LEO Satellite and More Explained by CableLabs


After many variations through the decades, broadband via satellites may leap past the hurdles that have kept it a niche service. This is one of the takeaways from a conversation with Shahed Mazumder, Principal Strategist (5G/Wireless) for CableLabs, at the WEC2020. To be clear, this doesn’t mean that satellite broadband will be competitive for urban areas, at least initially, but its initial sweet spot is rural areas with up to 75 homes per mile.

What makes satellite broadband different from earlier efforts is the mass-production of satellites and the reduced cost of rocket launches that carry those miniature cell towers a couple of hundred miles above the earth. The scale is massive, as Elon Musk’s SpaceX, by itself, is planning a constellation of approximately 12,000, and as many as 42,000, LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellites (in addition to the three or other entities aiming to compete in this market).

Granted, there are concerns about things like light pollution and space debris, which are being addressed by the operators in various ways (the effectiveness of mitigation remains to be seen, literally, in the case of light pollution). Regardless, satellites are launching on a regular basis and Mazumder expects that service will launch from at one least one operator by the end of this year.

From a service standpoint, the Starlink constellation, once fully deployed, can provide 10Gbps of bandwidth in a cell size of 20 square miles, which can be plenty for rural areas. Because these are LEOS (Low Earth Orbit Satellites) the latency is projected to be in the 25-millisecond range, which easily allows for voice communications.

In the short-term, the limiting factor may be the cost of the earth terminals, which today are estimated to cost between $2,000 to $5,000. The interview with Mazumder inspired thoughts on how Elon Musk may have a master plan to integrate Tesla’s vehicles to create mobile 5G cell towers, effectively baking in the price of the radios into the car.

It might even go further with the introduction of another dimension of relay towers integrated into flying taxis. See more on this idea at

Finally, Mazumer speaks about fixed and mobile wireless as both a threat, but as an opportunity for operators to create wireless moats around their respective fiber castles.

2 responses to “LEO Satellite and More Explained by CableLabs”

  1. Ken Pyle Avatar
    Ken Pyle

    In this Tweetstorm, American-Italian Astronomer Ronald Drimmel suggests that massive satellite constellations could be an ecological and cultural disaster.

    1. Ken Pyle Avatar
      Ken Pyle

      It looks like SpaceX and NSF have signed a deal to prevent light pollution. The FCC is holding up approval of SpaceX/Starlink’s next generation satellites until such a deal. With that said, this may be just solving part of the light pollution problem, as competing providers are apparently causing issues for astronomers.

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