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Analyst: Commercial Aircraft To Replace Current Satellites

Four Billion People Worldwide Still Have No Access To The Internet

A more connected world makes the globe shrink. Increasingly people are gaining internet access at an exponential rate, and it is changing the way of life. Our devices are becoming progressively more connected through the IoT (Internet of things). But this is not some advanced technology that will affect only the first world. Internet access is becoming the standard rather than the exception, but this has not always been the case. Around the world, there are still 4 billion people without internet access.

According to analyst Gediminas Ziemelis, one of the challenges in bringing internet connection to these people is the prohibitive costs of launching satellites to cover regions that would be of negligible commercial value. There are also other considerations as satellites provide additional valuable services such as aiding navigation or monitoring the environment and meteorological conditions. Despite clear value, there are still large parts of the world that go without proper coverage. With advancements in aircraft payload capabilities and the rapidly growing number of flights, commercial aircraft should fulfill the growing need of satellites within 20 years at nominal costs while yielding excellent results.
At any given time, there are approximately 8000 airborne aircraft providing a combined coverage of more than 2 million m² over all parts of the world. The current global fleet of aircraft is greater than 31,000 aircraft and by 2037, the global fleet of aircraft is expected to be close to 63,000 with more flights forecast to fly over barren parts of the world – where a large portion of the population lacks a solid internet infrastructure. An aircraft equipped with special transmitting devices flying at an altitude of 36,000 feet (normal cruising altitude) will be able to function just the same as a traditional satellite at a fraction of the cost. Retrofitting current aircraft with necessary devices can cost very little compared to the millions satellites cost and due to the frequency of flights can provide uninterrupted coverage.
The use of aircraft to provide internet services will improve connections around the globe as they also fly over places, which are not connected today. Since there are few overhead and maintenance costs, the price for the end user will be insignificant, and airlines will benefit from an additional revenue source. The technology needed for this feat is not new, as installing $600,000 worth of equipment in aircraft today enables aircraft to send and receive using the internet. The next step in the natural evolution of connecting aircraft will enable them to be transmitters of services and not just receivers.

(Image provided with Gediminas Ziemelis news release)



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