SpaceX has overcome a major regulatory hurdle in its ambitious plan to provide global Internet connectivity from space. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the company’s request to launch an additional 7 518 satellites into space on 15 November 2018. SpaceX now has permission to launch nearly 12 000 satellites into orbit following an earlier approval by the FCC in March 2018 for a constellation of 4 425 satellites. SpaceX has also been authorised to add 37.5-42.0 GHz and 47.2-50.2 GHz frequency bands to its previously authorised non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) constellation.
The unique value of the satellite Internet constellation under the name Starlink is that it will maintain a line of site to connect everyone on Earth, thereby providing global Internet connectivity. The approval also grants SpaceX the flexibility to provide both diverse geographic coverage and the capacity to support a wide range of broadband and communications services for residential, commercial, institutional, governmental, and professional users in the USA and globally.
Internet access is growing rapidly, yet large groups of people remain unconnected to the Internet. As of 2015, about 43% of people had access to the Internet (in developing countries only 34%). Access to ICTs is part of the Sustainable Development Agenda, which commits to ‘significantly increase access to ICTs and strive to provide universal and affordable access to the Internet in least developed countries by 2020’ (Goal 9.c).