A steady expansion of tourism, resource exploration, shipping, and scientific research within the Arctic and on Antarctica has increased the demand for reliable and affordable polar connectivity. Since fiber cables and cell towers are not an option, and GEO satellites fall behind in terms of service quality, availability, and competitive pricing, LEO nanosatellites might seem the best alternative to connect the Earth’s poles.
The prevailing business model for satellite communications has remained unperturbed since the industry began more than 5 decades ago. Consumers purchase a satcom terminal, or a phone, or a satellite TV antenna from a distributor with some subscription service for airtime. For the satellite companies themselves, there is little to no interaction with the consumer, and instead sell bandwidth to a distribution network, maintaining an arms-length relationship with those who actually use their service.
The past few years has seen a tremendous increase in the number of satellite systems deployed to meet the need for exponentially growing bandwidth demands. Indeed, the advent of High-Throughput Satellites (HTS) have sought to address this need, but bandwidth improvements have been incremental, at best. With the form factor of traditional geostationary satellites limited largely by volumetric constraints of their launch vehicle, it remains dubious to anticipate disruptive changes to the Pareto frontier that exists between coverage area and throughput for these networks in the near future.