China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the parent company of the satellite operator, said the network would provide internet service for industries ranging from aviation and navigation to emergency services and energy, state news agency Xinhua reported on Monday.
The total capacity of China’s high-throughput satellites will reportedly exceed 500 Gbps by 2025.
Because of their long distance from the ground, high-orbit satellites stay in a comparatively fixed position relative to the device connecting to them, so each one covers a much broader area than low-orbit satellites, said Sun Yaohua, associate professor in information and communication engineering at the Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications.
Sun compared China’s high-orbit satellite network with SpaceX’s Starlink, which consists of mass-produced low-orbit satellites, saying the former required far fewer satellites for coverage and had no issues when a connected device switches between satellites, offering higher stability.
The Starlink network was developed by American aerospace company SpaceX to provide high-speed, low-cost internet satellite services. It now has more than 5,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit about 550km away.
“Low-orbit satellites have the advantage of higher communication speeds and low transmission delay, owing to less signal loss over a shorter distance. They’re better positioned for businesses like online HD videos and financial exchanges,” Sun said.
“The low-orbit system also has a more resilient network that is not dependent on a single satellite and can continue to operate if one fails. But if one high-orbit satellite goes down, it will greatly affect the entire network.”
He added the cost of a single low-orbit satellite is much lower, especially as SpaceX can leverage mass satellite production to add to the Starlink constellation.
“However, the coordination of high- and low-orbit satellites will be a general global trend in the future, with the former for basic coverage and the latter for regional or operational enhancement,” Sun said.
“China’s high-orbit satellite system is relatively more mature. The low-orbit ones are still developing and will surely power up in the future.”
“The operation and management of a satellite system is very complex. Experience needs to be gained in actual practice,” Sun said.
“This high-orbit satellite network will not only facilitate Chinese people’s communication in belt and road countries but also provide experience in maintaining and operating a satellite system. It’s important for the future development of China’s satellite internet.”