China’s drive to compete against Starlink for the future of orbital internet
China’s space capabilities have increased dramatically over the past several years as the world witnessed a wave of businesses hoping to offer broadband internet delivered from thousands of low-orbit satellites. The technology would provide coverage to most of the earth’s surface. The business model has caught the attention of high-profile tech leaders and companies, such as Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and SoftBank, who have invested billions of dollars into the idea of creating broadband from space. This rush began around 2015 and has accelerated in the past year.
China has rapidly responded to these developments, creating its own constellation operating company China SatNet in response to SpaceX’s Starlink constellation, which was created in 2020. China also created the associated GuoWang (National Network) constellation. The two companies are likely to compete directly with Starlink in certain markets, including orbital internet. The race to produce new space technology has only been intensified over the past year as tensions between the US and China remained high throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.