, and these advances in technology make the service more affordable than traditional satellites.
LEOs can provide service directly to homes and offices and can also be used as the backbone infrastructure for mobile network operators in every country, meaning that universal service is truly achievable. Not just to 100% of the population but to 100% of the geography as well.
Although in highly populated urban areas most nations have good terrestrial connectivity, in areas with poor or no terrestrial connectivity, the economics make sense to use LEOs. As 5G comes into service, LEOs will be used as part of that network as well.
Laws and regulations need to adapt to the new era. If regulations are written in too-specific, technical language,
it can be hard to update them when a new technology comes along. The best practice is to have flexible regulations that are less focused on the specifics of technologies and more focused towards providing a certain service level. LEOs will change the way we live and work in a way not seen since the industrial revolution.