Nothing in the history of the world has equaled the explosive growth of the internet. It has become an integral part of people's daily lives, expanding from 16 million users in 1995 to almost 3.8 billion by March, 2017. The internet boasts more than a billion websites with more added every minute and is used by approximately 40% of people worldwide. However, the internet's reach doesn't yet extend to every corner of the globe.
Putting the Internet in Perspective
The development and expansion of the world's telephone infrastructure laid the groundwork for the eventual explosion of the internet. Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call in 1876, but for many years phones were only available to the wealthy. Others wrote letters or sent telegrams in emergencies. It wasn't until the early twentieth century that phones became a fixture in homes worldwide. The internet was not widely accessed until the 1990s.
Taking the Internet to Mars
The definition of "remote regions" is expanding far beyond a cabin sitting on a mountaintop. Elon Musk, the entrepreneurial founder of SpaceX, plans to expand the internet to Mars. He plans to accomplish this by placing hundreds of satellites in orbit above the earth.
Satellites - Expanding the Internet
Satellites provide the best solution for internet access for many earthbound internet users who live and/or work beyond the reach of fiber-optic cables and telephone landlines. VSAT (Very Small Aperture Terminal) refers to a private earth station or dish with "very small" antennas that receives and transmits data via a satellite signal. Both individual consumers and businesses make use of this effective communications technology daily with both PCs and mobile devices.
Many people make use of satellite-driven data by signing up with a service provider. Organizations or businesses may choose to establish their own private infrastructure for satellite communication.
There are three primary components to this technology. The first is the satellite itself. The second is the central hub or big dish with a large antenna. The third component consists of the smaller dish antennas located wherever internet access is needed. The small dishes communicate with the central hub via the satellite. The central hub also provides access to external networks and the internet as a whole.
Benefits of Satellite Internet Access
Satellite communications provide many advantages in addition to remote internet access. Once the satellite is placed in orbit, it takes very little time to set up the equipment at the customer's location. Organizations are able to control their own communications infrastructure. All users enjoy improved telephone reception and audio and video streaming.
Increased privacy and security has become a major concern. Satellites are able to transmit encrypted data between multiple sites or between only two sites. Virtual Private Networks (VPN) using satellite transmissions are widely used by both governments and the corporate world as they can meet stringent connectivity requirements.
Is There an Upward Limit on Internet Expansion?
Incomplete internet availability is only one worry. Scientists are also concerned that there is a finite limit to the internet, that only so much data can be carried over the world's networking infrastructure. Capacity can be boosted by technological advances and adding more cables, for example, but this is an incomplete solution. Internet users are also demanding more from the internet. Cisco projects that bandwidth-hogging online video will account for 77% of all internet traffic by 2020, up from 59% in 2014. Virtual and augmented reality may become a part of daily life. A smarter infrastructure will be needed to overcome the natural limits (the nonlinear Shannon limit) to the volume of data that can be transmitted over particular communications channels.
Satellite transmissions will continue to bring the internet to users in the most remote locations. While the current communications infrastructure is struggling in some areas to keep up with the demands of users, increased use of satellites can help significantly. Other technological advances, particularly the use of a smarter infrastructure, will be essential in order to meet future demands worldwide for enhanced internet access