How Will Mobile Operators Respond to Elon Musk, Google, Richard Branson, Greg Wyler Satellite Efforts?

With the potential launches of two brand-new satellite networks to deliver Internet access to unserved populations across three continents, mobile service providers in developing regions are going to have to make hard decisions about their own strategies.

The reason: mobile networks now are the primary way most people in developing markets use the Internet, and get their access. But there remain billions that cannot buy the service because they are not reached by the networks.

Facebook and Google, among others, have been thinking, and now are acting, to provide such access by new satellite networks that presumably will offer far-lower retail prices than have been possible in the past.

Elon Musk will be part of a new battle between global satellite fleets intended to bring Internet access to underserved people around the globe. SpaceX, Musk’s satellite firm, just got $1 billion from Google to help build a new satellite fleet.

Just days ago, Musk talked about a new project aimed at putting up to 4,000 satellites into low Earth orbit to provide low-cost Internet access. The satellite system could start providing data services by 2020, though the full constellation could be in place by 2030, possibly. The cost of the venture could amount to $10 billion or more, Musk said.

Separately, WorldVu Satellites Ltd. has raised funding from Virgin Group and Qualcomm for a proposed global satellite internet company focusing on potential users in developing countries that cannot be reached by fixed or mobile networks, as well as to supply Internet access to flying aircraft.

The potential launch of two new huge fleets of satellites essentially will force mobile service providers to choose between accelerating building of networks to areas that have been deemed non-economic, or risk losing all that subscriber growth to satellite providers.
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