Did you hear about China’s new global satellite internet project?

ABOUT 44.9 percent of the world’s population doesn’t have access to the internet.

Google, Facebook, and other companies have been working on finding ways to bring more access to people living in rural regions and remote areas — and despite launching ambitious projects, not much as been delivered.

Now, China has announced a new project, and it seems like it could get the job done.

According to a division of the government, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp’s (CASIC) Hongyun Project aims to place 156 satellites in orbit at an altitude of about 1,000 kilometers.

It hopes that doing so will help create a global broadband mobile internet and provide connectivity to users in China and around the world, especially those in underdeveloped regions.

The whole project is divided into three phases:

  1. The first phase launched the first satellite at the end of 2018
  2. The second phase will see the launch of four operational test satellites at by 2020
  3. The third phase will complete the construction of the fully-operational space-earth integration system by 2025

The first phase of the program, the launch of the first satellite, was recently completed at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

CASIC’s first satellite is tasked with verifying basic designs of the Hongyun project and demonstrating low-orbit broadband communications technologies.

It is using the millimeter wave phased array technology into a low-orbit broadband communication satellite for the first time, which can offer more flexible service modes by using dynamic beams.

More follow-up experiment and application demonstrations of low-orbit space-based internet services will be carried out before the Hongyun Project moves into the next phase.

The Hongyun Project will create the country’s first low-orbit broadband communications satellite constellation, marking the start of construction of a low-orbit broadband communication satellite system and the first step for building a space-based internet service.

According to official sources, the Hongyun project is scheduled to complete constellation satellite placement around 2022.

When it is qualified for full operation, the project will offer a seamless broadband mobile communication service globally and set up a comprehensive information platform for various users.

CASIC claims that upon completion, users will be able to enjoy the same Internet speed and service in a desert, on an ocean or in a plane as they can at home.

If successful, China will gain a strong competitive edge against key competitors such as the US and the UK — a clear differentiator in the digital age.