Recent media reports from China suggest that the country has ramped up its plans to launch its own low orbit satellite constellations to provide 5G coverage that could offer speeds of up to 500 Mbps across the country.
The project launched by a Beijing-based startup, GalaxySpace, aims to build up a network of a thousand satellites, in an aim to extend China’s 5G coverage around the globe and compete with Elon Musk’s Starlink project by offering high-speed internet services to remote areas.
GalaxySpace, a commercial micro-satellites developer, reported that the first batch containing six low-cost, high-performance communication satellites have been bought in at an undisclosed launch facility and will be deployed in the first season of 2022 via the Long March-2C carrier rocket within the next three months. The satellites will be deployed to build a testing network of satellite internet, codenamed “Mini-spider Constellation.”
As part of 5G development, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) of China had targeted 654,000 base stations back in 2021. As a result of which more than 98 percent of county-level urban areas and 80 percent of township-level urban areas across the country have been covered.
Although the Chinese constellation is small when compared with Starlink, which already has around 2,000 satellites in orbit and further plans to expand the network to 42,000, the 1,000-satellite Chinese network will be the first of its kind that will make use of 5G technology.
Additionally, Starlink currently offers a download speed of around 110Mbps for civilian use and although it uses a different technology than 5G, it carries the potential to offer 6G services in the future.
However, it is still unlikely that China will be launching a program as big as Starlink, as two giant constellations in the lower orbit could significantly increase the potential risk of accidents. Back in December, China had complained that its Tiangong space station had avoided two near misses with SpaceX’s Starlink satellites, although Musk had denied this, claiming that there was enough room in the near-earth orbit for “billions” of satellites.
Beyond the commercial rivalry, Beijing has identified Starlink, which has signed multimillion-dollar contracts with the US military, as a threat to China’s national security.