Win for SpaceX's satellite internet plan

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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai on Wednesday proposed that his agency approve a SpaceX application to provide broadband services in the US and globally using satellite technologies.

"To bridge America's digital divide, we'll have to use innovative technologies", Pai said in an emailed statement.

Satellite internet access is already available, of course, but the satellites for those services are in orbits so high that latency - that is, the delay in light-speed transmission - becomes a negative factor, particularly for broadband applications such as voice-over-internet phone services.

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The approval would be the first given to an American-based company to provide broadband services using a new generation of low-Earth orbit satellite technologies, Pai said. It has previously approved requests from OneWeb, Space Norway and Telesat.

A pair of the experimental SpaceX satellites is set for Saturday in California.

Elon Musk's SpaceX moved closer to another orbital frontier as regulators advanced its application to launch a low-orbit constellation of satellites and join a jostling field of operators trying to cash in on broadband service from space.

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"The common challenges associated with siting, digging trenches, laying fiber, and dealing with property rights are materially alleviated through a space-based broadband network", she said.

The launch from Vandenberg Air Force of California is scheduled on the coming Saturday, that's February 17.

It's not just rockets. A joint project with Airbus, OneWeb is now building satellites in France and will use Russian Soyuz rockets to launch some of its satellites.SpaceX was not immediately available for comment.

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SpaceX is not the first of the megaconstellation hopefuls to stake their claim with a demo satellite. The company is hoping for another success with the upcoming launch of the satellites. Commercial service could start after 800 satellites have been launched. SpaceX has kept busy since then; it has launched six missions in the past 15 weeks, including last week's impressive debut of Falcon Heavy and January's shrouded-in-mystery launch of the classified Zuma payload. The first batch could start going up in 2019. Eventually, thousands of satellites would be put into low Earth orbit to provide internet services around the globe.

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