New satellites set to bring internet to more of rural Alaska by 2020
More of Alaska may be able to connect to the internet by next year following an agreement between Pacific Dataport, an Alaska communications company, and Astranis, a start-up satellite technology firm.
Astranis will begin building the first satellite to be launched in 2020. It's expected to operable by the end of the year. In all, two satellites are planned. The effort is to provide internet and broadband to the underserved spots of Alaska.
The company claims 4 billion people around the world don't have internet access, a statistic they are working to change by building smaller, lower-cost telecommunications satellites.
"We were just tired of the fact we were getting left out once again of another service that is widely available across the Lower 48 and around the world," said Chuck Schumann, vice president and COO of Microcom and Pacific Dataport.
Christine O'Connor, executive director of the Alaska Telecom Association, estimates more than 110,000 people in Alaska don't have access to a wired internet provider where they live. She cited a Federal Communications Commission report released in December showing that 14.9 percent of residents go without the service.
"Companies were talking about solving the problem of broadband and internet in Africa and South America but everyone forgets about Alaska," said Schumann.
The launch will be strategic, with Alaska in mind. Schumann says a major issue with most satellite-delivered services is their positioning, usually over the continental United States. Their service typically targets North and South America to higher-populated areas and in some cases over the Atlantic Ocean.
"What we end up with is satellites that are very low in the sky, elevation-wise," he added.
Frequently their subscribers encounter obstacles such as buildings or trees. These satellites will be positioned over the Pacific for a maximum elevation angle lessening the "look angle problem."
This will be Astranis' first project. The company is based in San Francisco.
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