It’s easy to take web access for granted, but in many regions getting online isn’t as simple as just opening up a browser window. Now Chinese firm LinkSure Network has announced a system of satellites to be launched by 2026, which it wants to provide internet access across the globe, free of charge.
Called the LinkSure Swarm Constellation System, the network will be headed by the LinkSure-1 satellite launching in 2019. That will be followed by 10 more satellites by 2020, with a total of 272 satellites and data processing centers scheduled to be operational within the next eight years.
As with other proposed systems of this type – including one being tested by SpaceX – the idea is to relay internet connectivity from satellite to satellite, ultimately reaching areas that don’t have the necessary ground infrastructure for high-speed web access. As long as your device can see a satellite, it’ll be able to get online.
LinkSure has made its name as the developer of the Wi-Fi Master Key app, which is hugely popular in Asia for getting online securely while protecting user privacy. The team tasked with setting up the new satellite system includes members from the China Academy of Space (CASC).
According to the latest estimates, just over half of the world’s population – around 4 billion people – have access to the internet.
Being able to get online for free would make a huge difference to many remote and developing parts of the planet, but the cost would have to be met somehow. LinkSure says partnerships and applications will provide funding – so web surfers may well have to use LinkSure apps to get online and put up with some advertising at the same time.
All those details are still to be confirmed, but LinkSure says the overall cost of the project is going to be in the region of 3 billion yuan (US$432 million).
As we’ve already mentioned, LinkSure isn’t the first company to come up with the idea of providing internet access from low orbit. Google’s Project Loon continues to expand across the globe, using specially designed hot air balloons to bring internet access to remote regions of the world.
Facebook is also exploring the feasibility of setting up satellites to get more parts of the globe connected – and on Facebook – having ditched its original idea of using autonomous drones to beam internet down to communities below.
It seems that if you’re in a part of the world without a reliable internet connection, you might soon have a choice of satellite networks to hook up to to get your online fix.