Apple in talks to buy Boeing communications satellites

“Boeing Co on Monday said it could clinch a deal this year to build a high-throughput communications satellite for top technology companies such as Google Inc., Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc. or Apple Inc.,” Andrea Shalal reports for Reuters. “Jim Simpson, vice president of business development and chief strategist for Boeing Network and Space Systems, told Reuters the big technology firms were keen to expand Internet access around the world to help them grow.”

“He said the challenge was to drive down the cost of satellite communications to be more in line with terrestrial costs, which would help the tech firms justify the expense of building a larger communications satellite,” Shalal reports. “But if sufficient demand failed to materialize, the tech companies would be left with the cost of ‘a really high performance satellite,’ he said.”

“Privately held Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has said it plans to build a system of 4,000 satellites in low Earth orbit (LEO) for global Internet connectivity. In January, it received $1 billion in investments from Google and mutual-fund giant Fidelity Investments,” Shalal reports. “Simpson noted that the Google investment was an equity stake in the company, not in the satellite project, but declined to say whether that meant Google could still be a possible customer for a higher-end Boeing system in geosynchronous Earth orbit (GEO).”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Gee, regardless of demand, how would Apple ever be able to manage the cost? (smirk)

34 Comments

    1. Talk about giving a giant middle finger to Comcast and the like. Anything that give consumers more choice will be good. I live in any area where my current choices are Brighthouse or ATT and both suck.

      1. You’re not going to replace Comcast with Satellites. One of the fundamental problems with Satellites is latency. Satellites, especially ones in geo-syncronous orbit, are FAAAAARRRRR away.

        What satellites potentially COULD do is provide a network for Apple Watch or any other device with low data requirements. THIS, would be a game-changer. Buy an Apple Watch, and it comes with its own Apple Internet Access.

        1. Did you read LEO? That stands for LOW EARTH ORBIT and not geosynchronous orbit. That would be as low as 99 miles. How much latency are you expecting with an orbit that is greater than your IQ?

          1. FTR, the Boeing offering of the headline mentioning Apple as a customer is high throughput GEO not the small-bore LEO ring of a thousand small birds Google’s already an investor in.

            So a little quick on the snark trigger. But wait, this is the internet….

        2. Latency is a concern. But a larger issue with satellite internet, IMO, is the constraint on upload rates. A combination of GEO/LEO satellites and local ground stations will maximize bidirectional throughput.

  1. When nearly all of Apple’s devices and services are highly dependent on a fast and reliable internet connection, it would be much better if Apple had control over the entire route from server farm to device, without having to be dependent on a third party for part of the chain.

    I have my doubts about whether satellite internet is likely to be a viable consumer technology for everybody ( largely because of latency ), but I have no doubt that it is a significant part of the solution and could be the answer for media consumption, which represents a huge market.

    1. Agreed. I don’t think Apple will become our *primary* ISP, but could become a specialized Media Consumption Service Provider for the Apple TV and the coming bundle. Sign me up! People won’t even have to worry about Comcast cutting them off. 🙂

    1. Latency (slow) was the issue. It’s LESS of an issue now, but satellite communications can work for some applications that don’t have heavy data demands… like a watch?

  2. Dear MDN:

    Bothering you again. Our favorite site is unwatchable on iPhone. Your pesky advertising widgets flood the entire screen with buttons, links, promotions, “downloads”, and automatic launches of AppStore app even before any news heading be seen. I gave up visiting your site on iPhone. On the other hand, visiting the site on iPad is another pain in the eye. The site never ends loading, I can’t read anything but ads that never finish completely, period. I have to wait to go back home to read the news in my MacBook. ¿What? ¿Your App? It’s ugly and unusable, to say the least.

    1. I have the same problem, though it does come and go. Today seems to be okay. The sad thing is that this is the ONLY website where I’ve ever had it happen, and it happens here often.

    2. They aren’t doing anything about it. They prefer to keep their revenue stream from the advertising spam going. The most you get from them is fawningly felating Apple in ridiculous comments.

      Like this article, with an (as usual) misleading headline. Nothing in the actual headline of Apple doing anything with satellites.

  3. Synchronous Satellites. Great for streaming, terrible latency times for normal web browsing. I worked for Satellite Business System in the late 70s, when we were developing with Hughes what at the time was to me mainframe to mainframe private “broadband” digital communications satellite system with 40 MHz bandwidth channels. They service went live around the time that fiber networks started to go online. Hughes used the same technology to create Direct TV and before that a system for the German market.

    1. Forget latency and Internet connectivity… Satellites are great at broadcasting… Maybe this is the way to provide television to an Apple device and not Internet.

      Multicasting 50-200 live streams of data to the whole world simultaneously is very doable…

    2. What about the quantum satellites the Chinese have been working on and soon launching. I guess if it’s quantum this means quantum entanglement which means instant and secure communications. Will there be latency issues with these systems?

  4. Rumor mongering continues. Why wait for Apple, folks? You can buy a satellite telephone if you want it, you don’t have to use a terrestrial cell phone at all. You can get your internet and TV from satellite providers today, what’s stopping you?

    Apple isn’t going to make satellites perform better than they already do. If you bothered to test the waters, you will find that the satellite services on the market today aren’t preferred by consumers. Given the choice, most everyone who has access to a terrestrial services, most of which use a backbone of fiber optics which are faster, more reliable, more secure, and more upgradeable than satellites.

    Then we have to understand that satellite networks have huge overhead costs (pun intended). Thus the profit margin of a satellite network is much smaller. Satellite operators can’t undercut he prices of terrestrial telecoms unless you live far away from urban areas. CableCos have the pricing power, and they have no incentive to lower costs significantly below the costs of satellite. In the end, the only reason that terrestrial communications companies don’t destroy satellite operators is so that they have a token antitrust defense. But aside from promotions, relatively few people save money in the long run by using satellite services.

    Okay, so even if satellites today are more expensive, maybe you think the value is higher due to increased performance? Again, ask your rural friends how that is working out. Their experience has been inconsistent speeds, punitive costs for high upload speeds, and relatively more frequent outages. They have the problems of satellite reception being complicated by weather, obstacles, and other stuff out of anyone’s control.

    In cities, the wiring/fiber optics are already in place to provide the most reliable network possible. It will ALWAYS be cheaper and more reliable than satellites for broad media content distribution and mass market communications.

    For specialized/professional uses, then satellites come into their own. But they ain’t free, they carry significant costs that consumers just aren’t willing to pay. For example: look at how much more battery a satellite phone requires compared to an iPhone. Here is one current model: http://www.globalstar.com/shop/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=99

    There is no new miracle breakthrough in physics that is going to change the cost and complexity of satellites anytime soon, and Apple doesn’t do low margin products and services. Sorry.

    1. The world is shrinking rapidly and many old infrastructure steps will be skipped in emerging areas (and hopefully abandoned where they don’t make sense in light of current capability, like land-line telephones).

      But the physics remain the same. It’s a long way to geosynchronous orbit, takes a lot of power to talk to a satellite, the antenna is tricky to point, even more tricky for a mobile device and it takes a while for the signal to make the round trip.

      If Apple figures this one out, it changes a lot of old models.

    2. But the MDN meme is that Apple only produces premier kit and doesn’t give two shats about market share. Every few days we are delivered a message from MDN moaning and groaning about stock analysts not actively inflating Apple at every opportunity. Don’t you know all analysts are idiots because only Apple is perfect? Short-term maximization of AAPL price is all that matters, and those 60% don’t own stock, so screw them, that’s the way we do things here at MDN. Then we get messages saying that if only we all worked hard we could aspire to be one of the proud few who could spenk $10k or more on a fashion accessory with $350 worth of internals & software that will be no longer supported in a few years time.

      The 60% of the planet who is struggling to access basic living necessities through no fault of their own doesn’t exist in MDN fantasyland. They can’t afford Apple products and should be ignored. If they do work hard and opt for an entry-level electronic product from another company, then MDN encourages those people to be openly ridiculed.

      That’s a day in the life at MDN. I tune in occasionally for news, but increasingly the ads, politics, and snobbery just makes me shudder at the lack of empathy on this site and most of the rest of the internet.

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