LEOs will expand high speed internet access to landlocked developing countries, developing states, and hard-to-reach remote and rural areas. Island nations can be given a pathway via satellite to broadband internet and circumvent the enormous cost of building a submarine cable system carrying international traffic. Satellites can also provide backbone connectivity to mobile 5G cellular networks while enabling critical communication access for those most in need.
The Economics of Fiber Cable vs. Satellite
Providing broadband internet to millions of customers in a heavily populated urban environment is a lucrative business. However, building and maintaining terrestrial expansion to more sparsely populated regions is expensive. Return on investment rarely offsets the cost. Thus, terrestrial build-out to rural and remote areas can lag for years, even decades.
“For geographies without direct access to fiber optic cable infrastructure or at great distances from high capacity bandwidth, satellite connectivity is the only option available.”
Asian Development Bank (ABS)1
No matter the technology, there’s an infrastructure cost to build and operate the core network, ongoing customer equipment costs, and recurring subscriber costs for the customer.
Local, state and national funding programs can help cover some terrestrial-based infrastructure costs and service plans. The FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, the USDA’s ReConnect Rural Broadband Program, and the U.S. Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill provide billions of dollars to individual states, operators for infrastructure expansion, and subsidy programs to low income families. But the size and scope of the terrestrial-based plans are limited. Another, more comprehensive solution is needed.