Russian operator MegaFon has announced plans for a project through which low earth orbit (LEO) satellites will provide data access to users on the ground.
According to a report in the Moscow Times, MegaFon plans to invest about $76 million over the next two years on research into the new technology.
A new R&D company, MegaFon 1440 (a reference to Sputnik-1, which orbited the earth 1,440 times), will carry out work on the project, which aims to provide high-speed data access reaching a wide geographical area by using a satellite network.
Senior figures from Yadro, a Russian computing systems developer, will head up the project, which will also involve specialists from MegaFon. Both MegaFon and Yadro are part of USM, a diversified holding group founded by Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov.
The eventual aim of the MegaFon 1440 project is to move beyond current terrestrial networks and provide a planet-wide network from space that is accessible even in the most remote locations.
According to a statement from MegaFon, the research office will focus on building an efficient economic model and technological base for satellite systems, developing prototypes of equipment – both satellites themselves and infrastructure solutions for implementing the technology in the mass market – and testing them on the ground and in space.
The aim will also be to develop a model that will make the use of LEO satellites for data transmission cost-effective, in particular through reducing the cost of manufacturing satellites and ground equipment.
The first orbital missions of the new satellites will be launched within five years, according to MegaFon 1440.
Given that, as the Moscow Times points out, land-based communications cover approximately 35 percent of Russia’s territory at the moment, a cost-effective way of covering this vast land mass is sorely needed, and LEO satellites – if a viable business model can be found – could be the answer.